Five-finger Fillet, Gwent and Triple Triad: The best games within a game

It's hard work hunting down monsters and casting spells in battles to the death. Sometimes a little break to do some in-game gaming is just what the doctor ordered. Join us as we count down six of the best mini-gambling scenes within these classic video games

Gambling has moved from the enclave of Las Vegas and into the mainstream, and nowhere is that more apparent than in video games. Developers are falling over themselves to capture the zeitgeist, shoehorning traditional and sometimes completely original gambling mini-games into their titles. EA even offered Sims devotees the opportunity to purchase The Lucky Simoleon Casino, where their virtual alter-egos could gamble the night away. We're more interested in gambling ourselves though and we've virtually bankrupted ourselves several times to compile a list of the very best in-game gambling games. Enjoy, and remember, when the fun stops, stop.

Red Dead Redemption

Games: Poker, Blackjack, Arm Wrestling, Liar's Dice, Horseshoes, Five-Finger Fillet

When the creators of GTA turned their hands to a Wild West sandbox, the results were stunning. In Red Dead Redemption (RDR), you play John Marston, former outlaw turned straight, in an epic world of gunslingers where you can live out all your cowboy-related fantasies (actually, nearly all, this isn't Westworld). Herding cattle? Erm, yep, if that's what floats your boat. Tracking down outlaws? Hunting for treasure? Check and check.

Now that's a poker face

And you can gamble. There are six gambling mini-games in RDR: Poker (so good it led to an outbreak of gamers trying to gen up on strategy), Blackjack, Arm Wrestling, Liar's Dice, Horseshoes and the fantastically-named Five-Finger Fillet, where you have to stab the gaps between your fingers with a sharp knife. They're all great fun but Liar's Dice, a betting and bluffing game similar to Spoof, is our favourite. And if you don't know what Spoof is, you should really seek out the rules.

Watch Dogs

Games: Poker, Slots, Shell Game

Watch Dogs refers to hackers as modern-day magicians at the start of the game and if you're clued up you can make your opponent's money disappear in the poker mini-game by hacking into security cameras to see their hole cards. If you can't bring yourself to cheat even in a virtual world, you can 'read' your opponents by watching their stress levels in a hand. There are two other gambling mini-games in Ubisoft's techno-thriller - Slots (unhackable, unfortunately) and the Shell Game, the classic three-cups-and-a-ball street hustle. This starts off easy but gets fiendishly difficult as the dealer starts to 'switch' the ball between cups. Use your 'Focus' at the right time to slow him down and clean him out.

Far Cry 3

Games: Poker

Your holiday in the Rook Islands takes a pretty bleak turn when you and your friends are kidnapped by pirate lord Vaas Montenegro, and your older brother is killed. Luckily there are eight poker games scattered across the islands, that offer a pretty decent hold'em experience and a great way to make some quick cash. Win more than $1,500 and you'll get the Poker Bully award, and you can use your new-found skills to get through the Father's Burden quest. This involves getting a necklace back off a guy who's just lost all his money playing poker in the Crazy Cock. He'll give you the necklace if you can beat the three sharks in the bar and get his money back, which isn't as hard as it should be. If we had dealers like this at the WSOP we'd have a bracelet to go with the necklace.

GTA San Andreas

Games: Blackjack, Roulette, Slots, Video Poker, Wheel of Fortune, Pool, Horse Racing

The seventh game in the Grand Theft Auto series provides you with an opportunity to gamble away all your ill-gotten gains. Inside Track outlets let you bet on horses and you can usually find a local to hustle for pool in the various bars littered around the city. When you unlock Las Venturas though, the real fun begins. You can play Blackjack, Roulette, Slots, Video Poker and the Wheel of Fortune. You can even get credit if you bankrupt yourself chasing the American dream. Be warned though, these people don't play nicely. Don't even think about drawing a weapon if your blackjack dealer gives you a face card to go with your 12. And if you're late with your debt you'll be hounded and eventually chased with Uzis and Ak47s. What did you expect? It's not a nursery.

The Witcher 3

Games: Gwent

Developers CD Projekt Red delivered one of the finest (and darkest) RPGs of all time with The Witcher 3, the latest in the series based on the books by Andrzej Sapkowski. The majestic open-world game, where you play a freelance monster hunter, is also home to the best mini-game of all time - Gwent.

Just on my way to the casino, nothing to see here

Gwent is a collectible card game similar to Hearthstone that you can grind for gold, but for the hardcores there's also a High Stakes secondary quest in the game where you can enter a tournament... if you've got a strong enough deck and the entry fee of 1,000 crowns. Entry requirements are strict and if you want in you'll need to have put in a lot of work, but thankfully Gwent is so much fun that shouldn't be a hardship. It's such a well-balanced game that it's now also a free-to-play standalone title in its own right. Like all good games it takes a couple of minutes to learn and more than your lifetime to master.

Final Fantasy VIII

Games: Triple Triad

The Final Fantasy series is packed with mini-games but we challenge you to find one that's better than Triple Triad. Simple, but incredibly addictive, it's played head-to-head (red v blue) on a 3x3 grid, with cards that all feature four numbers facing up, down, left and right. Place a card on the grid and if your number is higher than that of the card facing it, it flips to your colour. The player with the most coloured squares at the end wins. It's maybe not a gambling game as such - you don't play for in-game currency - but you can win special cards from your opponents and it's so moreish we just had to include it here.

Dave Woods
@PokerStars in Features