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Sabacc

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Sabacc, or jhabacc, was a popular card game that was often played for high stakes.

Perhaps the most famous sabacc game was the championship round of the Cloud City Sabacc Tournament in which Lando Calrissian lost the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo. Calrissian also won the rights to Cloud City and the title of Baron Administrator in a game of sabacc.

When played professionally the game was overseen by a dealer, either organic as in Coruscant's Outlander Club where four-armed Kiughfid dealers passed out the cards and took up money for the house, or as in other locales where Automated Sabacc dealer droids oversaw proceedings.

The Ryn (a race of sentient beings) claimed to have invented sabacc as a means of training one's spiritual development.

Rules

The game of sabacc used a deck of seventy six cards featuring sixty numbered cards divided into four suits, and two copies of eight special cards. Each player was passed four cards which made up their hand at the beginning of the game. The suit and value of the cards would shift to different values at random, unless they were placed in the neutral field in the center of the table.

The object of the game was to create a hand holding the value of twenty three, known as Pure Sabacc, or minus twenty three which would be trumped by a positive twenty three. Negative numbers could be created through the use of the special cards which all, with the exception of the Idiot card, represented a negative number.

At the end of their turn a player had to discard all but two of their cards. A new round began and new cards were dealt. A player won the game by either calling their hand when they had twenty three, or minus twenty three, or if their hand was below twenty three or above minus twenty three, but closer to either number than their opponent's. Anything over twenty three and under minus twenty three was a bust. A pure zero was also a bust.

Many private games and professional establishments played sabacc using "house rules". House rules used a selection of special modifications to the rules for example often stating that a player could place at most two cards in the neutral field where they were unaffected by shifting, or that an Idiot's Array, consisting of The Idiot, any two and any three would beat anything, even Pure Sabacc, and would win the sabacc pot. Another common house rule was that the bet amount was paid into the sabacc pot on bust, zero, or loss on call.

There were several styles of sabacc play, including Bespin Standard, Empress Teta Preferred, Cloud City Casino, and Corellian Gambit. Each system had slightly different rules. There was also a version (Centran Sabacc) where fives were wild. Other variations included Random Sabacc, in which the house rules were changed at random intervals, and Force Sabacc, which used an altered deck with Light side of the Force and Dark side of the Force themed suits.

Cheating

As with any kind of gambling the high stakes nature of sabacc often led to cheating. Besides various basic sleight of hand palming tricks, many cheats used a cheater, a small handheld device that could be secretly used to manipulate the game cards and neutral field to give the user an unfair advantage in the game. Another means involved a skifter, a rigged card that was unobtrusively substituted for a normal one in the deck. On some planets cheating at sabacc could mean death.

Deck List

  • Coins, Flasks, Sabres, Staves:
1-11
Commander (12)
Mistress (13)
Master (14)
Ace (15)
  • Face Cards:
Queen of Air and Darkness (-2)
Endurance (-8)
Balance (-11)
Demise (-13)
Moderation (-14)
The Evil One (-15)
The Star (-17)
The Idiot (0)

Besides the standard cards listed above, some decks of sabacc also included other types of cards, these non-standard cards included:

The Destroyed Starship
The Satellite
The Wheel
Chance
Hazard
The Universe
Legate (ranked card with value of 11, but trumps ordinary 11)

Behind the scenes

  • Sabacc likely had its origins in the second draft of the script of the The Empire Strikes Back, when Han Solo mentions that his friend Lando Calrissian won Cloud City in a "sabacca game."
  • The Face Cards in the sabacc deck bear a definite resemblance to several of the Major Arcana cards in the tarot deck, most likely the Rider-Waite deck, given that the value of Endurance is 8, (Strength in the Rider-Waite deck,) and Balance (Justice) is 11. Each Face Card's value seems to match up with the number of its Major Arcana equivalent. In addition, the number of cards in a sabacc deck (76) is similar to that of a tarot deck (78); if one uses the Centran Sabacc deck, used in the Lando Calrissian novels which contain the first named sabacc cards, then it is equal. Further similarities can be found in the belief held by some in the Star Wars universe that sabacc cards can be used to tell fortunes, as Lando Calrissian does in Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu - just as some people use tarot cards in real life.
  • Sabacc is usually regarded as the Star Wars galaxy's equivalent to poker, while pazaak could be seen as similar to blackjack.

Sources

  • Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Heir to the Empire Sourcebook
  • Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary
  • Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary
  • Inside the Worlds of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars: Complete Locations
  • Star Wars: Galaxies
  • Underworld: A Galaxy of Scum and Villainy

See also

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