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Beating
Bond
...At The Casino

Bond (Sean Connery) sitting around a poker table with men and women drinking and smoking. Bond (Sean Connery) sitting around a poker table with men and women drinking and smoking.

007 has charm, charisma, and a license to kill. But does he have what it takes to clean up at the casino?

It’s no question that James Bond is the world’s most iconic casino patron. Over the 24 famous films, there have been more than 10 scenes where Bond has tested his skills—and luck—against his foe at the casino. Whether in the Bahamas, Monte Carlo, or Macau, when the stakes were right, he combined style and smarts to outwit his enemies, land the leading lady, and come out on top—winning a combined total of more than $120,000,000.

Today, with the latest movie, and the last Daniel Craig outing, on the horizon—No Time to Die—we’re putting 007’s gambling strategies to the test to finally figure out if he is as skilled a gambler as depicted on the silver screen. Or if regular folks like ourselves might just be able to live out our James Bond poker fantasy without a multi-million dollar bankroll.

No Time To Die’s heart-pounding trailer sees Bond facing his most intense mission to date—and his most expensive film in the franchise—as he travels the world to defeat Rami Malek’s villain Safin. We don’t know exactly what to expect from the 25th Bond film, and its famously troubled production process, but we can bet that James will be fighting for his life, making big gambles, and, hopefully, saving the day.

Not all of Bond’s risky decisions pay off, but one place where he usually walks away a winner is at the casino. With an unlimited bankroll and improbable luck, Bond has defeated his foes playing casino games like Poker, Craps, and Sic Bo. But let’s start at the very beginning, with Bond’s first film and his favorite game.

Baccarat: Bond’s game of choice.

Specifically Chemin de Fer, French for “railway,” which derives from the fact that trains were the fastest form of transport when the game was created. And as such, Chemin de Fer is a faster-paced form of Baccarat than some of its other variations —perfect for adventure-loving gamblers like Bond.

MI6’s top agent set the stage for the film series by testing his Baccarat skills in his debut scene of the very first Bond movie, Dr. No, against his recurring love interest, Sylvia Trench. Popularity of the game continued to grow as Bond played in Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and GoldenEye (where Xenia refers to it as one of their shared passions.)

James Bond (Sean Connery) playing Baccarat against love interest, Sylvia Trench, surrounded by interested viewers.

The Basics of Baccarat

The goal of Baccarat is to land a hand that equals or is as close as possible to 9. A typical game of Baccarat might proceed as follows:

Place Your Bet

The game starts with you placing a bet on your hand, the banker’s hand, or on a tie.

The Deal

Two cards each are dealt to the banker and the player, and then the total value for everyone is revealed.

Winning

Whoever is closer to 9, the player or the banker, wins. If the player or the banker gets an 8 or a 9—a “natural”—they win instantly. No more cards will be dealt.

3rd Card Rule

If the player’s hand totals between zero and five, they will be dealt an additional card.

The top of a poker table stitched with “Casino Royale”, an ace, king, queen and jack card laid above the emblem. Poker chips scattered in the top right.

Baccarat was famously replaced in the 2006 film version of Casino Royale in favor of Texas Hold ‘Em poker.

In the early 2000s, Hold ‘Em poker was taking the world by storm, thanks in large part to the surprise World Series of Poker win by Chris Moneymaker. Moneymaker was an unknown in the poker world, having qualified by winning an $86 satellite tournament. With the possibility that “anyone” could win big, came a massive surge in popularity for poker, and specifically Hold ‘Em.

The producers of Casino Royale jumped on the excitement of this major poker explosion for the movie’s thrilling casino scene, as Bond showed down with the villain Le Chiffre at the Casino Royale in Monte Carlo.

What Is Texas Hold ‘Em?

Texas Hold ‘Em involves the players being dealt two cards that are placed face down. All players then share five community cards which are revealed throughout three rounds:

  • The Flop (three revealed)
  • The Turn (one revealed)
  • The River (one revealed)

As James Bond says in Casino Royale, “You don’t just play your hand, you play the person across from you.” So, when playing Texas Hold ‘Em, there are many factors to keep in mind, including:

  • How everyone else is going to use the community cards
  • The odds of you winning the current hand
  • Whether you should fold or bet
  • Whether you should bluff, and whether the other players are bluffing
A diagram of cards showcasing the different round types.
Four men including James Bond (Daniel Craig) looking serious and surrounding a poker table full of chips.

The end of this scene sees Bond winning the pot, at a total of $115 million—or $145 million in 2020 dollars.

Eagle-eyed viewers might notice that he tips the dealer a stunning $500,000 plaque. The even more scrutinizing might realize that the tip is, in fact, worthless. It was made clear that the players were vying for prize money held in a password-protected bank account, which only the winner would be granted access to. That means the dealer was left holding a $500,000 plaque, with no way to access the funds.

Daniel Craig’s Bond might be a successful gambler, but the award for the winningest Bond actor has to go to Sean Connery. In a story that is hard to verify, it’s said that while Connery was filming in Italy, he walked into the casino and confidently bet on number 17 at the roulette wheel. He won, bet on 17 again, and won again. He, supposedly, left the casino a much wealthier man and may have helped cement 17 as a lucky number for gamblers around the world.

The conventional wisdom goes that your bankroll should afford you 20 buy-ins.

Using that as our starting assumption, Bond should have had at least $200 million at his disposal when he went up against Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. But as we know, CIA operative Felix Leiter had to give Bond $5 million to buy back into the game.

This risky approach forces us to ask, “Is Bond a good gambler?”

Based on just his winnings, and how often he wins, we have to assume that he is, in fact, a terrific gambler—or at least spectacularly lucky. But just because Bond’s style regularly pays off for him, does not mean that they are winning strategies for everyday fans.

“Is Bond a good gambler?”

His Mistakes

Mistake #1

“The dangers of tilt”

Bond may want to seem like an unfeeling master of strategy, but he regularly lets his emotion and anger get the better of him. From his outburst in Casino Royale at the bartender asking him if he’d like his martini shaken or stirred—“Does it look like I give a damn?”—to his efforts to chase his losses at the poker table against Le Chiffre, Bond comes dangerously close to losing his cool, the game, and his life.

Mistake #2

“Bad table manners”

Perhaps most egregiously, Bond has terrible table manners. While his winning would suggest that he knows his way around a card table, all regular poker players know that you never simply throw your chips into the pot—this causes confusion as the dealer and the other players have to sort out exactly how much you bet—and you never push all of your chips into the pot, even if you have gone “all in”, for the same reason.

Mistake #3

“Betting on systems”

Ian Fleming once described Bond’s “infallible” roulette strategy. The only problem? It only works in fiction. While some suggest Bond practices a flat betting system, Ian Fleming describes a progression system which, while it may provide you with a few early wins, will—like all roulette systems—lose money over time. The fact is, roulette is a game of random chance, and unless you can consistently predict where the ball will land, no betting system can beat the house edge.

Poker chips labelled “Casino Royale” worth $25,000 being held by a white gloved hand.

Speaking of strategies, you might wonder if there’s a way to win big at Bond’s favorite games from the novels, Baccarat.

Professional poker player Phil Ivey decided to find out a few years ago, and his strategy was so successful he won nearly ten million dollars at various casinos.

Unfortunately for Ivey, however, the casinos believed his “system” was actually just cheating. It turns out Ivey and his partner Cheung Yin Sun were employing a system called “edge sorting”, where they would ask the dealer to rotate high-value cards by 180 degrees. Assuming that this was just a superstition, the unwitting dealers were, in fact, letting Ivey and his partner detect the high-value cards by noticing minuscule variations in the patterns on the backs of the cards. Because they had been rotated, the pair knew which cards were high value just by looking at their backs or edges.

Thanks to his risky strategy, Ivey was sued by the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, lost his appeal, and his 2019 World Series of Poker winnings have been seized.

How To Properly Manage Your Bankroll

The best way to beat an opponent like Bond, and maximize your fun at a land-based or online casino, is by properly managing your bankroll. The longer you can play, the better the experience. Movies, especially the Bond films, glorify big, life-changing bets, but reality favors making wagers you can afford to lose and staying in the game longer than your rivals.

So how can you beat a wannabe Bond at the table? Here are a few tips from the experts:

Tip #1:

Find the Fish, Avoid the Grinders

When gambling online, depending on the site you choose, you might be surrounded by experts or professionals who are looking to take advantage of newer players, or “fish.” Gain a competitive edge by choosing a popular site with lots of recreational players, and playing during peak times like evenings and weekends.

Tip #2:

Change Buy-In Levels

The standard guidance is that your bankroll should afford you 20 buy-ins. If you’ve had a run of bad luck and have found your bankroll shrinking too quickly, remember that you can always move down to lower buy-in games to give yourself more opportunities to play.

Tip #3:

Walk Away from Tilt

As we noted above, even James Bond himself is susceptible to “tilt”, or letting a major loss or a series of losses affect your mental attitude and how you play. If you find yourself losing your cool, or you have the thought that you need to “win back” what you’ve lost, it’s time to walk away from the table. The best players are the ones that walk away able to play again.

While the big win draws many in, the Crown’s top secret-agent knows that it’s about the entire experience.

From comped rooms to free drinks, getting a taste of the VIP treatment can take things from 0 to 007. Here’s how you can live out your daydreams of being a casino high roller like Bond:

VIP Tip #1:

Sign up for a player’s club card

Casinos want to know as much as possible about their players, so they use Player’s Club cards to keep track of how their patrons are wagering, winning, and losing. As an incentive for players to sign up for and use the card, they often come with big benefits, such as free meals and free plays/spins. By using your Player’s Club card, not only will your dollar go further, but you might even receive other Bond-worthy benefits as you play more, like casino credits, hotel room stays, and event tickets.

VIP Tip #2:

Tip generously

When playing at a land-based casino, seal your fate as a VIP player by tipping the staff you encounter, such as the cashier, waiters and waitresses, the valet, and, of course, the dealer. By being known as a generous tipper, you’re more likely to get the VIP treatment, such as helpful advice at the table, faster drink service, and name-recognition.

VIP Tip #3:

Act the part

At most land-based casinos, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb if you show up in a tuxedo like James Bond. But that doesn’t mean you have to blend in with the shorts and t-shirt crowd, either. If you’re looking to get treated as a VIP, you’ll want to dress like you’re out for a fun and fancy night on the town. Waiters and waitresses will be able to easily identify you on the floor, you’ll get a better reception from the dealer, and most importantly, you’ll feel like more of a VIP.

One of the best and most cost-effective ways to live your Bond fantasy is by upping your home game.

Just because you are gambling online doesn’t mean you can’t have a VIP experience in the comfort of your own home.

Here’s how to re-create the perfect Bond evening at home:

1) Suit up

First things first: it’s all about your style. As a super-agent in a suit, Bond never fails to put his best fashion foot forward when the stakes are high. So, if you want to channel your inner Bond and feel like a high roller, start by donning your suavest ensemble.

2) Sip like a spy

To truly treat yourself like a member of Her Majesty’s service, shake things up with a special agent-inspired cocktail. Now, we need to be responsible for a moment and recommend that you never gamble while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That said, a properly mixed martini is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and Bond has provided us with a recipe for his favorite variation on the drink, the Vesper:

‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’

‘Oui, monsieur.’

‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?’

‘Certainly monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

‘Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,’ said Leiter.
— From “Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming

As Kina Lillet is no longer available, many bartenders recommend substituting it with Lillet Blanc or a dry vermouth.

Choose the right online casino.

As a spy who loved a grand casino, Bond settled for nothing but the best—and neither should you. When choosing the casino that’s in the cards for you, you’ll want one that offers your favorite games and has plenty of other players to compete against. Here are our tips for choosing the best online casino for you:

Tip #1:

Reputable and credible

Make sure you read the reviews for any online casino you’re considering. As Bond said, “There’s a saying in England. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” So, ensure the site includes SSL security, publishes information about its Random Number Generator, and provides details about its bonuses and deposit and withdrawal methods.

Tip #2:

Variety of games

One of the key advantages of online casinos versus their land-based counterparts, is the number of games and the variety of options available. If you’re going to deposit your hard-earned cash into an online casino for a 007 inspired gambling session, make sure it sets the scene with all of the games you want to try your hand at.

Tip #3:

Bonuses and deposit methods

Finally, the bonuses and deposit methods the online casino offers will help you make your choice. There should be a large variety of bonuses, including No Deposit Bonuses and Free Spins, or even bonuses for using a particular deposit method, like Bitcoin. And speaking of deposits, you’ll want to make sure the casino offers you the methods you prefer, which are safe, secure, and fast.

Now that you know how James Bond gambles, and how you can beat a player like Bond at the table, you might want to check out our reviews of the best online casinos in Canada. Treat yourself to a night on the virtual town, living it up like Bond and looking for that next big win.

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Sean Connery as James Bond At Poker Table with group James Bond’s Aston Martin Monte Carlo Casino lit up at night Black and white photo of Sean Connery as James Bond Poker Table littered with chips and cash The hood of James Bond’s Lotus Esprit James Bond with a group of ladies around a poker table A mix of high and regular value poker chips on a table James Bond (George Lazenby) checks his hand Bank of England bank notes
Sean Connery as James Bond At Poker Table with group
James Bond’s Aston Martin
Monte Carlo Casino lit up at night
Black and white photo of Sean Connery as James Bond
Poker Table littered with chips and cash
The hood of James Bond’s Lotus Esprit
James Bond with a group of ladies around a poker table
A mix of high and regular value poker chips on a table
James Bond (George Lazenby) checks his hand
Bank of England bank notes