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Lost Him in a Card Game

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Never ask the Church of Loki to babysit.
"I won my first wife shooting dice, but I lost her in a poker game."
David Allan Coe, "Lay My Money Down"

Gambling seems to be a natural human activity. We have friendly bets on when Margaret's baby will be born. Not-so-friendly bets on which sports team will be victorious this year. Sometimes we stake money and sometimes the stakes are less tangible.

In fiction, however, it's perfectly okay to bet people in a game of chance. Typically a comedy trope, although you might find it in serious fiction with a setting where slavery is accepted.

Often (especially if this is used to resolve a Love Triangle), whoever it was who thought the person was theirs to bet in the first place will "lose" them, whatever the result of the wager itself. That doesn't necessarily mean that the other party will "win" them, however.

This happens a lot with employers betting employees for whatever reason, yet the Justification — betting their employment contract rather than the employees themselves — is almost never used.

Most often the card game is poker, but theoretically any form of game that allows The Bet would work. A comedic form of the Absurdly High-Stakes Game. Compare the Bachelor Auction, which is consensual on the "traded" person's part. Compare Baby as Payment, which is when a baby is used as currency to pay for something else.


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  • After the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, after an almost 90-year drought, a fake ad was aired for MasterCard that showed various Red Sox fans saying things like, "Oh, I'd trade my car," "I'd trade my house," "I'd trade my firstborn son for the Red Sox to win the World Series!," followed by a montage of these people's pledged items being ruthlessly confiscated - right up to the toddler who delightedly squeals, "Go Sox!" as he's carried away... It ended with the logo of two interlocking circles... followed by one circle falling away with a "snip" noise while someone voiced-over, "OW." Denis Leary had pledged his left nut.

    Anime & Manga 
  • A variation of this occurs in episode 16 of the first anime season of Black Butler, when Ciel and Sebastian meet the spirit of Edward V in a castle. Prince Edward and Ciel play a game of chess to pass the time, and Ciel reluctantly bets Sebastian, because the Edward's younger brother Richard took a liking to him. Ciel loses. Although he gets Sebastian back, of course.
  • In one arc of Descendants of Darkness, Tsuzuki loses his own body to Muraki in a game of poker. Hisoka deigns to save him by winning him back from Muraki.
  • The threat of such is used as motivation for Team Hokage to win in The Flame of Recca - In order to participate in the Tournament Arc, they have to stake something that the other side wants, so Yanagi volunteers for the job.
  • In Jewelpet (2009), the Big Bad Dian sets up the Jewel Games where he bets several powerful Jewelpets for the heroes to recover. In exchange, he demands that the main heroine, Rinko, bet herself, as she is the only one capable of wielding the Jewel Stick, which he needs to complete his plans. He wins her in episode 45, but she escapes one episode later without him managing to carry out his intention.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Done entirely seriously in the (Daniel J.) D'Arby the Gambler battle in Stardust Crusaders, where people bet their souls in various forms of gambling. D'Arby's younger brother Telence has a similar power, except the bets are always over video games.
    • A more gruesome example comes in the form of Stone Ocean's Marilyn Manson, a Stand which immediately and invariably enforces the terms of the bet it oversees. If the loser doesn't have the money they bet on their person, it collects parts of their body based on their going rate on the black market.
  • In Kaiji, gamblers who didn't win enough onboard the Espoir were threatened with slave labor. Later, Kaiji is involved in quite a few gambits where his own physical health/life is on the line.
    • Liar Game vaguely implies that something similar happens to its losers, but it never goes beyond the LGT making a few sinister comments about getting their money back one way or another (though the amounts involved are high enough that they clearly cannot be paid off through normal means).
  • In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, the SOS Brigade are challenged to play a game against the computer club. The computer club wants to win back a computer Haruhi stole and offers three more computers should she win. Haruhi offers Yuki to balance out the bet, equating her with the three computers. When the computer club are shocked, she offers Mikuru and then herself. This last provokes panic, so in the end only their computer is wagered.
  • Fairly standard in No Game No Life: war and violence are forbidden by divine edict, so any conflict must be settled via an Absurdly High-Stakes Game. At one point, an entire species is bet.
  • The Davy Back Fight in One Piece is essentially a sporting event with very selectively enforced rules and the competing crews members hanging in the balance.
  • In the movie Porco Rosso, Fio offers herself as the stake for Porco and Curtis' duel since Porco didn't have anything else to bet. (Porco tries to object but is quickly overruled.)
  • The soul of oneself or loved ones at stake is a common setup in Yu-Gi-Oh!, technically the good guys don't (usually) initiate such games; yet are forced to play them through anyway. For example, Pegasus and Kaiba duel for Mokuba's soul, which is literally in a card, and with Kaiba also offering his soul if he loses. He does, so his soul goes into the card.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, there are two factions called "families" in Crash Town who compete for extraction of raw materials. To strengthen their power, both families send a representant of the respective family in a duel. The loser becomes a slave worker for the other family and he has to work in a mine for the rest of his life. It's worth noting that the duelists often come from different places all over the world, and the main reason why they are insane enough to put their lives on a wager is because Crash Town attracts challengers.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who story "The Stones of Venice", the Duke of Venice gambled his wife away in a game of chance. In response, she put a hundred-year curse on the city, and the Doctor and Charley arrive the day before the curse is due to take effect.
    • In "The Fires of Vulcan", the Doctor, in fairly urgent need of some local currency, offers Mel up as stakes in a game of dice. Fortunately, he wins.

    Comic Books 
  • A Disney Ducks Comic Universe with Josè Carioca as the protagonist had him bet his girlfriend Rosita at a billiards match. Rosita, offended it's not a "real" duel, gets back at him and his rival by pretending to dump him for another guy, and when the fake boyfriend gets challenged he uses his right as the challenged to make it a swordfight-and he's a fencing champion.
  • This almost happens to Empowered, except the others playing refuse to accept her as a bet due to the 'unwritten rules'- they don't want a superhero team after them just 'cause one idiot tried to use a heroine in a poker game, thanks.
  • One issue of The Simpsons comic used this in order to make Smithers Homer's servant. Just for the fun, note that this was Mr. Burns' way of matching a $5 bet, because he had used all his "pocket change" at the laundromat.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Doonesbury, "Uncle" Duke isn't really Zonker's uncle. He himself isn't sure of their relationship, but he thinks he recalls winning Zonker in a card game.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: In chapter 8 Shinji loses a Strip Chess match against Pen Pen and becomes his "butler" for a month (long — and hilarious — story). Asuka wanted to win Shinji back, so she and the penguin played another Strip Chess match. If she won, she would have Shinji back and he would be her cabaña boy for one week; if Pen Pen won, Shinji would be his butler for one month AND she would do all Shinji's chores. Pen Pen lost the match and Shinji. And it was all arranged in order to mess with Misato's head.
  • A Downplayed example happens when Blitzo and Verosika make The Bet in Hell's Loud, the latter demands that Lincoln Loud work with her for a week should she win. The IMP crew are given even further incentive to win because Verosika doesn't even bother to hide the fact that she's gonna try her damn best to do... things... to Lincoln to get him stay with her permanently should she win.
  • This Hetalia fanart.
  • Hoyle's Rules of Dragon Poker allows you to bet anything, including people, but the winner has to return them before the police get involved.
  • Shows up in the backstory of one of the protagonists in Kyoshi Rising; Wandering Minstrel Sun almost lost his previous travelling partner to a bunch of sandbenders when he bet too high in a game. He won, fortunately, but his partner thanked him by taking the winnings and framing him for robbery.
  • Lucky is a literal interpretation of Mouse's canonical statement that he 'won' Harry Dresden. Specifically, he got Harry's guardian angel drunk and played poker with him.
  • The plots of The Night the House of Cards was Built and Demon's Luck basically amount to "Naruto enters a poker game with the most influential people in Konoha and wins (among many other things) several women and girls". Thankfully, he's only a young child in both of these fics, so nothing too NSFW happens to him.
  • The Poker Game has Harry Potter win Luna Lovegood, Susan Bones (both of whom bet themselves) and Pansy Parkinson (bet on by Draco Malfoy, using a life debt) as concubines in a high-stakes poker game. But that's just the beginning as Harry later gets more women as the story goes, mostly through the actions of Karma, it's said later by Luna.
  • Poker Night sees Ciaphas Cain join a poker night with the God-Emperor of Mankind, the Four Chaos Gods, Death, and Q, who use chips as stand-in for the souls they're playing for. In the end, he succeeds in bluffing Tzeentch and cleaning everyone else out.
  • In the backstory of A Strange Engagement, Stan Pines entered a High Stakes Poker Game involving Bill Cipher, HIM, Aku, Danny Phantom, Morrigan, Grim, and Sirzechs Lucifer. During the game, the topic of families came up, which eventually led to all of the drunken players betting marriage contacts involving their respective kids (and in Stan's case, his newly born Great-Niece and Nephew). Stan won the contracts (among other riches), forcing Dipper and Mabel in the present to enter a Magically Bound Arranged Marriage with several children of the Underworld.
  • In Vathara's Witchy Woman, Megumi Takani is passed off as a girlfriend belonging to a very unfortunate gambler who had no money with which to settle his debts. Kaoru was not pleased.
  • The Desert Storm: The first thing a temporally-displaced Obi-Wan Kenobi does when he realises what's happened to him is persuade Shmi and Anakin Skywalker's owner to bet them in a high-stakes sabacc game, using the Kyber crystal out of his lightsaber to buy in. He wins, and sends canon spectacularly Off the Rails.

    Film — Animation 
  • Mr. Ping, adoptive father of the protagonist of Kung Fu Panda, is the owner of a noodle restaurant, which he owns by family inheritance. Said business was acquired generations ago when one of his ancestors won a bet on a game of mahjong.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used as a punchline in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy:
    Bud: No, no; his mummy is a he.
    Lou: Strange country! Your mommy, your mommy was a lady, wasn't she?
    Bud: I never had a mummy!
    Lou: So what'd your father do; win you in a crap game?
  • In Almost Famous, one of the bands bets their groupies.
  • In Amazing Grace, William Wilberforce pulls out of a card game when his opponent bets a slave, something the opponent did for the express purpose of testing Wilberforce's abolitionist convictions. Needless to say, a serious example.
  • In Benny & Joon, Joon gets Sam in a poker game. She lost.
  • In an early draft of Django Unchained, this was how Calvin Candie acquired Broomhilda.
  • Variations are seen in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift:
    • The opening race, pitting Sean against a jealous high school jock, sees the jock's girlfriend offer herself as the prize for the winner. Played with, as when Sean appears as though he's about to win - and the girl teases the jock about it - the jock purposefully wrecks both cars, and it's implied neither driver gets the girl.
    • The climactic race also has shades of this, as the Loser Leaves Town stakes imply that Neela will remain with the winner.
  • In Honeymoon in Vegas, Jack plays a poker game with Tommy Korman, a professional gambler and after losing big to him, Jack makes a deal with Tommy that he will erase all the debts if he can let fiancee Betsy stay with him for the weekend.
  • In The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, Sergeant asks the Dwarf why the circus troupe is wandering the Mexican wilderness, and the Dwarf explains that they were lost in a card game ("Four sixes beats a full house") and are travelling to their new owner.
  • The whole point of the Shirley Temple film Little Miss Marker (based on a Damon Runyon story), in which Shirley's father leaves her as collateral when placing a bet on a horse, loses the bet, and thus loses Shirley—and commits suicide immediately thereafter.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Will Turner bets his soul against Davy Jones' key on a game of Liar's Dice. His father intentionally loses, to spare Will the forfeit.
  • The Quick and the Dead: When the Lady wakes up in the Kid's shop with no memory of how she got there, the Kid claims he won her in a game of poker. As the last thing she remembers of him puking and passing out behind the saloon, she is pretty sure he is lying.
  • Starts off the plot of Ruggles of Red Gap, as Ruggles the British valet is gambled and lost to a pair of loudmouth American tourists.
  • In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), one of Walter's fantasies is life as Antebellum Mississippi riverboat gambler Gaylord Mitty. The dream starts with Gaylord winning the deed to his rival's plantation. The rival then tries to stake his fiancee's hand, which he knows Gaylord is greatly interested in, but Mitty is "unable to hold a lady to such a bargain" and the wager is changed to the rival "going North" against Mitty's winnings. The rival loses, accuses Mitty of cheating, and loses the showdown. Gaylord then restores the plantation to the young lady, whose father had been swindled out of it years earlier, and leaves to join his regiment because the first shots of the Civil War had been fired.
  • In Sky Bandits, the girls put themselves forward as the stake in The Bet between Barney and Luke and Aldiss and Nicky.
  • The Looney Tunes from Space Jam are already playing a basketball game versus the Monstars to win back their freedom rather than become fixtures on Moron Mountain. Michael Jordan, however, offers to raise the stakes in an effort to reclaim the Liquid Assets absconded from the NBA's star playersnote . Jordan and Swackhammer have a tete a tete at midcourt.
    Jordan: How's about we raise the stakes?
    Swackhammer: Interesting.
    Jordan: If we win, you give the NBA their talent back.
    Swackhammer: But what if we win?
    Jordan: If you win? ... You get me.
  • In Star Wars:
    • In The Phantom Menace, Anakin and his mother Shmi were slaves whose prior owner, Gardulla the Hutt, lost them betting on podraces to Watto, and Anakin wins his freedom after another podrace. And whether it was Anakin or his mother was decided by a chance cube throw. The Jedi didn't exactly leave it to chance, though...
    • Anakin and his mother were originally owned by a Hutt named Gardulla who won them by cheating in this game (and Gardulla tended to cheat at sabacc a lot). Watto won them from her by betting on another pod race, and he was known to cheat too; the dice cube he used in that previous example was loaded, according to some sources. (Still, at least he wasn't as cruel as the Hutts tended to be.)
    • In Episode V, it is revealed that Lando lost the Millennium Falcon to Han in a card game called sabacc. The way they talk about that ship, it could be considered a person. As it turns out, the Falcon's computer contains the uploaded memory core of Lando's droid L3-37 (for whom he may have had feelings) after she was destroyed on Kessel.
      • In Solo, we see exactly how Han wins the ship from Lando. Han needed the Millennium Falcon for a job, so he played a few rounds of Sabacc with Lando, constantly upping the stakes until he bets the Falcon. However, Han loses because Lando was cheating, but Lando agrees to work with them anyways. After the job was finished, they had a rematch, but Han steals the cards up Lando's sleeve first. This time, Han wins the ship fair and square.
    • Apparently, you can wager anything in sabacc, literally. Han actually won an entire planet in one such game, the one he took Leia to after abducting her in The Courtship of Princess Leia.
  • In Swing Time, the contract for a band changes hands several times in this way.
  • In the Richard Pryor/Jackie Gleason movie The Toy, one of the sordid stories about U.S. Bates (Gleason) was that he won his servant Barkley in a game of pool.
  • In Wanda Nevada, Beau wins the titular thirteen-year-old in a card game with Slade. Wanda is dismayed, as she believed that Slade loved her and was going to marry her.
  • An unfortunate man lost his wife to the brewer in Yojimbo.


  • This happens to the protagonist in "The Tiger's Bride", one of the retellings of Beauty and the Beast in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. Her father loses her to the "beast" (she notes that it's not that he cared more about gambling than his daughter, just equally much). And then he turns out to be a tiger in human's clothes and she turns into one too and willingly stays with him while sending back to her father a clockwork version of herself because clearly that's all he wants. This must be symbolic of something...
  • In Chess with a Dragon, some insectoid aliens are shown engaged in some sort of gambling game. The biggest loser of the evening is said to be dangerously close to "gracing the table", i.e. becoming dinner for the winners.
  • Nikolai Gogol's novel Dead Souls takes place in Imperial Russia during the first half of the XIX century, when it had especially hard laws on serfdom making it essentially slavery. The protagonist, Chichikov, runs a scam that involves buying serfs that are already dead but aren't yet legally registered as dead. At one point he meets a landowner named Nozdryov, who is a compulsive gambler, and they play a checkers game in which the bet is serfs.
  • In Declare by Tim Powers, the protagonist and the traitor Kim Philby gamble for the Love Interest versus a scroll detailing the secret of eternal life. The game is interrupted, but Philby insists on completing the game when they meet up again in Moscow.
  • Forest Kingdom: In the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 1, Hawk claims to have lost his missing eye in a card game. He was just kidding though.
  • Gone with the Wind, where Gerald O'Hara wins Pork (his slave valet) in a poker game.
  • In The Good Soldier Švejk, Svejk becomes batman of army chaplain Otto Katz, but Katz loses him at cards to Lieutenant Lukáš. Played both for comedy and drama. Betting people as property is a new low for Katz, putting him on par with slave traders. But not for Lukáš, his batman deserved that.
  • In the short story "Hazard" by Georgette Heyer, a man bets his half-sister in a game of hazard. She's so angry that she leaves willingly enough (with the hero, who she's in love with) and punishes the hero for playing the game by threatening to cause a scandal and make him marry her (as he's engaged to someone else).
  • In Iron Council, Judah had to go on the run after his employer lost him in a card game. His flight was justified, as his boss hadn't actually owned Judah in the first place.
  • Bryony House in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy books is the only one whose adepts will gamble for their favours. It is said they very rarely lose. Hyacinthe's mother, a virgin at the time, was wagered by her cousin. Three guesses how that turned out.
  • In the Liaden Universe novel Plan B, there's a character who's fallen so low that not only did his last master stake him in a card game, the bet was that the loser had to keep him.
  • Happens to Ruti in The Red Tent; Laban gambles her away. Knowing she'll be mistreated (not that she was being treated well before), she appeals to Leah for help. Leah and Jacob meet the men who were coming to pick up Ruti and with some effort get them to agree to take a bunch of their possessions instead of Ruti. Unfortunately for Ruti, this results in Laban treating her even worse than before.
  • Last Call by Tim Powers is about a poker player who thought he won a huge pot in a game years ago... only to discover that he traded away his body and soul to the guy organizing the game. And now he's got to win it back before the guy comes to collect...
  • The Robert Asprin novel Little Myth Marker, part of his Myth Adventures series. The title is a reference to Little Miss Marker. Subverted in that is later revealed that this was done deliberately on the orders of the "kid" bet so as to infiltrate the hero's household. Likewise, the fan version, Hoyle's Rules of Dragon Poker, allows this.
  • One of the characters in Jeannette Winterson's The Passion bets his own life in a card game and loses. But he says it was worth it.
  • In Plum Lucky, Diesel adds Stephanie to the pot in a high-stakes poker game. Fortunately for her (the opponent is highly unpleasant), Diesel wins.
  • Mandala 10, Hymn 34 (dated to 1,100 B.C. or older) of the Rig-Veda is the lament of a gambling addict who has lost not only all his property, but also his wife in games of dice.
  • Saki did this, also with a cook.
  • In the Secret Histories novel Casino Infernale, the eponymous casino holds a high stakes poker game for the express purpose of wagering misappropriated souls. The protagonists infiltrate the game in order to rescue the souls and destroy the casino.
  • In the first Spellsinger novel, Jon-Tom and Mudge are hiding out at the local Thieves' Guild hideout waiting for the heat to die down after a crime they got involved in when Jon-Tom tries his hand playing cards with some of the locals. He ends up doing quite well and winning a bit of money when another gambler puts up his girlfriend, a vixen, as his stake in a hand since he's broke. Jon-Tom wins again, but he's Squicked out by the thought of having sex with someone from a different species and ends up accidentally insulting her. The resulting fight forces Jon-Tom and Mudge to flee the guild.
  • In the Star Wars book series, Han wins a planet in a card game that turns out to be inhabited. By a Mage Species, to boot. And of course, it's been long established that the transfer of everyone's favourite Cool Ship from Lando to Han occurred in the same way.
    • In one book, Han and Leia (who'd had an almighty row a couple of chapters earlier) run into an old acquaintance of his, and when Leia asks him how they met he names the trope all but word for word. Leia was not amused, and Han has to rather quickly reassure her that he was a slave-owner for no longer than it took to file the necessary manumission paperwork.
    • In the Fate of the Jedi series, a reporter on a world with legalized slavery wins a slave from one of the locals. She proceeds to interview him on camera, then frees him on the spot and hires him on as a member of her film crew.
  • "Taste", one of Roald Dahl's short stories, concerns a man who bets his daughter's hand in marriage that a wine-taster cannot figure out exactly where a wine came from. As the story goes on the wine taster only gets closer and closer to the truth, much to the daughter's horror. At the end it turns out the reason he was getting so close was that he had peeked at the label before, and though the resolution isn't shown, one can presume this means the bet is off.
  • In Ruthanne Lum McCunn's Thousand Pieces of Gold novel and the film based on it, American pioneer and experienced gambler Charles Bemis engages in a card game to the Chinese Hong King for the stated purpose of winning the Chinese's maid Polly. (While based on a true story, it appears the way Real Life Polly got her freedom was different.)
  • In the course of a long night of dice, Athos of The Three Musketeers stakes horses, a diamond that does not belong to him, and his servant Grimaud. After several losses, he retrieves the diamond, Grimaud, and the horse's harness— but not the horse.
  • In Troubled Range by J.T. Edson, a friend of Mark Counter's accidentally wins a wife in a poker game. The friend thought the ship's captain he was playing against had been betting his ship when he tossed in the marker with the name written on it.
  • Erast Fandorin bet the heroine against a donkey in The Turkish Gambit (both the book and the movie), for a lack of any money or means of transportation. But then, as he is quick to point out, he was Born Lucky, and so knew he was not risking anything.
  • On more than one occasion, P. G. Wodehouse's writing featured an Upper-Class Twit who includes his or her domestic servant as stakes in some sort of harebrained wager.
  • In the Xanth series book Demons Don't Dream, Dug makes a bet with his best friend Edsel that Ed won't be able to find a game to interest Dug, with the stakes being Ed's motorcycle and Dug's girlfriend Pia. When Dug tells Pia about the bet, she is fine with it, and when Dug ends up losing, he isn't upset at all, since at the end of completing the Companions of Xanth computer game, he had fallen for Kim, the other person playing it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 31 Minutos, a comedy show about a news program run by puppets, it's commented that a member of the crew Bodoque, who has a gambling problem, bet his own aunt. Hilariously, Bodoque defends himself saying that he won the game, so now he has two aunts.
  • Altered Carbon: Poe has a habit of playing (and losing) online poker with other AI. When a virtual brothel's persona hears that he's hosting the digitized personality of a deceased sex worker he suggests putting her in the pot. However, Kovacs needed to infect a brothel with a horrific virus as part of his plans, so Poe sent him the virus instead.
  • In The Beiderbecke Affair, Jill Swinburne loses her boyfriend, Trevor Chaplain, to his former fiancee, Helen of Tadcaster, in a coin-toss after a night of heavy drinking. Mrs Swinburne honours her agreement with Helen, but Mr Chaplain goes back to her anyway because "nobody wins me at the toss of a coin." It is strongly suggested that this is a new development in Trevor's persona since the time when he and Helen were engaged.
  • In an episode of Bonanza, a man won a compulsive gambler's wife, and didn't see anything wrong with making sure he collected.
  • In season 3 of Desperate Housewives, Mike and Ian bet Susan in a poker game when they're both vying for her heart.
  • In an episode of Gilligan's Island, the Skipper and Mr. Howell bet on their turtles racing, eventually with Mr. Howell "winning" Gilligan from the Skipper. After losing more times, the Skipper has nothing left to bet, but Mr. Howell finally has him choose which hand has a pebble. When the Skipper chooses wrongly again, Mr. Howell delivers Gilligan back to him. When the Skipper protests that he lost, Mr. Howell cites all the damage Gilligan did while working for him and says whoever has Gilligan is the loser.
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney wagers (and loses) Marshal in an inscrutable Asian card game while they are having his bachelor party. It's all an elaborate prank on Barney, though, so everyone laughs in the end... Except for Barney, who thought he was to blame for Marshal getting his hands chopped off.
  • Borderline example in Knight Rider: Michael deliberately lost KITT in a game with the episode's bad guy, as part of a plan to take him down. Unfortunately he didn't bother to explain it to KITT beforehand.
  • In the M*A*S*H episode, "The Moose", a new sergeant arrives at the 4077th with his "moose" (a Korean girl servant) named Young-Hi. Hawkeye rigs a poker game against the sergeant and wins Young-Hi. Hilarity ensues when Hawkeye tries to let Young-Hi go.
  • J. J. Killian from Midnight Caller won his second wife by gambling, and lost her the same way.
  • NewsRadio did this with Bill, who is appalled when he learns that he was bet against a mixing board until he's told the board is worth millions. It is explained as being a clause in Bill's contract. Being lost in a card game is apparently defined as an act of God, as the contract refers to Jimmy James as God.
  • An episode of The Odd Couple has Oscar lose Felix to guest star Bobby Riggs as a glorified butler. Oscar offers to try to win his freedom back but Felix wins it back himself by holding a note longer than Riggs.
    Oscar: I'll win you back, buddy!
    Felix: No you won't. You'll lose double or nothing and I'll have to bring in my brother from Buffalo!
  • Subverted on Parks and Recreation when Andy "won" Ann from Mark in a pool game:
    Mark: I don't even know how to say this. I am so sorry, and I will do my best to visit you on holidays.
    Ann: Thanks. You tried.
    Mark: I guess you're his now.
    Ann: Do you want to get out of here?
    Mark: I do.
    Ann: Okay. Bye, Andy.
    [they leave, cut to Confession Cam]
    Andy: I know that legally Ann is now mine, but it weirdly doesn't feel that way.
    [the next day]
    Ann: I hope I'm not going to have to explain to you that you don't actually own me.
    Andy: Of course not. I never for one second thought that that was for real.
  • Primeval: Abby's brother loses Team Pet Rex in a card game. Connor and Becker get him back.
  • Pushing Daisies does this with a man bargaining his daughter off for marriage.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Entangled", Lister loses Rimmer while playing poker with GELFs.
    Cat: We're all deeply sorry, bud. Except for me and him and him.
  • In an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Salem bet and lost the Spellmans in a game of poker.
  • In S-Club 7 in Miami, their boss at the hotel where they work loses them in a poker game to a rival hotel owner.
  • A Simon episode featured Duke Stone at a poker table betting his butler because he was two dollars short of the money needed to match the last bet and his nephew wouldn't allow him to pay later. Simon won that round. In the end, Duke offered his gardener in exchange to get his butler back.
  • The Untouchables has a much darker variant, where two rival mob bosses play a game of cards where the stakes aren't the lives of their henchmen, but their deaths. Cue a Death Montage of the "chips" being cashed in.

  • Happens to the the narrator of the song "My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist" by The Decemberists.
    "...'til the money got tight, and they [his parents] bet me away to a blind brigadier in a game of high stakes canasta."
  • Also happens with the narrator narrator in "The Ballad of Weaverville", although Jim Weaver does specify she can be her father's stake if she agrees to it... and she then slips him the ace that wins the game.

    Myths & Religion 
  • This is the driving feature behind the Pandavas' exile in the Mahabharata. Yudishtra, the Crown Prince, has but one fault — a propensity to gamble. His evil Uncle Shakuni invites him to gamble with his cousin who craves the throne. However, Shakuni has cheating dice. Yudisthra bets and loses everything he owns and then begins to wager his brothers, then himself, then his wife, Draupadi. She is dragged, shrieking, by her hair, into the assembly, and is ordered to be stripped. As they do it, she cries out to Lord Krishna, who transforms her sari into a neverending sari. When they fall down from exhaustion from pulling at the folds, she delivers such an impassioned and resentful speech at Yudisthra's family - her in-laws after all - about her vile treatment, that they agree to give the brothers back their lives and change it to exile from the kingdom instead.
  • Mandala 10, Hymn 34 (1,100 BCE or older) of the Sanskrit Rig-Veda is the lament of a gambler who has lost not only all his property, but also his wife in games of dice.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech lore, Hauptmann Caradoc Trevena pulls this trick at an officer's card game to acquire the transfer of Leftenant Isobel Murdoch, an actual competent second-in-command, along with her Hunchback Battlemech, to his unit. His unit comprised entirely of Light Battlemechs piloted by a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, New Meat, and Nice Guys survives the Jade Falcon invasion of Coventry intact and manages to link up with reinforcements thanks in part to her training and command skills, where larger, more prestigious, and more powerful units fighting alongside them are annihilated by the Falcons because they did not have discipline, good command, or common sense.
    • Clan trial also work this way they wager in almost anything, be it equipment, mechs, and even personnel. The winner gets the spoils wagered, and even their opponent when they want to. If a warrior is captured and made a bondsman to a new Clan, then goes on to have a good career after re-earning their warrior status, it's not uncommon for their new Clan to hold a Trial of Possession for that warriors genetic legacy from the old Clan in order to win the rights to use that warrior's DNA in their Iron Wombs when making the next generation.
  • In the Mage: The Awakening quickstart Gloria Mundi:
    • One of the characters has an NPC ally due to having won the NPC's soul stone from him in a card game. Under the customs of Magical Society, they're entitled to three services from the NPC and must then return the stone.
    • When a villain steals the soul of one of the PCs, the PCs have the option to gamble one (or more, if things go badly) of their own souls in hopes of winning it back. They can also bet the aforementioned NPC, but that dings the Karma Meter.
  • Happens to several people in a really high-stakes poker game among supernatural beings, in a fictional interlude of the Underworld RPG rulebook. Souls, sanity, intellects and destinies were all laid on the table once the betting got hot.
  • A supernatural poker game also occurs in the To Go module for Unknown Armies. One match is "jailhouse eightball", where the players bet things they want to get rid of. One player bets the cancer her son is suffering from, another bets one of his enemies.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Robert House won control over the gambling-obsessed Vault 21 in a game of blackjack.
  • Grandia III has Lovable Rogue Alonso trying to win his ship back from the (female) casino owner who won it earlier in a rigged game. When he runs out of material possessions to bet, he bets himself: if he loses, he'll marry the owner (who has been after him for years, but is quite ugly in both face and personality).
  • A sidequest in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords involves a man who's lost his girlfriend in a Pazaak game. You can win her the same way; if you do, you learn she doesn't want to go back to him, and actually won't unless you threaten to sell her to the Hutts. It isn't clear how he could claim ownership to transfer either way, as this took place on a Republic station, but there is a Mafia-like presence there so it's plausible she would become a victim of trafficking.
  • Starcraft II: Matt Horner ''won'' Mira Han in a poker game. Matt would really like to just forget the whole incident, but Mira constantly refers to him as her husband.
    Mira Han: Oh and, um, say hello to Matthew for me... ask him why he never calls.
    Matt Horner: [does the "I'm not here!" gesture]
    [after mission]
    Matt Horner: If Mira calls, just... just tell her I'm busy.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic has a background conversation in the casino on Nar Shaddaa that involves a gambler apparently having wagered the woman he's with, possibly in a reference to the KOTOR2 quest mentioned above. She is very definitely not amused.
  • Part of Scarlet's backstory in Armello. Her father's terrible gambling habits landed her in the paws of Slantfang, leader of one of Armello's bandit gangs. She managed to claw her way up the ranks, and eventually united all of the clans under her rule as Bandit King.
  • Happens three times in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt:
    • The Bloody Baron won Uma in a card game in Novigrad.
    • Zoltan lost his pet owl in a game of cards without ever realizing that it was Philippa Eilhart the whole time.
    • Sigi Reuven won Bart the Rock Troll in a card game.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • One episode of Camp Camp had the Camp Campbell campers make a bet with the Wood Scouts where they had to be nice to each other for a day; if they failed, the Wood Scouts got their best camper. This ends up working in their favor, however; after they lost (thanks to David, of all people), they managed to trick the Wood Scouts into taking their absolutely disgusting new arrival, Jermy Fartz.
  • Kinda happens in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, as Kitten challenges Tzeench to a game of Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth-Dimensional-Chess-Strip-Poker with Magnus' soul as the stakes, but Kitten does it to free Magnus instead of keeping him.

    Web Comics 
  • Collar 6: Sixx bet herself ( She wins).
  • Friendly Hostility: Collin wins Bootsie in a poker game. As well, Rafi loses toddler Fatima in a poker game (to a pair of friendly cannibals hosting a dinner party!) and he and Padma must scramble to retrieve her.
  • In one The Order of the Stick strip (warning: spoilers!), a cleric of Loki is taking her baby adventuring with her, and Belkar wonders if the Church of Loki provides childcare. Haley says it does, but it's not recommended. Cut to a poker game at the Greysky City Thieves' Guild, with their cleric shoving a baby across the table and saying "Call."
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Who knew you could lose your wife in a monopoly game?
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Riff at one point mentions that his assistant (when he ran a company for anti-monster equipment) lost her family to vampires. He then specifies that she lost them in a poker game.
  • In S.S.D.D. Tessa apparently won her robot boyfriend Sticks in a card game, granted he was a just sex robot and wasn't fully self-aware until Tessa modified him (to make him more interesting for resale).
  • Tower of God: Prince said he'd give the indebted Yeon to the person who'd win the World's Strongest Shinsu Competition. He really didn't count on losing against Bam, but when he does, he gives Yeon up, albeit under great protest.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the As Told by Ginger episode "Wicked Game", Noelle loses Carl (along with her glasses and shoe) in a bet with Polly Shuster, meaning he has to spend the weekend playing Parrot World with Polly.
  • In the Bounty Hamster episode "Just Deserts", Marion loses Cassie in a card game.
  • Played for Drama in Dofus: Kerub's Bazaar when Kerubim visits Ecaflip City. He initially wants to earn enough money to woo his beloved Lou, but an unbelievable string of good fortune allows him to climb the hierarchy of the city and earn the right to face off against the city's undefeated champion, the Baron. Despite already having more money than he could ever need hundreds of times over, Kerubim's arrogance, amazing hand, and faith in his seemingly-unshakeable luck allows the Baron to goad Kerubim into betting the ring he was going to propose with, symbolizing Lou's love. The Baron had the one hand that could beat Kerubim's, and not only does Kerubim lose his amassed fortune, but Lou forgets who he is entirely. The plot arc ends with Kerubim being offered an extremely safe (but not 100% sure) bet against the Baron that would allow him to regain everything if he won. He refuses the temptation, acknowledging that "love is not a game," and sets off to win back Lou's affections the proper way.
  • Gasp!: In "Pet Games", Gasp loses his Companion Cube Diver to Roachy in a board game when Roachy cheats.
  • Gawayn: When Sir Roderick becomes The Gambling Addict in "Casino Quest", he ends up losing his squire William in a bet.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Grim bets himself and loses in a game of limbo (to gain the soul of a hamster, of all things), however, it did set the series in motion, so it's not a total loss.
    • In the episode “Who Killed Who?”, Grim tells Mandy the story about Old Mrs. Doolin’s place, which is apparently a haunted house, and anything that’s ever gone inside the house’s fence has never returned, including Grim’s dog, Lucky. But upon meeting Mrs. Doolin, Mandy learns that the two actually just have a long-standing rivalry because she’s beaten him in “just about everything”, and that Grim had made the whole story up. How did Lucky really wind up in Mrs. Doolin’s possession? She won him off Grim in a Poker Game.
  • In an episode of Hey Arnold!, the freeloader Oskar bets the baby he's supposed to be looking after in a high-stakes poker game after he realizes he's out of chips. The other players refuse to accept this and storm out. Turns out Oskar had a royal flush,note  so it's not as bad as it looks.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi "Bad Manager" Kaz bets Ami and Yumi in a game of Rock–Paper–Scissors. Different game, same plot. Slick Shady, who won the girls, actually did a better job managing their careers than Kaz usually does. Despite this, Ami and Yumi challenged for a Rock–Paper–Scissors game for the right to return to Kaz.
  • Hilda: In episode 11, Hilda gets lost in the woods. She runs into her old acquaintance the Woodman, who is playing poker with some elves and, as we eventually learn, a forest giant. He bets Hilda without her knowing, and loses her to the giant, who takes her back to his lair. However, he did so on purpose since he hoped Hilda would thus be able to help him get back some other items he lost to the giant.
  • Happened in the Johnny Bravo episode "Hunted", where Johnny was bet and lost by Momma to a big game hunter (a character homage to Sydney Greenstreet) in a poker game. He cheated in an obvious manner (five cards in a standard four suit deck of cards) but it took the length of the episode for Momma to realize this and come to Johnny's rescue.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Hank is lost by his boss Buck Strickland to rival propane shop owner M. F. Thatherton! Buck mentions he usually bets Joe Jack, so this must happen often.
  • Subverted in The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. K'nuckles bets Flapjack in a card game (on an incredibly weak poker hand), and wins, getting another cabin boy as the prize. However, Flapjack is so insulted about this that he leaves and becomes a banker.
  • In an episode of The Mask, Stanley sold his soul to the Devil, known in this series as "Bob". The Mask challenged Bob to a dance contest for his freedom. When he lost, Bob challenged Mask for a double or nothing rematch, which Bob lost, resulting on him having to be Mask's servant.
  • On the season 12 The Simpsons episode "Children of a Lesser Clod" (the episode where Homer starts a home day care center after breaking his knee in a basketball accident), one of the video clips of how much of a horrible father Homer is to Bart, Lisa, and Maggie shows Homer betting Maggie in a poker game — and losing her to Moe Szyslak.
    • One of the comics ended up with Smithers temporarily being Homer's assistant under similar circumstances.
    • In the episode "The Burns and the Bees", Mr. Burns and some other billionaires were reunited for a card game and Burns added Smithers into the pot. Rich Texan said that, since they were betting people, he'd add his basketball team. Despite thinking they're "hardly worth a Smithers", Burns accepted it. And won.
    • Burns and Rich Texan once waged all their worldly possessions on a scavenger hunt. Once Rich Texan won, he started riding Smithers as if he was another prize. Sure, Smithers' employment contract was more likely to be linked to the power plant rather than Mr. Burns but still...
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Welcome to the Chum Bucket", Mr. Krabs loses SpongeBob's work contract in a poker match with Plankton. Plankton tries forcing SpongeBob to make a Krabby Patty, but only becomes frustrated when he refuses and drives him crazy with his rebellious attitude, even after he steals his brain and puts it in his robot chef. When Plankton finally gives up and gives SpongeBob back to Mr. Krabs, he admits he cheated in the card game.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Idiot's Array", Zeb bets Chopper in a game of Sabacc, believing he has an unbeatable hand. Unfortunately, his opponent is Lando Calrissian, who uses the titular hand to beat him, winning Chopper in the process. The Ghost crew has to help Lando in his schemes for the rest of the episode in order to win Chopper back. Considering what happened in Solo, Lando may even have cheated.
  • In an episode of Timon & Pumbaa, Timon bet Pumbaa in a poker game, and lost him to the owner of a meat processing plant.
  • The Transformers: In "The Gambler", Smokescreen uses his stasis-locked Autobot comrades as collateral in a deal with vicious Loan Shark Lord Gyconi as part of a bid to eventually free them by winning the jackpot with slot machines. His confidence in wagering his friends is justified due to him hacking the machines so that he'll always win, but he still gets greedy and continues playing even when he's won more than enough money to free them. Smokescreen loses all his winnings when his cheating method is disabled, and Gyconi makes the Autobots mind-controlled slaves to fight in his deadly Gladiator Games.
  • In The Venture Bros. episode "What Colour Is Your Cleansuit?", Billy Quizboy's Arch-Enemy, St. Cloud, challenges Billy to a quiz competition, asking him to bet his heterosexual life partner Pete White. (Because Pete is an albino, and St. Cloud collects those.) Billy accepts without hesitation, much to Pete's annoyance. He wins.

    Real Life 
  • Not too long after Walt Disney left Universal — orphaning his proto-Mickey character Oswald the Lucky RabbitWalter Lantz won the rights to Oswald in a poker game with company founder Carl Laemmle. Decades later, the Disney company was able to get Oswald back... in exchange for ESPN Sportscaster Al Michaels. For the record, Michaels is pretty cool with it.
  • As slaves are the legal property of their master, there is nothing preventing slave-owners from betting their slaves whenever slavery is legalized, as shown in this cartoon about Imperial Russia.
  • Happened in Russia in 2007. The wife was so pissed off, she left with the winner. The two are now Happily Married, and probably have the best 'how we met' story out of anyone they know.
  • Oskar Schindler won Helen Hirsch, notorious Nazi Amon Goeth's Jewish maid. One night, while playing cards with Goeth, Schindler plied him with plenty of booze and got him very drunk, and persuaded him to gamble with Hirsch as a stake in the game. With—no doubt—a little help from the booze, Schindler stacked the deck and cheated outrageously to make sure he had the winning hand. Then, when Goeth tried to welch on his bet, Schindler said something like "Now, now, Goeth, you play fair!" and that's how he won her life in a card game.
  • Sacagawea (who was a guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition with her husband) became the wife of French-Canadian trapper Charbonneau because he reportedly either bought her from the Hidatsa tribe that captured her or won her while gambling.
  • The Islamic State offered Sex Slaves as first prizes for a Koran memorization contest for Ramadan.
  • According to the man himself, Wilber Hardee; the founder of the Hardee's fast-food chain, reportedly lost control of the chain to the partnership of Leonard Rawls and Jim Gardnernote  in a poker game, and upon realizing he lost control sold the remaining Hardee's shares to the Rawls-Gardner partnership.


Video Example(s):


Street Racing for Liam

Chad challenges Koala Man to a street race where the winner gets to keep Liam as their son.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / LostHimInACardGame

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