When Poker and Sci-Fi Collide

When Poker and Sci-Fi Collide

sci-fi card games

Playing cards have been with us since the 14th, Century and by the 19th Century poker was born. Of all card games it is poker that is the game all the cool guys play in Hollywood movies. Recently I noticed that the appearance of poker in sci-fi and fantasy television shows and movies is more common than I thought. Once you become aware of it, you can’t seem to stop seeing it in every show you turn on. It’s interesting to see where poker pops up. Even in space.


The Firefly universe, created by TV legend Joss Whedon, had its own version of poker called Tall Card which was seen being played in several episodes. It wasn’t exactly poker as we know it, so they invented their own version. It was however,pretty close, and a true Browncoat would want to know how to play Tall Card. On occasion, Firefly fans get together and play their own version of the game. This involves taking bits from poker and making their own based on what they saw in the series.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Another Joss Whedon show. Leave it to Joss to prove every time that in his creation, poker, like so many other things would not be entirely conventional. In the fifth episode of the sixth season, the vampires and other assorted demons are shown playing a few hands of poker. Instead of betting with chips , they used kittens as a type of substitute. “So, who’s gonna advance me a tiny tabby, get me started?” Spike said. It makes sense. They are demons, after all. Kitten poker is only played in the Buffy universe, and should not be tried at home.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

It was actually quite common for an evening of poker to show up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. As Captain Picard said in the episode ‘The Price’, “Commander Riker conducts master classes in poker.” An interesting concept, the idea of these Enterprise officers playing the game together. Riker was great at bluffing. Geordie could see through the back of the cards. Mix in Troi, an empath who could have known when someone was bluffing, plus Data’s eidetic memory and mastery of statistics would have allowed him to be the winner every time. The question was not just who would win but how would they do it. Would it be OK to use all their available skills or a violation of ethics?

Stargate SG-1

Although for the most part poker did not play a big part in the Stargate franchise, there are moments scattered through the seasons where the team kicked back and played a few games. For example, in 2006 there was a time when the team went to Jack O’Neill’s cabin and they played for chips. I believe Samantha Carter was the winner of this game. There was also an episode on Stargate: Atlantis where a Wraith survivor from a Hive Ship played poker in Las Vegas in a bid to win untraceable money in Stargate: Atlantis.

Star Wars

While never seen onscreen Star Wars had Planetary Poker. Hans Solo and Chewbacca were familiar with the smuggler version of the game. Perfect for long space voyages.

by June K. Williams

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June Williams
June, also known affectionately as Buzzy Lady #2, has been with the company since it began. She was born in Manhattan, raised in the Bronx (the first 12 years in the heart of the south Bronx) and spent most of her adult life living in Westchester County N.Y.

Always a Science Fiction fan and dabbler in writing she had thought herself too practical to pursue a career in the field. Before coming to Buzzy she spent over 30 years in the travel industry, then one day decided it was time to spread her wings and plunge into publishing. Everyone she knew thought she had gone slightly daft but as this was not the first time they had expressed that opinion she took the red pill anyway and now spends all of her time putting together projects that make each day a pleasure.