As fans of the James Bond franchise bid farewell to actor Daniel Craig, who said a year ago he would rather ‘slash his wrists’ with broken glass than act in another James Bond movie, we thought it’s time to revisit and analyze the gambling past of the most famous fictional spy on Earth. Disclaimer: James Bond doesn’t play slots. Why would he? It’s not sexy enough.
No Time To Gamble
In the latest movie No Time To Die, currently in cinemas across the world, no actual casino gambling takes place, but that is not to say that Her Majesty’s top agent is not a true gambler and a casino lover in his heart.
Well, at least that’s what the author Ian Fleming had left us to believe. In his own words, ‘Bond has always been a gambler’ and 007 considers luck to be his servant, not master. It seems that gambling appeals to Bond on a psychological level because there is no one left to blame if you lose – only yourself.
Do you expect me to roulette? No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to baccarat.
Contrary to popular belief, roulette is not James Bond’s favorite casino game. I know what you’re thinking, ‘But wait, 007 plays roulette in John Gardner’s novel Role of Honour, and there’s even a roulette gambling tactic called James Bond, what gives?!’
The truth is, Bond’s casino weapon of choice is Baccarat Chemin de Fer. This is what he plays in the first James Bond novel Casino Royale, published in 1953. “But wait”, I hear you say again, “He plays Texas Hold’em Poker against Le Chiffre, masterfully portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, in a 2006 flick Casino Royale, right?”
It’s true, Bond plays Texas Hold’em in the movie that shares its name with the book. The way we see it, producers went for a Texas Hold’em game because the movie’s target audiences throughout the world are more familiar with poker than Baccarat.
British Secret Agent 009
We can see Bond playing baccarat all the time, in movies like Dr.No (portrayed by Sean Connery), Thunderball (Connery), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (George Lazenby), For Your Eyes Only (Roger Moore), and GoldenEye (Pierce Brosnan). So, what’s Baccarat Chemin de Fer in the first place?
Mini baccarat and Punto Banco players will recognize the rules immediately. The key differences are that Chemin de Fer is played against other players, all of them being able to change their hand by hitting or standing, in some situations.
- For 8 to 12 players.
- Card values: Aces worth 1 point, cards 2 through 9 worth the face value, and 10, J, Q, and K worth zero points.
- The players take turns to become the banker and take a hold of the banker’s hand, with the first banker located to the right of the croupier.
- The banker sets the wager, usually high because it’s his or her responsibility to cover all the bets on the table.
- Other players place bets up to the level set by the banker’s maximum bet.
- Two cards are dealt both to the highest bettor and the banker, face down.
- If any of them has a hand of 8 or 9 in total, that person wins and the round ends. Unlike blackjack, you can’t bust in baccarat. Hands totaling more than 9 eliminate the first number so a hand consisting of 8 and 9 is actually worth 7 (9+8=17, minus number 1).
- If that’s not the case, and a player has a hand that equals 5, that person can take a third card and all starting hands are then revealed.
Players compare hands and distribute the winnings.
The Spy Who Robbed Me
A game of poker may appeal to mainstream audiences. But the reality is that baccarat is the true game to play if you ever try to emulate James Bond, an effort we strongly recommend you not to do. Joking aside, there are plenty of other casino games he dipped his fingers in while trying to serve the country and the queen, save the world, destroy ridiculously expensive infrastructure and cars. Not to mention, destroy his liver and kill or seduce a lot of people. In the case of the latter. Sometimes both at once.
Gin Rummy, Shaken not Stirred
In 1964 Goldfinger, Sean Connery is playing Gin Rummy, but only in order to prevent Auric Goldfinger from cheating by disrupting his accomplice equipped with a radio transmitter. And no, Pussy Galore has nothing to do with it.
Craps are Forever
The movie number seven, 1971’s Diamonds are Forever, features 007 (Connery) playing craps with Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood). Despite mentioning that he only played craps once before, thanks to the power of screenplay Bond somehow manages to perform superbly, as predictable as the sunrise.
Bo, Sic Bo
In a legendary 1974 flick The Man with the Golden Gun, Roger Moore is playing Sic Bo, an ancient Chinese dice game, before he faces another legend – Christopher Lee, as one of the best movie villains ever, Francisco Scaramanga. He uses only one bullet, and has three nipples to compensate, if necessary.
Backgammon: Q’s and M’s
Looks like Roger Moor was a Bond to go to if producers wanted exotic casino games. In the 1983 movie Octopussy, he is having a blast playing backgammon. It’s one of the oldest games in living memory, even older than Russians/Soviets playing the bad guys in Hollywood movies.
Blackjack, Licence to Bust
It was in his second Bond movie, 1989’s Licence to Kill, that Timothy Dalton had his chance to shine in a casino game. You guessed it, it was the king of games – blackjack. Do not try to mimic this particular, nerve-wracking game scene because, in reality, it’s easier to hit a jackpot than to win big on blackjack, steal the heart of your nemesis’ lover, who just happens to be your dealer, in a casino owned by the said villain – all at the same time.
Casino Games in James Bond Novels
Apart from Chemin de Fer, a man with a license to kill plays a wide range of gamers in Ian Fleming’s novels. In the book Moonraker, Bond is playing bridge, of all games, and in the novel Zero Minus Ten by Raymond Benson 007 is taking his chances with Mahjong, a 17th century game originally from China.