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How Poker Became the Casino Game of Choice for James Bond


By John W. Pepper
March 2, 2018




It could almost be compared to the classic final scenes from Sergio Leone’s iconic Western movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as the camera pans from face to face, capturing the drama and tension of the ultimate showdown amongst the trio of characters. Never before has a simple card game been portrayed in such a thrilling way, but that’s exactly what happens during iconic no-limit Texas Hold ‘em poker game scene in 2006 James Bond hit Casino Royale, masterfully directed by Martin Campbell, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat.

Unlike the fictional British spy, we don’t have the benefit of funds provided by Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or the luxury of jetting around to some of the most exotic locations in the world. However, given the popularity of casino gaming online these days, we can delve into sites like RealMoney.ca and check reviews for the leading online casinos, affording us the possibility of carefully choosing where we play casino games like baccarat, poker or roulette online, all from the comfort of our own homes and while sipping a Vodka Martini, "shaken, not stirred" of course.

 


The casino scene in Thunderball

 

From Baccarat to Texas Hold'em

Although baccarat is the game of choice in the novelized Bond stories and several movies, including the 1967 Casino Royale comedy spoof of the spy genre starring David Niven and Woody Allen, the screen version of the character has played a wide variety of casino games, often suiting the locales where scenes are set. During the Las Vegas scenes of Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, Connery’s version of Bond was shooting the dice playing Craps with the unforgettably named Plenty O’Toole. Just a few years later, in 1974 and with Roger Moore in the leading role, Bond was playing popular Asian casino game Sic Bo in The Man with the Golden Gun scenes filmed at the floating Macau Palace casino.

When the reboot of the Bond franchise began with Casino Royale in 2006 starring Daniel Craig in the leading role, poker was considered to be a more popular game and the Texas Hold ‘em variant one that would be easier to understand for modern audiences, compared to the more complicated game of baccarat, which featured in the original 1953 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. Indeed, in his original unabridged version of the Casino Royale novel, author Fleming included a guide to how baccarat is played, helping readers to grasp key aspects of the card game.

No such exposition was required in the modern Casino Royale movie, by using a simple to understand poker game. Instead, this meant the focus was entirely on the vast sums of money in play, as Bond entered a battle of wills and attempted to bankrupt the movie villain Le Chiffre, superbly portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen. Even after recovering from a poisoning attempt, Bond keeps his cool as the final cards are dealt, and as the tension rises in the scene, the camera focuses on the face of each key characters.

James Bond in one of the scenes in Casino Royale.  
Source: Film and Serie TV via Facebook

 

The Epic Final Hand in Casino Royale

The dealer turns the final card and the other two players go all-in. Le Chiffre gleefully raises the stakes to $12 million knowing he has an excellent hand, a full house with aces full of sixes. Like a gunfighter staring down his foe, he awaits the next move. It could be another bluff, ponders Bond as his rival nonchalantly spins chips in one hand. To the gasps of those watching in the casino, Bond doesn’t ponder for long and goes all-in with $40.5 million, turning the tables on Le Chiffre, who smirks as he matches that stake with everything he’s got.

As Bond reveals his cards, a straight flush of spades which beats all the other hands on the table, Le Chiffre is a beaten man and can’t even look the British agent in the eye, before defeatedly hurrying away from the table, concluding the drama and suspense of a marvelous scene. One which is arguably the most intense of any Bond movie casino scenes, or any other on the silver screen, for that matter.




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