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Last Updated: August 19, 2021

Casino Scene in Thunderball

Last week, I started a new topic of casino scenes in James Bond movies. We started with Dr. No and this week we shall look at the fourth official James Bond movie, Thunderball. The second (From Russia with Love) and the third (Goldfinger) did not have any casino scenes, although Goldfinger did include betting on golf.

New York

Image source: 007 Magazine

As in Dr. No, the game is Chemin de Fer. As a reminder, Chemin de Fer is an antiquated player-banked form of baccarat with only one bet available on the Player Hand. The turn to bank rotates around the table after each time the Banker Hand loses. For more information on the rules and odds, please see my page on Chemin de Fer.

The rest of this newsletter shall refer to the casino scene found from Thunderball on YouTube.

The gambling starts at the 1:04 point, where the Player Hand has two points and the Banker Hand, controlled by the villain Largo has seven points. Since Largo was banking and won, he invokes his option to continue banking with a bet of 200 pounds. The opponent in this hand is an unnamed person at the table, not Bond.

Hand 1 -- The player who bet against Largo the previous hand evidently didn’t want to bet the full 200-pound banker wager, as evidenced by betting only one 100-pound lamer. Per the rules of chemin de fer, if a single person wants to go against the banker’s wager the full way, he may. At this moment, at the 1:10 point in the video, Bond walks up to the table and says “banco” and puts down a 200-pound bet. This makes the next hand a one-on-one affair between Bond, acting on the Player Hand, and Largo on the Banker Hand.

At the 1:20 point, Bond’s initial two cards are two face cards, for 0 points. He obviously draws a third card. If you look carefully at the 1:25 point, we see Largo reveal his two cards of the Banker Hand, which I assume means he is standing. I can’t tell what they are, but I assume they reveal a total of 7. If Largo had a 3 to 6, he should have waited to see Bond’s third card before acting and if he had 0 to 2, he should have drawn a third card regardless of Bond’s third card. Next, Largo deal’s Bond his requested third card, an 8. Bond then flips up his initial two cards and announces he final score of 8, which beats Largo’s 7.

Hand 2 -- Per the rules of chemin de fer, Largo must give up his option to bank, because he lost the previous hand. None of the other players want it, so Bond accepts the role of banker. Another player kindly gets up to give him a seat. After some banter, Bond starts to deal the hand at the 2:02 point. The cards are difficult to see, but it’s clear from the dialogue that Largo stood with a two-card score of six and Bond stood with a two-card score of seven. With his 7 beating Largo’s 6, Bond wins again. It’s not shown, but the house would have collected a 5% commission from Bond’s win of the Largo’s 500-pound bet.

Hand 3 -- At the 2:22 point, Largo announces “banco suive,” which means he is invoking his option to play one-on-one with Bond another hand. In Dr. No, such a player said just “suive.” I believe either is acceptable. What happens next is Largo reveals a natural 8 to which Bond reveals a 9, resulting in Bond winning a third time. This is exactly what happened in the third and final hand in Dr. No.

Then Bond leaves, winning 3 out of 3 hands. If we include the three shown hands from Dr. No, Bond is now 6 out of 6 in chemin de fer. He bet once on the Player Hand and five times on the Banker Hand. Here are the probabilities, assuming the modern form of chemin de fer, played at that time, with only three situations where free will is allowed, making the odds the same as conventional baccarat.

Player hand wins = 44.62%

Banker hand wins = 45.86%

Tie = 9.52%

The probability of Bond winning all six hands is 0.9052% or 1 in 110.

Next week we will not go in order, but stick with chemin de fer, jumping to For Your Eyes Only. If you can’t wait that long, there is a discussion of all Bond casinos scenes in my forum at Wizard of Vegas.

Until next week, the odds be with you.