Casino Royale Analysis part 3

In this newsletter we continue our analysis of Casino Royale by guest writer Anne Larson.

As we continue in the analysis of the poker scenes in the 2006 Casino Royale movie, we arrive to this YouTube clip. The clip starts in the middle of a hand already in progress.

The dealer is announcing the players’ actions post-flop, and there are three people getting to see the turn, specifically character Felix Leiter, James Bond, and Le Chiffre, who is on the Button.

The turn card is dealt. We see a quick shot of the board which shows Jh Ks Ac Jd. As a poker player, I would notice that the board is completely “rainbow”, which means there are no two of the same suits (yet), which eliminates any possibility, even by the river, that any of the players have made or will make a flush. Although there is no potential to draw to a flush, straight flush or royal flush in this hand after the turn card was dealt, a player, taking his own hand into consideration, can place his opponents on possibly having or drawing to two pair, a three-of-a-kind, a straight, full house, or quads (four-of-a-kind).

Felix Leiter

Felix Leiter, who is first to act, lobs his chips out on the table like they are dice or something (and another instance in this movie of a player splashing the pot) announcing his opening bet of “300 grand”, which he says somewhat cockily, like he’s trying to exude coolness. Usually, if you’re playing for serious money like they are, and if you’re a decent or established poker player you want to give off the least amount of tells that you can and make your moves, voice, expressions, etc. as stone-cold as possible. Also, his splashing the pot was unnecessary. As I mentioned in a previous article, all you need to do is set the amount in front of you, even if verbalizing your bet.

Furthermore, no real poker player announces their bet as “300 grand”. One would normally announce “300”, or maybe “300 thousand.” You’re not even required to verbalize your bet as long as you put the bet in chips out in front of you. This shot of him doing all this was for true Hollywood effect, but we are watching a movie we’ve pretty much paid for and the film maker is trying to give the viewer his/her money’s worth, so what can I say? Bond calls Leiter’s bet (while splashing the pot himself), and Le Chiffre follows by calling as well.

Next, at the 0:27 mark, in the clip, the dealer deals a King of diamonds to the river, making the board now Jh Ks Ac Jd Kd.

Jh Ks Ac Jd Kd

Leiter checks his hand and action is on Bond, who looks at his hole cards which shows he is holding Ah Kh, having us realize he has a full house, Kings full of Aces. Bond, looking at his cards, was pretty much strictly for the cameras and movie audience, of course. Although it does happen on occasion, most good players don’t need to look at their hole cards again that far along in the hand, and it usually can give off a tell, which you want to avoid at all costs.

Bond then places a single red plaque in front of him, which the dealer announces as Bond’s bet of $500,000. This now tells us that the red plaques are worth $500,000. Between this and previous scenes, we now know the chip denominations as:

Green chips $5,000

Pink chips $25,000

Black chips $50,000

Red plaques $500,000

But wait!... a few seconds later in this clip at the 0:57 mark we see an extreme close-up of Le Chiffre playing with his chips one-handed, doing a chip trick called a “thumb flip” (players often fidget with, shuffle or flip their chips, it’s just an anxious habit and doesn’t indicate a bet) and on the black chips we see $100,000 written on them. Ah! So now black chips show they are worth $100,000 each, which shows a gaff in the movie where earlier the black chips were used to indicate a $50,000 denomination. So, putting the movie mistake in the earlier clip aside, we see the denominations so far are:

Green chips $5,000

Pink chips $25,000

Black chips $50,000 or $100,000

Red plaques $500,000

As Le Chiffre is flipping his chips while deciding on his action to Bond’s bet, he places his hand again against his face with his finger on his temple like he did earlier in the movie in the previous clip. This prompts Bond’s sidekick character, Rene Mathis, at the 1:02 mark, to whisper to Bond’s lady sidekick Vesper to look at how Le Chiffre is doing that same hand gesture that he did earlier and how that means he’s bluffing and that Bond must’ve been right about that.

Rene Mathis

Le Chiffre, when called upon by the dealer to act (again, pushing the action), raises to $1 million. This causes the now surrounding on-screen onlookers to quietly gasp, as if he did something so insane. Ok Hollywood, I see how you work to build tension amongst us viewers, especially as the pensive music in the background adds to this as well, but albeit, it still is uncommonly dramatic. Leiter decides to fold and action is now on Bond to fold, call or raise Le Chiffre’s bet. Bond, obviously basing his action decision here on thinking he just read Le Chiffre as giving off a tell that he’s bluffing, re-raises Le Chiffre’s re-raise to $2 million, at the 1:50 mark. The on-screen lookers give out a more audible gasp this time, with even one of them in the background, who isn’t even close enough to the table to even be accurately following what’s going on, shakes her head in disbelief of Bond’s move.

You’re doing your job, Hollywood! But… I know the film maker is trying to give the audience the message that something really tense is going on right now, but I must of course, pick this apart.

First off, at the end of this clip (when we get to the 3:11 spot), the dealer announces they are to go on a break now and that when the remaining players return the Big Blind will be $200,000. That being said, we can surmise that on this last level they were playing the Blinds probably were $75,000/$150,000. When this clip started Le Chiffre was on the Button and there was an empty chair between him and Leiter, indicating a knocked-out player. So, even if we assume that, AND we assume the player just got knocked out in the hand just before this current hand, which would mean there was just a single big blind posted (by Leiter), AND (bear with me) we assumed all three of these players that were in the hand through the turn were the only three involved in this hand up to this point, AND we assumed they all checked the flop (whew… I knew I’d get here…), then we can therefore assume there could have been $450,000 already in the pot by the turn when the clip begins. Now adding in Leiter’s bet and Bond and Le Chiffre’s calls on the turn ($300,000 x 3 = $900,000) to the already $450,000 pot makes the pot $1,350,000 by the river. Bond now betting $500,000 into an already $1.3 million pot is nothing even close to gasp-worthy (and remember: I just made all my assumptions to benefit the film-maker, since Bond betting into an even larger pot than that wouldn’t have even caused a mere yawn from an on-looker). Betting just over one-third of the pot isn’t anything significant, as I discussed previously as far as bet-to-pot-size ratio is concerned.

Now, secondly, with Bond’s bet making the pot now an assumed $1.8 million, and Le Chiffre deciding to raise him to $1 million, as you can see, with that bet in comparison to the current pot size it is again nothing noteworthy. And Bond then re-raising the re-raise with $2 million into a now $2.8 million dollar pot… well, you get the point I’m trying to make by now (we still love you though, Hollywood). And remember, $2.8 million in tournament chips are just the value of the chips themselves, this is not a cash (ring) game, so the denominations don’t equal that value in actual real-life currency (dollars, pounds, etc.)

Le Chiffre still has to act, since Bond re-raised his raise, and at the 2:10 mark Le Chiffre announces he is all-in, and the dealer announces Le Chiffre’s raise here is for $14,500,000. There is no way a dealer can know the exact amount of a player’s total bet without counting it out, and here he briefly touched a stack or so of his chips before announcing the total. In a typical poker game, a dealer doesn’t count or announce a total unless the player yet to act (Bond, in this case) asks for an actual count. But for editing simplicity Hollywood glosses over this to get straight to the point… what will Bond now do? HIs sidekick Mathis whispers again to Vesper at the 2:25 point, letting the audience know, err… I mean, letting her know that if Bond calls Le Chiffre’s bet he will be all-in himself. He’s indicating that Le Chiffre has Bond “covered”, meaning Bond has less chips than Le Chiffre, and calling Le Chiffre’s all-in raise here puts him at risk of getting knocked out if Le Chiffre has him beat.

So, what should Bond do here? Well, since we are lucky enough to be able to pause our movie, we know Bond has Kings full of Aces, which is a very good hand. But, if he’s that good of a player that he’s being backed for his $10 million dollar buy-in, that should indicate he should be a smart enough player to quickly deduce that he definitely doesn’t have the nuts (the best and most unbeatable hand). With the board being Jh Ks Ac Jd Kd, the possible hand his opponent could have is:

A hand that Bond could beat, such as:

A Broadway straight (opponent holding QT)

Jacks full of Kings (opponent holding Jx)

Kings full of Jacks (opponent holding Kx)

A hand that Bond could end up chopping with (splitting 50/50), such as-

Kings full of Aces (opponent holding AK, same as Bond)

Or, a hand that could have Bond beat

Aces full of Jacks (with pocket Aces), or

Quad Jacks (with pocket Jacks).

Bond announces his decision to call Le Chiffre’s all-in at the 2:32 mark. He obviously made this decision eliminating in his mind any chance that Le Chiffre had him beat, due to the fact that he based his entire decision on him assuming Le Chiffre’s hand gesture was a tell that he was bluffing. Well was he right?

Bond tables his cards, revealing his Kings full of Aces, and Le Chiffre somewhat slow plays, turning over and exposing first the Jack of clubs, and then revealing his other hole card, the Jack of spades, the dealer then announcing, “It’s four jacks, Mr. Le Chiffre wins.” Normally, if a dealer were to announce it, he would usually announce “quad jacks”, or “four of a kind”. But despite that, Bond is now knocked out of the tournament, to his and his cohorts’ horror.

Now, if Bond would have not made his entire decision on his misinterpretation of Le Chiffre’s body language and hadn’t called Le Chiffre’s all in, if we back up to right after Bond was first raised by him on the river, knowing he only had the third nuts (with two better hands that could beat him), Bond should have just called Le Chiffre’s raise at that point. This is a fatal mistake that players often make when trying to gain information on an opponent -- just because you caught your opponent bluffing at one point doesn’t mean that opponent can’t actually have a winning hand at some other point. For Bond to put all his eggs in one basket here, so to speak, cost him all his chips and his seat in the tournament, so his calling Le Chiffre’s all-in here was completely unnecessary, and he shouldn’t have even let the betting progress to that point.

The good news is, if we remember, they announced earlier that there was a possibility to rebuy back into the tournament, which is an option Bond now faces as they go into break. Most tournaments will allow any rebuys through the end of a predetermined break, so we are to assume he has until the end of this break to decide to rebuy back in or not.

And we can’t leave this clip without noticing another pretty big flaw where we see all the players leave their seats now to go on break and see Le Chiffre leaving his huge pot he just won just sitting there in the middle of the table at the 3:11 mark. Umm, don’t you want to stack your chips before leaving? Oh, right! It’s just another flaw we’re supposed to overlook to keep the movie going and the drama lingering. Ok, well, these movies are to be watched all in good fun anyway, right?

Le Chiffre

The next newsletter I will be writing will be the final poker scene in this movie which is the conclusion of the tournament in the movie. Come back to read how this intense drama ends!