Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale (2006)Casino Royale, the 2006 installment to the popular James Bond series of films, introduced the new James Bond played by Daniel Craig. Not only did he bring a new attitude to the role (some claim a combination of his predecessors Roger Moore and Sean Connery) that was of grit, passiveness and violence, he brought a new attitude to the idea of gambling, a primary component of the character since the 1960s. In fact, few Bond films do not feature some sort of gambling, likely do to the original writer’s (Ian Fleming) and director’s (Cubby Broccoli) passion for gambling.

In Casino Royale poker is a prime component of the plot and drives the story forward to the final poker game confrontation between Bond and his antagonist Le Chiffe (played by the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen). The poker variety featured in this move is always the popular Texas Holdem. There are actually three Bond movies named "Casino Royale" but only one (the 2006 version featuring Daniel Craig) so prominently features the game of poker as a plot device.

Plot Summary of Casino Royale

In the canon of James Bond films, Casino Royale focuses on Bond’s very first mission for his employer, the British secret service department dubbed MI6, making it a prequel to the previous movies of the popular James Bond portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. The director of MI6, M (played by the award winning actress Judi Dench) remarks that, according to archive videos, Bond is the most talented poker player in the service and must face off against Le Chiffe in a high stakes poker game to rob him of his stolen money for the buy in and force his clients to do the hard work of taking him out.

At various points during the movie, we are introduced to the card playing skills of both Le Chiffe and Bond as they sit in on small games along the way. During the first depiction of poker in the movie, Le Chiffe reveals his strategy of being a very methodical and number driven poker player. When Bond plays his first game in the movie, he reveals a strategy that matches his character. As a constantly cool and collected character, he waits for other players to make their moves and responds to them.

In the final poker game of the movie (featured in the city of Montenego), an intense and high stakes game of poker takes place that is full of deception and interjected with violence. Le Chiffe tricks Bond during the first round by purposely developing a fake tell that he knows Bond will notice. Bond attempts to use this tell against him and ultimately loses his stack to Le Chiffe. Luckily, the CIA agent (and future friend of Bond) Felix Leiter gives Bond the money to buy back into the game and continue playing. Bond ultimately wins the tournament with a shocking winning hand despite Le Chiffe attempting to poison him and almost dying at the hands of Le Chiffe’s clients after discovering him eavesdropping on Le Chiffe during a break from the game.

However, the movie continues to show the repercussions of such a victory and how Le Chiffe pressures Bond into giving him the tournament winnings so that he can pay off the people that he stole money from to play the game. If he does not retrieve the money, he will lose his life. Truly, no one would want to be in the position of playing a game of poker meant losing money as well as their life.

What Poker Players Can Learn from Casino Royale

In essence, Casino Royale is all about implied odds and character. Both players involved attempt to use what they know about the other as a way of guessing what decisions they will make. Bond notices Le Chiffe touching the area above his eye with his index finger whenever he bluffs and thinks that it is a tell. Le Chiffe knows that Bond has a reputation for determining other’s character and watching people around the room carefully (a trait developed through a life of espionage) and uses this trait against him. In a way, this poker movie is one of the finest examples of how valuable reading other players can be if done correctly.

Notice immediately how steadfast and unwilling to change each player is when playing poker. Throughout the movie, neither character changes the way they play poker accept when Bond discovers that the tell he picked up was merely a trick. They both use blunt force to trap the other player and the rest of the poker players around the table are mere extras to build the pot for Le Chiffe or Bond. Bond’s elimination in the tournament (before being put back in) eventually comes from his absolute certainty that Le Chiffe is bluffing and Le Chiffe plays this weakness to his advantage as much as possible. After eliminating Bond, Le Chiffe craftily states that "You must have thought I was bluffing Mr. Bond". Le Chiffe overcomes Bond’s full house with four of a kind Aces. After the other player’s have left the table for the break, Bond is shown still crouching at the table, amazed at his loss. These two players focus on implied odds and deception, two very important concepts in poker.

What to Watch if You Like Casino Royale

Almost every James Bond film features gambling as a primary component of James Bond’s character. For example, Bond faces off against the fiery femme fatale of Goldeneye in a game of Baccarat (called Poker by the female antagonist Xenia Onatopp). This same game is featured in the film "Thunderball" with the original Bond Sean Connery. Another strong reference to gambling is included in the Roger Moore film "Octopussy" when Bond faces off against his adversary Kamal (played by Louis Jourdan) in a money game of Backgammon. Bond discovers that Kamal is cheating by using loaded dice and requests that he be allowed to use Kamal’s dice. As the rules state that he is allowed this privilege, he rolls a "lucky" double six with the borrowed dice and wins the game.