Ways to Gamble in a Casino like Agent 007
Published on April 23, 2018
I may be dating myself a bit here, but I grew up on a steady diet of James Bond flicks, and the superspy’s exploits still manage to thrill me even now.
Sure, the latest Bond film “Spectre” (2015) wasn’t really one of 007’s finer pieces of work, but from Daniel Craig on through to the original portrayal by Sean Connery, I’ve always been fascinated by the Bond archetype.
While most fans focus on Bond’s debonair approach to serving as a secret agent, his legendary lethal methods, or even his romantic liaisons – I gravitate towards his penchant for gambling.
Indeed, I’ve wondered many times if my own decision to become a professional advantage player had something to do with all those hours spent watching Bond battle foes on the casino floor.
Along with my love for Bond films, I also devoured Ian Fleming’s entire catalogue of novels on which the Hollywood depictions were based. And of course, my personal favorite is the very first appearance of James Bond in literature: “Casino Royale” (1953).
Eventually immortalized on the silver screen in 1967, the original “Casino Royale” introduces Bond to the world in fitting fashion. Working for the British secret intelligence service MI6 under the code name 007, Bond meets with agency head “M” to accept a special assignment – tracking down and confronting an enemy known as Le Chiffre.
The journey takes Bond to a French casino, where he competes against Le Chiffre in a heated game of high-stakes baccarat. The first match goes to his opponent, but after receiving a mysterious infusion of cash, Bond manages to beat Le Chiffre for 80 million francs – effectively bankrupting his Soviet-linked trade union.
Between the original novel and the 1967 film adaptation, I must have watched this scene unfold hundreds of times during my youth. Between the buxom beauties surrounding the table to sweat the action, the massive stacks of chips and betting placards, and those retro playing cards featuring pips with no numbers – every detail left me enthralled with the idea of casino gambling.
Of course, the reality of a casino can’t really matchup to that classic scene, but I still think about Bond from time to time while I play.
A few years back, my nephew – a fellow Bond cinephile who happens to live in Las Vegas – even decided to relive a few of Bond’s greatest gambling adventures. We had a lot of fun that weekend, so I figured my readers might enjoy a similar experience for themselves.
On that note, I present my guide to gambling like James Bond, covering every aspect of 007’s game from clothing, casino, and of course, his games of choice.
First things first. You can’t gamble like James Bond without looking like him, so you’ll want to find yourself a nice dress suit.
Take a gander at this lineup of Bond actors over the years to get a better idea of a top spy’s sartorial tastes.
Whatever style you choose though, the key is projecting a suave and sophisticated attitude. If nothing else, Bond is known for his unshakeable sense of confidence, and as a wise soul once said, “the clothes make the man.”
When you arrive in Sin City, head straight for the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian casino complex on The Strip. There you’ll fund Suitsupply Las Vegas, a high-end retailer specializing in men’s fashion. You can and I trust you’ll find the perfect duds to don ahead of your Bond-themed casino excursion.
But if Suitsupply is a little too extravagant, I also recommend . After all, Bond had “Q” on hand to provide his fancy suits and spy equipment complements of the Crown treasury, so there’s no need for us to break the bank.
Once you’ve acquired the requisite clothing, the time has come to head out on the town and take on the house in style.
As for which house you’ll be battling against, that’s all up to you, as the Las Vegas Strip is home to dozens of casinos that fit the bill.
When my nephew and I visited, we chose the Monte Carlo casino as an homage of sorts. In the 1983 film “Never Say Never Again,” in Monaco, which has long been celebrated as one of the more extravagant gambling settings in all the world.
He was back for a game of baccarat in “Goldeneye” (1995), and with a Las Vegas knockoff right there for the taking, we just couldn’t resist booking our stay there.
I’ll admit that the Vegas version of the Monte Carlo doesn’t live up to its Monaco inspiration, but it was still a perfectly fine place to play. You’ll find all of the games (more on those to come), a welcoming staff, and all of the resort amenities you’d expect to find at a Strip casino.
Even so, Bond aficionados out there may prefer a fancier setting, one that more closely resembles the real Monte Carlo where Bond worked his magic at the tables.
In that case, I’d check out the aforementioned Venetian, its sister casino the Palazzo, Caesars Palace, or the Bellagio. All four of these venues specialize in recreating the classical European aesthetic, including marbled floors, vaulted ceilings, and golden inlays everywhere you look.
For a more updated take on the luxury lifestyle, head to the Aria or the Cosmopolitan for a taste of modern decadence.
No matter where you decide to stay, the real test comes when you hit the tables.
If gambling like James Bond means anything, it’s winning – while making every play look easy at that. Beating the house is no easy feat, but thankfully, Bond seems to have had a knack for choosing player-friendly games.
Below you’ll find a list of casino games Bond has been known to enjoy over the years, complete with film references and advice on playing them as perfectly as possible.
I’ve mentioned baccarat a few times already, and that’s because it appears to be Bond’s game of choice.
He beat Le Chiffre out of an eight-figure bankroll in the original novel, and in the very first Bond film – “Dr. No” (1962) – 007 was introduced to audiences as he played a baccarat variant known as chemin de fer.
While banking their own bets, Bond squares off against a gorgeous woman named Sylvia Trench, who just can’t seem to pick up the cards needed to overcome this mystery man.
This classic scene offers the first taste of his signature “Bond… James Bond” greeting, as well as an uncanny knack for picking up natural nines in baccarat. Even when Trench proudly shows her face card and 8 for an eight total, to reveal yet another natural nine.
When you sit down to play baccarat in a Las Vegas casino, the gameplay mechanics will feel quite removed from what you just watched. For one thing, the game of chemin de fer was never widely adopted in the United States, with basic baccarat taking its place.
In chemin de fer, players bank their own wagers while competing against one another, but the house takes over banking in baccarat. And more importantly, baccarat doesn’t allow players to make decisions regarding the draw of a third card.
Instead, a complex set of rules known as the baccarat “tableau” is used to determine whether either of the two starting hands will take a third card.
Despite these differences, baccarat is still a great game for living out your James Bond gambling fantasies. The game is generally played in a private area, which offers the glitz and glamour one comes to expect from a Bond casino scene.
And even though you’ll be battling the dealer for control of the chips at risk, baccarat creates a similar dynamic to chemin de fer in that you’ll be anxiously sweating the showdown between a pair of two- or three-card hands.
Those hands are appropriately named the “Player” and the “Banker,” and your job is to correctly guess which one will wind up with a total closest to nine.
The same card values are in effect between both games, so any 10 or face card is worth 0, an ace is worth 1, and cards 2-9 are valued at their numerical rank. When a total goes over 10, you simply drop the first digit off to reveal the actual total.
Once your wager has been placed on either the Player or Banker hand, the two-card starting hands are dealt randomly from a shuffled deck. From there, the dealer will assess their respective totals and apply the tableau rules to determine if a third card needs to be drawn.
When you play in the high-stakes baccarat rooms, you’ll even get to handle the cards here and there just like James Bond. These moments create the same sense of drama as the classic film scenes, as players slowly squeeze their third card before revealing their final total to the table.
When somebody is desperate to maintain their high total, or see the other hand’s low total remain intact, you’ll even hear players crying out “monkey!” before the third card is shown.
In this case, the term monkey refers to any face card, as their 0 value can be quite consequential when comparing baccarat holdings.
For a full-fledged guide to learning the game of baccarat, here is a handy instructional video produced by Caesars Palace:
Despite his reputation for spontaneity, James Bond never left anything to chance. Between the gadgets provided by “Q” and his knack for observational analysis, Bond always came prepared with a built-in advantage.
To get a Bond-like leg up on your quest to beat the dealer, it’s best to follow baccarat’s optimal strategy. You wouldn’t think a game of chance like baccarat involves much strategy, and when compared to other casino games, it really doesn’t.
Nonetheless, sharp players know to always bet on the Banker hand, which offers a lower house edge of 1.06 percent as opposed to the Player hand, which offers a 1.24 percent house edge. In terms of direct win probability, you’ll have 45.86 percent shot to win when betting on the Banker, slightly better than the 44.62 percent rate offered by the Player hand.
This advantage is based on the fact that the Banker hand gets to “act” last during the drawing round. Just like the dealer acting last in blackjack provides them a little wiggle room – the dealer can win on a player bust before ever checking their cards – the Banker hand’s drawing decision being based on previous Player hand draws ensures a slight edge.
To bet like Bond, you should always back the Banker hand when playing baccarat.
By 1971, Sean Connery was entering the twilight of his time portraying James Bond, but in his penultimate film in the series “Diamonds Are Forever,” the icon made his time at the casino count.
This classic Bond flick sees the spy visit a casino hotel under the alias Peter Franks, looking to play with $10,000 on credit.
The casino manager quickly approves this request, and almost immediately, the gorgeous Plenty O’Toole appears at Bond’s side to teach him the ropes. Bond plays along for a few rolls, before taking the dice in hand and barking out a series of exotic wagers:
Craps is a decidedly complicated game, as demonstrated by that string of what seems to be gibberish quoted above, but Bond’s system for craps is actually relatively sensible.
A point number of 10 has been hit on the come out roll, so Bond is backing his initial Pass Line bet up by “taking the odds” on the point. He’s even taking the maximum odds, which is a smart play given an Odds bet in craps carries no house edge to speak of.
Now, that mandatory Pass Line bet does hold a house edge of 1.41 percent, so Bond is already paying for the Odds bet in a way – but smart gamblers love to take the odds up to the house limit just like Bond.
Next up, Bond asks the dealer to put $200 down on the “hard way,” which is craps slang for hitting a number using paired dice. In other words, with several ways to hit a 10 using two dice (6-4, 4-6, and 5-5), the hard way of 5-5 is the most difficult given dice probability.
Betting on a hard 10 to hit before evening out is a longshot, but at 7 to 1, Bond stands to win a cool $1,500 in profit if he gets lucky.
Bond also asks for the table limit to be bet on “all the numbers,” which refers to the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. After the come out roll establishes the point as 10, Bond is placing separate wagers on each of these numbers to hit before a 7 appears. On each roll, he’ll be paid out according to true odds whenever one of these numbers appears.
Finally, Bond goes for the gusto by betting $250 on “the eleven,” which is more commonly known as a “yo” bet. In this case, he has only two combinations on the dice to work with (6-5 and 5-6) to make an 11, and if it lands, Bond will be paid out at 15-1 on his money for a sweet $3,500 profit.
You can find an online craps simulator and play around with it to set up this exact wager, before letting the bones fly to see if lady luck is on your side.
As it happened in the movie, Bond’s actual roll was skipped over, with audiences returning to see the dealer sliding him a few high-value chip tokens. After tipping the dealer handsomely, and sliding O’Toole a $5,000 gift for her troubles, Bond leaves the game with $45,000 in his pockets.
You probably won’t reach those heights, but by adopting a conservative betting strategy based on the Pass Line and taking the Odds, you can easily enjoy an extended run while playing craps.
In 2006, the Bond series was once again rebooted when Pierce Brosnan was replaced by Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale.”
While this movie was loosely based around Fleming’s original novel, featuring 007 in a heated match with Le Chiffre, baccarat was replaced by a Texas Hold’em tournament. That made sense given the timing, as the new “Casino Royale” was released during the height of the Poker Boom, only three years removed from Chris Moneymaker’s historic win at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.
As a poker buff myself, I can’t claim that the Hold’em scenes featured in the remake are very realistic, but damned if they’re not entertaining.
In an early scene, Bond sits down in a cash game and faces off against the sinister Alex Dimitrios. Before long, Bond sees a A-9-3-7 board on the table and checks it over to his opponent, who calmly fires out a $5,000 bet.
Bond calls the big wager to see a King come on the river, when the Greek announces himself all-in. Before Bond can even act, however, Dimitrios goes to his bag and adds $20,000 to the bet.
The dealer objects, citing the table stakes rule, but Dimitrios is undeterred, tossing the keys to his Aston Martin into the pot. The dealer isn’t having it, but Bond asks her to let the wager stand. With the pot now sweetened considerably, Bond makes the call, only to see his foe flip over pocket Kings for three of a kind.
It’s the second-best hand possible given that board, but in truly Bondian fashion, 007 slyly tables his pocket Aces for the nuts.
In this hand, we watch Bond expertly deploy a poker maneuver known as the “slow play.” Even though he flopped the best possible hand with trip Aces, Bond checks and feigns weakness. The trap is deepened with his check-call on the turn, as Dimitrios can rightfully expect a strong hand to raise back in that spot.
Finally, with his man now firmly ensnared by the slow play, Bond gets his opponent to bet everything he has on the second-best hand.
In the poker world, a confrontation between two powerful hands like three of a kind is known as a cooler. And while they are rare, you’ll see this same scene play out from time to time in real poker games.
On another note, Bond’s choice to let his opponent show what seems like the winning hand, only to wait a beat before revealing the best hand, is a breach of poker etiquette. This move is known as the “slow roll,” and it’s usually used to add insult to injury when a poker game gets heated.
Flushed with confidence from his winning session, Bond enters the real game at the heart of “Casino Royale,” a high-roller tournament which costs $10 million just to enter. A table full of Bond villains awaits, including the notorious Le Chiffre and his glass eye.
Bond believes he has spotted Le Chiffre’s “tell,” or a physical mannerism that betrays the strength or weakness of his hand. Using this information – in this case, Le Chiffre rubbing his scarred eye when he’s attempting to bluff – Bond plays out another classic cooler.
This time, he holds the A-K of hearts with the board reading A-J-K-J-K, giving Bond a powerful full house. But in a role reversal, he holds the second-best possible hand, as somebody holding pocket Jacks would make four of a kind for the winner.
Bond spots Le Chiffre rubbing his eye while he bets, prompting him to make the massive call, only to get slow-rolled just like he did to Dimitrios in the earlier scene. His rival turns over his pocket Jacks one card at a time, turning the needle as he takes Bond’s bankroll.
This hand demonstrates another tried and true poker maxim, as falling for false tells can quickly separate the most skilled players from their stack. Bond always trusts his instincts, but in this instance, he was outplayed by an opponent with the same sort of observational acumen.
Of course, Bond winds up making his way back into the game after securing another $10 million stake, and the tables are turned in his favor. I’ll let you for maximum drama, but trust me when I say the writer’s room conjured up a cooler for the ages in this one.