Sabacc Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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In the film Star Wars, the character Han Solo is the captain of the starship Millennium Falcon. Those who've paid attention closely to the film will remember that he won it from Lando Calrissian. Those who are fans know that he won it in a card game. But only true Star Warsians know that the game they were playing is called Sabacc.

Sabacc is a game of skill, luck, and fast addition and subtraction. In the Star Wars universe, Sabacc is the game of choice for smugglers, rogues, and lowlifes. It is a game of high stakes; in fact, in the book The Courtship of Princess Leia, Han won an entire planet in one hand.

The basic idea of Sabacc is to get positive or negative 23, so it is similar to a game of Twenty-One or Blackjack. It is played more like Poker, however. Players each receive a hand of cards, and, depending on the rules, may discard and draw cards. In the Star Wars universe, the cards are randomized and can change value in a player's hand. This adds the sort of variety that self-proclaimed scoundrels such as Solo enjoy.

For those of us with our feet firmly planted on Terra Firma, but still seeking the thrills of a hand of Sabacc, here are the Terran rules:

  • Players receive three cards at the beginning of the hand. Black cards are worth their negative values, red cards are worth their positive values. Face cards are worth a positive or negative value of ten, depending on colour.

  • Players are allowed to exchange as many cards in their hands as they wish, for new ones, progressing from the dealer's left.

  • After players have finalised their hand of three cards, they lay these on the table and declare their value. Players then receive one more card, face up. The player may then decide to discard one of his cards and play a three-card hand, or he may keep all four.

  • Should a player go over 23 or under -23, 23 points are added to or subtracted from their hand to make it legal.

  • The player with the hand closest to positive (or negative) 23 is the winner of the hand. A hand of perfect 23 beats a hand of 461.

For extra flavour, Jokers may be included that are worth zero. A 'Fool's Array' then becomes the kill-all hand, which is a Joker, a two and a three, an actual '23'.


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