Gambling in Sci-fi Shows

Anyone who reads these pages knows I’m a big sci-fi fan. You also know that I love poker (been playing it for over 20 years now) and I’m generally fascinated with gambling both in terms of watching it and playing it. So it seemed like time to do a post about my love of the two.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation we got to see several scenes of the bridge crew playing poker together. It’s interesting because it was stated several times during the show that no one in Starfleet (who all the crew on the Enterprise are a part of, it’s a military organization whose primary mission is exploration of new worlds and to make contact with alien civilizations.) They even poke some fun at Data (the android) because he has a hard time decided when someone is bluffing or not.

Of course another well-known example of gambling and sci-fi is Star Wars. For Star Wars they made up their own game, Sabacc. Sabacc is also the game where Lando Calrissian lost the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo (which is first referenced in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back). It’s also virtually a certainly that we will get to see this famous hand in the upcoming Han Solo movie. Star Wars has credits and also the fun element of betting possessions, which is of course the mistake Lando made.

For a final example we have Battlestar Galactica (the new one by Ronald Moore, I’m not old enough to have watched the original). This was a gritty sci-fi show were people still drank, fought, had affairs, threw people in the brig and played cards for money. The game on the new show was Triad Card Game  and it was fun to see Starbuck (in the new show played by a Katee Sackhoff, versus Richard Hatch in the original) be the wise-cracking/cigar smoking gambler who is better than one of her command officers.

Another interesting part of sci-fi is sports. In Star Trek: The Next Generation Commander Riker has an anbo-jyustu (Japanese style fighting) match with his Dad. What would have made this even better if the crew had bet on who would be the winner. Betting on sports is not only something people have been doing for hundreds of years, it can also be profitable. Sports betting is the only type of betting where you can study the game to get better. The more you know about a team, the players on it, how well they do, how many games they have won in a season and so on, the more informed you are to bet and that usually isn’t the case with poker or blackjack.

So where does this leave us today? I’m not going to bet my house, my car or even one of my cats on a hand. I enjoy playing in casinos but that’s not always convenient for me (or even possible, I live in remote province in Canada and there is no casino within 670 miles (sad I know). While I’d love to be playing a future card game like Triad or Sabacc, I’m often happy just to place few bets online. I can just say it’s a great gaming experience.