James Bond’s Greatest Gambles
Bond gives it everything or nothing in the casino
The casino has been central to the James Bond universe since the world was first introduced to Sean Connery’s 007 in Dr. No (1962). Playing at the chemin de fer table at Le Cercle, Les Ambassadeurs, Bond quickly demonstrates his effortless confidence and skill as a risk taker. Over the following 60 years of on-screen adventures, Bond has gambled countless millions in nearly a dozen locations and using a range of aliases. Here we take a closer look at each casino appearance from the 24 films.
Chemin de fer
Inspired by Fleming’s love of the game, 007 takes on Sylvia Trench at chemin de fer in Dr. No. The aim of this French card game is to total nine with a hand of two or three cards. Trench has a strong hand with eight but is trumped by Bond with a winning hand. We see 007 play this game more than any other in the series.
In Thunderball (1965), Bond faces SPECTRE’s Emilio Largo at Café Martinique, Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Bond hints at knowing Largo’s allegiances and the ‘SPECTRE of defeat’ before taking his money. Despite winning, Bond bows out to buy a drink for Domino and passes control of the shoe (the card holder which is moved around the table during play).
The Palácio Estoril Casino, Estoril, Portugal. When Tracy makes a bet she cannot back in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), she is assisted by Bond who pretends to be her partner and pays off her debts. As their relationship flourishes, Tracy leaves him the payment in full the following morning, along with a red carnation.
In GoldenEye (1995) the glamorous Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco is the setting for Bond to meet Xenia Onatopp following their adrenalised car race through the hills. They discuss their shared passions – one of which is a love of gambling – and battle it out playing chemin de fer. 007 eventually gets the better of Onatopp, much to her frustration.
One card draw
We visit Valentin Zukovsky’s Le Casino L’Or Noir, Baku, Azerbijan for a high-stake bet in The World Is Not Enough (1999). Here Bond meets Elektra King who is offered her father’s credit line and seat in the Salon Privée. After turning down the idea of black jack and vingt-et-un (pontoon) she challenges Zukovsky to “One card, high draw, a million dollars” and states, “There is no point in living if you don’t feel alive.” She draws the queen of hearts but loses to the Russian’s ace of clubs and duly writes him a note for a million dollars.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) is set against the backdrop of the bright lights and casinos of Las Vegas. Posing as diamond smuggler Peter Franks, Bond plays craps at the Whyte House Hotel Casino, while Plenty O’Toole watches on and lends a hand. As a reward, 007 gives Plenty $5,000 of his winnings.
When 007 visits Macau in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) he tracks down gunsmith Lazar who supplies Scaramanga with his trademark ammunition through the Casino de Macau. Bond watches from afar while Lazar pretends to play sic bo – a game with three dice – as he passes a cigarette pack full of golden bullets into a basket above the tables to be collected by Andrea Anders.
Octopussy (1983) sees Kamal Khan playing Major Clive at backgammon in the Shiv Niwas Hotel Casino, India. All is not what it seems in this game though thanks to some ‘lucky’ trick dice. When the Major cannot take on the odds offered by Kamal Khan, Bond steps in. As the odds increase, 007 offers a Fabergé egg as a form of security on payment. Accepting player’s privilege, Bond uses Khan’s lucky dice to roll double sixes and win 200,000 rupees. It’s all in the wrist…
In Licence To Kill (1989), Bond plays blackjack at the Republic of Isthmus Casino. After winning over $250,000, 007 draws the attention of drug lord and casino kingpin Franz Sanchez. His mistress Lupe Lamora is sent to help the house win some money back, but she warns Bond of the trouble he is in. Sensing imminent danger, Bond quits the game while he’s ahead.
Casino Royale (2003) gives us two memorable games of Texas hold’em poker. Early in the story Bond plays Alex Dimitrios at the One & Only Ocean Club in Nassau, Bahamas. After Dimitrios stakes his DB5 on a hand of three kings, Bond defeats him with three aces and drives away the winnings with Solange in the passenger seat.
Later, we head to the Hotel Splendide, Montenegro for arguably the most iconic gaming sequence in Bond history. Here shadowy private banker Le Chiffre hosts a high stakes Texas hold‘em poker game to recoup his investor’s money and both Bond and the CIA’s Felix Leiter are staked to stop him. The epic game takes many dramatic twists and turns but ultimately leads to Bond triumphing over Le Chiffre in the final hand.
Poker lessons from producer Michael G. Wilson with the cast and crew helped the writers develop an end to the card game – Neal Purvis took inspiration from one of these sessions when he lost to the same hand Bond held on screen.
“The card game was probably the most difficult scene I’ve ever had to film,” director Martin Campbell recalled. “It’s one thing to shoot a game of chemin de fer or 21, that’s very simple. When you’re playing Texas hold’em poker with ten players around a table, that’s tough because it’s a more complex game and, with ten players all looking at each other. It’s very tricky to film.”
When Bond travels to Macau in Skyfall (2012), he visits the Floating Dragon Casino with Moneypenny and the chip found in Rapace’s assassin’s kit. He cashes it in – receiving a silver case full of money in exchange – meets the mysterious Severin and is confronted by Silva’s henchmen. After escaping the Komodo Dragon pit, 007 hand’s Moneypenny the case, telling her to “Put it all on red, the circle of life.”
Want to recreate a little Bond casino action at home? Set up a table with the 007 Collector’s Edition Roulette Wheel, play a hand with theory11’s Bond Playing Cards or try your luck with the handmade luxury Backgammon Set (Faberge egg not included). Make it your own with a Personalised Poker Set or set the scene with some Casino Royale Chip Coasters. Find the 007 games collection at 007Store.