Forget a Royal Rumble, How about a Casino Royale?

It’s one of the most talked about moves in poker history. And, it was made by a Canadian. In 2007, at the height of the poker boom, and with GSN’s High Stakes Poker in its third season and raging in popularity, ‘Yukon’ Brad Booth pulled the trigger on a downright audacious bluff on Phil Ivey. Ivey has 10 WSOP bracelets to his name, and is widely regarded as the best all-around player in the world. It was outrageous. It wasn’t so much the bluff itself, or the cards he was holding, it was more the way he executed it. In the moment, he was the king of poker, living on the edge like a boss.

The fireworks happened in Episode 13. Ivey had pocket kings, and on a flop of 3, 6, 7, fired out $23,000. Booth, who stated earlier in the show that he had been playing every day for fourteen years, starting in Vancouver, then Calgary, and finally the Yukon, hence the nickname, was holding the 4, 2 of spades. With nothing but an inside straight draw, and a four-to-one underdog to win the hand, he had no intentions of giving up. Sitting upright, wearing a white flamboyant collared shirt right out of a Seinfeld episode, Booth licked his lips a few times, as if he had the best of it. With the illusion of confidence firmly established, he stacked three $100,000 bricks of cold hard cash and then tossed them in. It was television gold.

Brad Booth

“I love Yukon,” said Antonio Estandiari, one of the most successful poker players ever, with $28 million in career earnings, who was also in the game. Commentator Gave Kaplan, of Welcome Back Kotter fame, was stunned. “He put three bricks out there, $300,000 in cash with a four high. Very ballsy!”

Ivey eventually folded, and Booth became one of poker’s new stars. It was a bluff right out of the movies.

Real Life vs Hollywood

There’s no doubt Booth could have been an actor if he wanted too. He deserved an Academy Award on that hand. With movie-star good looks, and style to boot, he would have fit right in with the various celebrities. Truth is, Hollywood likes to take things up a notch. Maple Casino has already brought you some amazing poker hands featured in such box office classics as MaverickTombstone and The Cincinnati Kid. Long on odds, but high on drama, these are the types of hands saved for a final scene, when the tension’s about to climax.

As we say, “lights, camera, action,” on our next crazy hand, keep in mind the Brad Booth performance. It had loads of real-life drama, and it was only a raise of $300,000, a pittance compared to the big screen.

Stacks & Bonds

In a superb article dated March 17, 2020, titled “Beating Bond at the Casino”, Maple Casino included the subtext, “007 has charm, charisma, and a license to kill, but does he have what it takes to clean up at the casino?” Beautifully written and highly informative, the piece does a brilliant job in profiling one of cinema’s all-time greatest characters.

Casino Royale (2006) was the 21st film in the James Bond series, and the third seed adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1953 spy novel of the same name. It starred Daniel Craig as the fictional MI6 agent, James Bond.

Oh, and to answer the article’s question, does Bond have what it takes? Yes, he does.

High Stakes Action

“The big blind is now $1 million,” the floor director said calmly, as if he’s uttered those words before.

A million blind? Yikes.

“Twenty-four million in the pot already,” whispered Bond’s contact in Montenegro, Rene Mathis, incredulous at the amount action the game was generating.

With four players involved in this massive pot, they all checked on the ace of spades turn-card. The board was rich with possibilities. Showing two aces, and an 8, 6 and 4, with four spades, full houses, flushes and straights were all in play. Four-of-a-kind was out there, too. And, with the 8, 6, and 4 all spades, there was even the tantalizing prospect of a straight flush. Cue the drama.

First to act, Bond checked, before the player to his left pushed all-in for $6 million. The short stack in seat four called off his $5 million, and the action was on the antagonist Le Chiffre, who was shuffling his chips in his right hand with an air of confidence. Chess player, mathematical genius, and a banker who services many of the world’s terrorists, Le Chiffre was sitting comfortably. Why would he have any fear playing cards?

He didn’t seem nervous, either. After thinking for only a few seconds, he reached down into his stack and placed four plaques, the rectangular chips that represent the highest denominations in any poker game, on top of two stacks of regular chips, and then pushed them in the middle.

“Raise,” he announced sternly, and his eyes shifted in Bond’s direction.

Big Screen, Big Money

Cue the stare down. Still shuffling chips in his right hand, the rest of him was motionless. He didn’t budge, he didn’t blink, and he might not have been breathing either. Just shuffling those chips in his right hand. The bet was now $12 million to Bond, who seemed both shaken and stirred. He sat there squirming, running calculations in his head, occasionally glancing up at Le Chiffre for any clues as to what he might be holding. He certainly seemed the less confident of the two. We all know that “007” has found himself in many tricky spots over the years, that’s just how secret agents roll, but he’s certainly never been in a tougher situation inside a casino.

Le Chiffre didn’t seem frazzled, and Bond seemed puzzled. Surely, the Albanian ‘bad guy’ had the best of it. After what felt like a few agonizing minutes of deliberation, Bond counted his chips and then made his intentions be known. “Fourteen million, five-hundred,” he proclaimed, as he pushed his stack forward into a now mouth-watering pot.

Let’s quickly do the math on what was in the middle:

  • $24 million in the pot before the turn
  • $6 million all-in from Player 1
  • $5 million all-in call from Player 2
  • $12 million raise from Le Chiffre
  • $14.5 million re-raise from Bond
  • $2.5 million pending call from Le Chiffre

Wow. The main pot was an incredible $47 million, and the side pot between Le Chiffre and Bond equaled $14.5 million. Staggering amounts. There was no way Le Chiffre was folding to the additional $2.5 million from Bond, especially after we got a peek at his cards. He had an ace and a six for a full house.

There was now an insane $64 million up for grabs on this one hand. Easily, the largest hand in poker history. Mathis leaned over to his female friend and whispered again, “$115 million in the pot,” but he either had the count wrong or was exaggerating, and rounding way up, for Hollywood purposes. Dramatic effect.

The Showdown

It’s the adrenaline moment, showdown, when all the players reveal their cards to see who’s won. This one was epic. Player 1 turned over the king and queen of spades for an ace-high flush. Usually a very strong holding, but not in this game. Player 2 exposed pocket 8’s for a full house, eights and aces. Again, a premium hand, unless you have two killers on your left in Le Chiffre and Bond. We know what Le Chiffre had, a higher full house, aces and six’s, so the focus now shifted to Bond. Dapper as usual, he was rocking the tuxedo. His jacket was off, but he was still perfectly suited in the white collared shirt/suspenders combo. The best dressed, would he have the best hand?

Bond's Winning Hand

It’s the movies, so of course he would. Bond slid his cards face down into the middle, a deliberate motion meant for all to see, and then flipped over the five and seven of spades. The straight flush!

Everyone in the room watching on gasped at the theatre of it all. Four monsters like that colliding at the exact same time? It just doesn’t happen like that. It was the perfect storm of poker hands, literally a casino royale.

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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