Ever since the first James Bond movie, Dr. No was screened in cinemas, James Bond has been one of the most sophisticated film characters in popular culture. His sharp suits, luxurious cars, and general demeanor have helped to create this perception.
In line with this, Bond regularly finds himself in card rooms and casinos, taking on his colleagues and adversaries in high stakes poker games. These card games are the perfect opportunity for 007 to show off his nerves of steel and unwavering poker face, underlining his ability to physically and psychologically outmaneuver his opponents.
Bond the Casino Connoisseur
Several of the films featuring England’s most famous spy have contained at least one casino scene, starting with Dr. No through to present day.
In his first outing, Sean Connery depicts Bond playing (and winning) a high-stakes baccarat game. The scene is a product of its time, with all the patrons dressed in evening wear and black-tie dinner suits.
Just a few years later, Connery returns to a casino in Thunderball. This time, he’s playing Chemin de Fer, an old version of baccarat against Emilio Largo, the villain with an eye patch.
In his final appearance as 007, Connery again returned to a casino, this time to play craps. While in a fictional Las Vegas establishment, Bond makes an astonishing $10,000 bet in an attempt to impress a lady. His bet pays off, winning him $65,000.
A decade later, Roger Moore had the license to kill, and Bond returned to a casino for another lesson on gaming with style and class. During Octopussy, where he finds himself in India, Bond wins a 500,000 rupee bet in a game of backgammon, a game not often found in casinos. In true 007 style, he does so dressed impeccably in a tuxedo while making it look effortless.
During Pierce Brosnan’s first time in the role, Bond again finds himself taking on his enemies in a casino. In the 1995 film GoldenEye, Bond is attempting to stop Xenia Onatopp, a Russian agent, from stealing a military helicopter. The two end up playing baccarat against each other, with Bond getting to make plenty of witty one-line comments. He loses the first hand, but wins with a much larger bet on his second. The game was played in one of the world’s most sophisticated casinos: Casino de Monte-Carlo.
The classy and glamorous settings of these older casinos fit perfectly with 007’s brand. Bond can arrive dressed in a tux and challenge his adversaries, while still conversing with them and building tension for later scenes.
Bond the Poker Player
Of all of James Bond’s casino scenes, one stands out more than any other: the poker game in Casino Royale. During Daniel Craig’s first time out as 007, Bond found himself facing off against his latest adversary in a high stakes game along with his American friend, CIA Agent Felix Leiter.
As well as trying to make the strongest hand with the cards you’re dealt, most guides on how to play poker say that bluffing is a key element of the game. This makes poker the perfect channel for Bond to test and challenge his adversaries and provides a story-telling device for the writers and director to show that he has the upper hand. This is why Bond always wins when playing casino games.
Casino Royale is a little different. The villain Le Chiffre manages to stay ahead of Bond and poisons him, showing that he isn’t invincible and creating tension and uncertainty for the viewer. After being rescued by a colleague, Bond, of course, returns to the game to win more than $100 million with a straight flush. The aptly named Casino Royale made the perfect setting for this scene, with Bond, again, sporting a dinner suit and black tie as he played.
James Bond is a character best known for his sophistication, class, and witty remarks. Casinos make the perfect backdrop to put Bond in a tuxedo, which is why it has been one of the go-to-locations to film in for nearly 60 years.
The casino games themselves, and particularly poker, also add to his brand and the overall effect of the scenes. They create a natural scenario where Bond would have an opportunity to talk to his rival without necessarily needing to capture them. They also allow the director and writers to subtly hint to Bond’s superiority with him ultimately coming out on top whenever he wins, even if there’s a twist before then.