Gambling, slots, and casinos have always been a big part of sci-fi movie culture. High stakes, games of chance, and intense pressure moments are part and parcel of gambling and great storytelling for filmmakers.
Therefore, they’ve had plenty of chances to create their own fictional gambling games that see characters win big or get their own back on an enemy. Whether you’re a seasoned blackjack player or a total newbie to the world of gambling, you may recognize the inspirations for a few of these made-up games that helped create the rich sci-fi universes we’ve come to love.
Spiders From Mars Slots
Cowboy Bebop is perhaps one of the most popular sci-fi animes ever made, and blended a futuristic world with the rugged, high-stakes world of bounty hunting, all to a jazzy soundtrack.
In one of its most iconic and first episodes, the gang of bounty hunters is led to a casino space station known as Spiders From Mars. In the scene, we see the protagonist - Spike Spiegel - ideally snacking by a huge row of slot machines, eerily similar to traditional slots we’d be familiar with today.
Unlike the standard 5 reel slots of a traditional machine, those depicted in the show feature more reels, making them closer in appearance to progressive slot machines more typically found in online casinos, where the payouts are incrementally larger. This is in step with a lot of the designs in Cowboy Bebop, where the stylistic choice is often retro-futuristic, blending existing concepts like physical slot machines when the show was made in the nineties, with light speed and laser guns. It would also make sense that the machines were designed to hand out huge payouts, given the opulence of the space casino Spike and the gang are visiting. It was this attention to small details that resulted in the show being immortalized among amine and sci-fi fans, alike.
Star Wars is already the most iconic Sci-Fi series in existence, and the small details within the movies are what make it so immersive and special. Sabacc is a sort of hybrid card game sort of like blackjack on steroids.
It’s pretty central to the story too, given Han Solo won the Millenium Falcon from Lando via a game of Sabacc. We might never have seen the destruction of the Death Star without a humble deck of Sabacc cards.
In Time asked the question: What if time was money? Well, as such, they had to include a game of Time Poker within the movie itself. And it’s quite a spectacle.
Protagonist Will, played by Justin Timberlake, like everyone else stops aging at 25 and can win himself a cool 1,100 years of life at a Time Casino. Not bad going for a night at the tables. Esteemed film critic, Roger Ebert noted it as the most suspenseful scene in the film, which he rated a solid 3 of 4 stars, purely because the stakes could not be any higher.
Star Trek Poker
We had to include Star Trek’s inclusion of poker. No additional frills either. They just included the traditional form of poker as a sort of throwback to a game once played on Earth. Needless to say, Data can’t understand it due to the nature of bluffing, which he finds particularly confusing as a cyborg.
Humans have always loved to gamble and sci-fi culture loves to reference it in their creations. While the world may change, and technology advances, people still enjoy the thrills of card games, slots, and roulette wheels, whether among the stars or on the surface of some distant planet.