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Sabacc: Misc



Up to date as of February 04, 2010

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Lando Calrissian playing sabacc.
"It's a fool's enterprise."

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 claimed to have invented sabacc as a means of training one's spiritual development.



Sabacc could be played with Automated Sabacc dealer droids.

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 is dealt several cards which make up their hand, usually between two and five, depending on the set of rules in play at the table. The cards themselves are small, electronic devices with a display panel covering the surface of one side; this panel is capable of shifting the displayed suit and value of each card when told to do so by the computer running the game, or when a player has the option to manually shuffle the card's value. In this fashion, a player can receive new cards of any possible suit or rank without actually having to take new cards from the deck itself.

The design of the card is due to the unique nature of the game's chance factor; in sabacc, strategy is as much about the fact that other players may have better hands as it is about the fact that a player's hand might change when they least expect it. The values of the cards in play are shuffled at random and without warning; depending on the variant in play, this can even happen after a game has been called, but before the cards have been shown or tallied. Standard sabacc also includes the concept of locking the values of cards so that they do not change. When played at a professional table or venue, the table itself generates an interference field that players can push a face-down card into, and cards within this field are not subjected to randomization pulses sent by the game. Amatuer or private games that do not utilize a professional table instead use cards that may be individually frozen by means of a special button on the card, or by placing a small interference chip overtop the card, simulating the field's effect. In some rule sets, however, the cards are randomized only when specifically chosen by the player, typically by pressing a spot on the card itself.

A typical game of sabacc is composed of several sequential rounds, and officially ends when a player wins with one of three special winning hands. At the beginning of each round, each player contributes an ante to the hand pot, which goes to the person with the winning hand at the conclusion of that round of play. Similarly, at the start of each round, players also contribute an ante to the sabacc pot, which can only be won by a player who's winning hand is either a pure sabbac, which holds a value of either 23 or -23 (going over or under these respectively institures a bomb-out; an automatic loss sometimes requiring the player to pay a penalty), with the former trumping the latter, or by holding an Idiot's Array, a hand containing a card called The Idiot, worth zero, a Two of any suit, and a Three of the same suit. When laid out on the table, an Idiot's Array is read, literally, as 023, and is considered the highest hand in the game, trumping even a pure sabacc of 23. A win with any of those three special hands will give that player both the hand pot and the sabacc pot, and is typically seen as the end of gameplay for a single game.

Tournament play includes several variations on the order of play, the dealing of cards, and the options available to players. Due to the higher stakes nature of the cash games in such tournaments, players traditionally have the option to do something known as folding out of play; essentially picking up their earnings and simply leaving. Of the five final players at the notable Cloud City Sabacc Tournament in 2BBY, two chose to fold, rather than bomb out. Additionally, at that tournament, players who had less than four cards were allowed to request an additional card during the rounds of betting. Han Solo used this option to receive a fourth card which, after the scrambling of all of his cards, gave him a score of twenty three, a pure sabacc.

Beyond tournament play, most private games and professional establishments played sabacc using "house rules", or allowed players to specify one of the many types of variant rules that the table could play by. 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 matching 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 common styles of sabacc play, including Bespin Standard, Empress Teta Preferred, Cloud City Casino, and Corellian Gambit. Each style had slightly different rules. Other variations included Random Sabacc, in which the house rules were changed at random intervals; Force sabacc, which used an altered deck with Light side of the Force and Dark side of the Force themed suits; Centran Sabacc, which included extra cards and was often used in divination; and one seen in the Lucky Despot where the cards are printed on ceramic tiles.

The Gungans of Otoh Gunga developed a sabacc variant in which low scores prevailed.[1]


A Sabacc cheater

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. Force users who play Sabacc may sometimes use the Force to stack the deck, or to view their opponents' cards.

Deck List

A starndard Sabacc deck includes 76 cards.

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

In Centran Sabacc, the deck only includes a single copy of the standard face cards listed above and possesses these additional non-standard face cards:

The Destroyed Starship
The Satellite
The Wheel
The Universe
Legate (a ranked card in each suit with a value of 11, but trumps the standard 11)

Other uses

Sabacc cards.
"Did you know, old pentapod, that these things were once used for telling fortunes?"
―Lando Calrissian to Vuffi Raa

The Centran Sabacc deck was also used for divination and cartomancy. Lando Calrissian became familiar with using sabacc cards for fortune-telling early in his career. In a conversation with Vuffi Raa on the planet Sharu, Lando described the fortune-telling implications of several cards:

  • The Commander of Staves implied "a messenger on a fool's errand" (a card Lando indicated that he frequently associated with himself).
  • The Six of Sabres implied a journey's end.
  • The Destroyed Starship implied "cataclysmic changes in the near future, death and destruction." Lando described it as "the worst card in the whole deck."
  • The Satellite implied "a lot of fairly nasty things...deception, deceit, betrayal."
  • The Wheel implied "luck, both good and bad, the beginning and the ending of things, random chance."
  • The Universe implied that the subject would have the opportunity to do everything he or she wanted to do.

The order in which the cards were drawn suggested their meaning to the subject. The first card described the subject; the second his or her principal opponent or antagonist. The The third card drawn, placed above the others, represented the subject's conscious or stated motivations, while the fourth, placed below the others, represented a deeper, subconscious motive. The fifth card, placed to the left, represented the past; the sixth, placed to the right, represented the immediate future. Cards placed above it represented future obstacles. The final card drawn represented the final outcome.

It is unclear how widespread such use (or belief in its effectiveness) may have been.[2]

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."[3]

The Face Cards in the sabacc deck bear a definite resemblance to several of the Major Arcana cards in the Tarot deck, most likely a Rider-Waite deck, given that the value of The idiot (The Fool) is 0 Endurance (Strength in the Rider-Waite deck) is 8, and Balance (Justice) is 11. Each face card's value seems to correspond 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, which has 78 cards. The Centran Sabacc deck, used in L. Neil Smith's Lando Calrissian novels (which contain the first named sabacc cards), is even more similar. Further parallels can be found in the use of sabacc cards for fortune-telling - which Lando Calrissian demonstrates in Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu - just as some people use Tarot cards in real life.

In the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic duology, sabacc's predecessor, pazaak makes an appearance, though it is not essential to play it in order to progress in either game.

In rules and concept, sabacc contains elements of both the real-world games baccarat and blackjack, with the obvious distinction of being played with what is essentially a Tarot deck. Its role in the Star Wars galaxy, however, seems most analogous to poker, while pazaak's role could be seen as similar to blackjack.

The suits of a sabacc deck (Coins, Flasks, Staves and Sabres) are based on the so-called Latin or Italo-Spanish suits, Coins, Cups, Staves and Swords.



Notes and references

  1. "Head in the Clouds"
  2. Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu
  3. Laurent Bouzereau, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (New York: Del Rey, September 1997), p. 191 ISBN 0-345-40981-7

See also

External links

  • Online sabacc game with rules
  • Website with sabacc download

This article uses material from the "Sabacc" article on the Starwars wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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