7 movies that prove sci-fi producers love to gamble
The sci-fi movie genre is probably one of the last where you would expect to find gambling themes. You’d be forgiven for thinking that sci-fi characters would be more interested in saving the planet or escaping the clutches of alien forces to worry about the river card in a game of Texas Holdem poker. However, gambling has taken a key role in the storylines of some of the biggest ever sci-fi franchises.
This article shines a spotlight on the sci-fi genre’s most popular sojourns with gambling, played by the sic-fi characters that millions of us have grown to know and love worldwide.
Sabacc and Star Wars
You’ll be surprised to read that the Star Wars franchise was obsessed with gambling across the galaxy. A little-known card game called Sabacc was regularly played among characters to settle debts and arguments. Sabacc was played at highstakes in a similar vein to the real-world versions of offline and online poker.
One of the best references of Sabacc in action was when Han Solo bagged the Millennium Falcon from his pal, Lando Calrissian following a heated game. Calrissian regularly challenged other characters to heads-up games of Sabacc too, including Hera Syndulla when he was trying to settle an outstanding debt. It’s since become something of an iconic game among long-serving Star Wars fans.
The “Morning Line” in The Hunger Games
“Morning Line” had a sinister meaning in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Although people place bets in the real world on aggressive sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA), this kind of Morning Line was an even more gruesome, chilling affair.
The Hunger Games involved competitors from each of the ‘Districts’ attempting to outlast their rivals. Punters would bet on which competitor would be killed next in the competition. There’s no clever gimmicks or marketing material here, but it doesn’t get much darker than betting on young people to murder each other!
Poker home games on the Starship Enterprise
Star Trek is another movie that demonstrates people in outer space can still enjoy a flutter. In the original production, Captain Spock is taught how to play Texas Holdem poker, while Data is also shown the ropes of poker strategy in Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s even explained in the movie that poker is a game enjoyed on Planet Earth.
When Data is introduced to the nuances of poker, he quickly determines that the game could be figured out with the aid of mathematical probability. Unluckily for him — and fortunately for his colleagues on the Starship Enterprise — he’s unable to decipher between bluffs and is all too easily manipulated at the poker table.
The Triad Card sensation from Battlestar Galactica
Poker has an influence in popular culture in Battlestar Galactica, too, with the introduction of a card game call Triad, which is a similar type of bluffing game to Texas Holdem. It’s most commonly played in the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. The main difference to poker is Triad’s hexagonal cards which have abstract symbols.
The highest-ranking hand in Triad is ‘Full Colors.’ Players are required to enter rounds of betting if they wish to play their hand or ‘fold,’ based on the cards they were dealt. Leo Chiang, who appeared as Osiris’ unnamed marine in Blood and Chrome, revealed that the show’s production team was struggling to come up with specific rules for the game of Triad and opted to leave it up to the actors themselves to improvise.
Eulogy: the exclusive casino in Killjoys
The casino scene also inspired the space adventure drama series of Killjoys. It had its very own exclusive casino, Eulogy, which was a restricted-access establishment for convicted criminals. Not only did entrants or members have to be felons, but they also had to bring stolen goods to the table in Eulogy to place bets.
This unique ‘barter town’ appears something like a futuristic Wild West, with criminals able to drink, gamble and relax away from the glare of the law.
Gambling time is a necessary evil in “In Time”
Imagine having to gamble time as a commodity. That’s what had to happen in the hit sci-fi movie, In Time, starring Justin Timberlake, Matt Bomer, and Amanda Seyfried. In the film, it’s the year 2169 and once an individual reaches the tender age of 25, they are given a stop-clock that lasts one year. Once that clock counts down to zero, they die.
As you can imagine, the film sees individuals seek to steal and gamble time for their stop clocks. Imagine trying to buy another month of your life which could be decided by the turn of a playing card — adrenaline-fuelled or what?!
Wagering on the Thunderdome and Mad Max
Mad Max’s Beyond Thunderdome movie was another film that had a betting theme running through the heart of the storyline, exactly like The Hunger Games. In the movie starring Mel Gibson, the Thunderdome, which interprets an Australian dystopia, is designed to allow two bitter rivals or enemies to settle their differences in a duel – to the death.
You can see during every duel in the Thunderdome the hundreds of people that climb onto the cages to watch and cheer on the fighter they’ve got money on. It’s a rather bizarre experience, but as the rule of the Thunderdome goes: “two men enter, one man leaves.” Gulp!