- "But everyone loves Sabacc! […] It's—like—the game of the galaxy!"
- ―A pirate, to another pirate
Sabacc was the name of a popular card game with numerous variations, many of them including a hard-to-beat hand also called sabacc. Often played at high stakes, the goal of many versions of the game was to win the sabacc pot by collecting a hand with an absolute value closest to 23, but no higher. A typical sabacc deck comprised 76 cards (60 distributed in four suits plus 16 special cards), all of which had a specific value. However, some variants used different decks, and furthermore, in many versions of the game the value and suit of a card could change at random during play, unless the card was placed in the special interference field.
A deck of sabacc consisted of 76 cards. 60 were distributed in four suits (Flasks, Sabers, Staves, and Coins), with 15 cards per suit: pip cards numbered 1 through 11, plus a Commander numbered 12, a Mistress numbered 13, a Master numbered 14, and an Ace numbered 15. The other 16 were two sets of 8 special cards: Balance (numbered −11), The Idiot (0), Endurance (−8), Moderation (−14), The Evil One (−15), The Queen of Air and Darkness (−2), Demise (−13), and The Star (−17 or −10).
Sabacc was a game of both skill and chance that could be played with as few as two and as many as eight players. Players could designate a dealer or take turns as the dealer, rotating in a clockwise fashion at the beginning of each hand. The object of sabacc was to have a final hand with a total as close to 23 or -23 as possible without going over. A hand with a total of 24 or higher was said to "bomb out" and lost the round. There were two types of pot to be won in sabacc. The first one was the hand pot, which is taken by the player who won an individual hand. The second was the sabacc pot, which continually built during the game, and went to the overall winner of the match.
The dealer started by shuffling the deck before dealing one card to each player, including him- or herself, in rotation. He or she would then repeat another rotation until each player had two cards facedown. Starting to the dealer's left, each player then called out their beginning hand totals.
Starting to the dealer's left, each player could choose to draw one or more cards from the deck then choose to trade a card from their hand for one from the deck, or stand.
If a Sabacc Shift occurred, all the cards that were not locked in the interference field randomly changed suits and value. That new hand was the player's final hand for the round.
That same process was repeated by each player, ending with the dealer. Each player then called out his or her final hand's total. The player with the highest hand, totaling 23 or below, won the round. A hand of 24 or higher was said to "bomb out" and lost. A perfect hand of 23 or −23 was called a Pure Sabacc, and it could only be beaten by a rare and unbeatable hand called an Idiot's Array, which consisting of The Idiot, a 2 card of any suit, and a 3 card of any suit.
Ties were settled by use of a device generating random numbers: the player that rolled the highest number won.
More than eighty variant forms of sabacc existed. One such form was "Corellian Spike," which used a pair of six-sided dice and was played with a smaller deck. Jhabacc was another high-stakes variant that was notably played at the Outlander Club, in the Uscru Entertainment District of Coruscant. Other variants included the Centran sabacc and the Empress Teta Preferred style.
Sabacc was a popular card game played throughout the galaxy, often with high stakes. Because of the random Shifts, sabacc was a complex and unpredictable game, as a potential winning hand could turn into a losing one if not used at the right moment, and its odds were always in the house's favor. In one notable game, Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a game of "Corellian Spike" sabacc on Numidian Prime. In 4 BBY,[source?] Garazeb Orrelios of the Spectres bet and lost the astromech droid Chopper to the smuggler Lando Calrissian, who had an Idiot's Array.
Following the Siege of Inyusu Tor, Commander Tohna of the 61st Mobile Infantry played a game of sabacc with three other soldiers, Gadren, Brand and Twitch. Tohna invited Captain Hazram Namir to join, but he did not know how to play and refused.
Behind the scenes
Sabacc first appeared in the Legends novel Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu and has since appeared in many Legends stories. It became canon when it was included in the 2014 novel A New Dawn. The name 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."
For a long time, Lucasfilm didn't attempt to trademark the term "sabacc," which led to the Ren Ventures company, and its subsidiary, the game developer Sabacc Creative Industries, using the name for a 2015 mobile app game, mimicking the gameplay rules of the Star Wars card game. Ren Ventures later registered the U.S. trademark "sabacc" in 2016. The same year, Lucasfilm sent them a cease-and-desist letter. With the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story coming out in May 25, 2018, and featuring the card game, Lucasfilm tried to bring the trademark back into its fold, first challenging the registration in May 2017, and then filing a federal trademark lawsuit in December 2017. In April 2018, Ren Ventures counterattacked with a lawsuit of their own aimed at marketing materials using the name, in particular the Denny's restaurant chain promotional offer of collectible trading cards. In June, a California federal judge gave a summary judgement in favor of Lucasfilm, but let a jury decide later if the Ren Venture was guilty of willful infringement. The case was settled in full a month later, but not before Ren Ventures tried to involve George Lucas. Ultimately, Lucasfilm was able to trademark "sabacc" in August 2018.
Notes and references
- Star Wars Rebels – "Idiot's Array"
- Chewbacca 1
- Pirate's Price
- Han Solo - Imperial Cadet 1
- Lando's Luck
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Battlefront: Twilight Company
- "The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper"—From a Certain Point of View
- "Off the Rails"—Star Wars Rebels Magazine
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary
- Star Wars: Alien Archive
- Lords of the Sith
- A New Dawn
- Sabacc (Celebration Anaheim)
- "Rebel Bluff"—Star Wars Insider 158
- Solo: A Star Wars Story The Official Guide
- The Last Jedi: Rose Tico: Resistance Fighter
- Star Wars: Complete Locations
- Star Wars: Smuggler's Guide
- Laurent Bouzereau, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (New York: Del Rey, September 1997), p. 191 ISBN 0-345-40981-7
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