Analysis of Casino Royale part 2

In this newsletter guess writer Anne Larson will continue her coverage of Casino Royale. This week, she explains the rules of the tournament and what you would typically expect in poker tournament.

The poker tournament in the 2006 Casino Royale movie is split into several scenes later in the movie. It will require a few articles to explain it all. In this newsletter I will address the specifications of the tournament itself, rather than the individual scenes of this tournament. In the next two final newsletters covering this movie, I will then cover each scene with their corresponding YouTube clips. The reason I am doing this is because there too much analyses to be covered in those scenes in just one newsletter. Since I am taking the readers of these articles into consideration, I don’t want to bombard you with too much information all at once.

James Bond

The storyline in this movie leads up to a high stakes no-limit hold ’em poker tournament arranged by the movie’s main villain, Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre is a private banker to worldwide terrorists and had recently lost over $100 million of that money due to Bond foiling his plan to manipulate the stocks of an airline he had invested the money in. The poker game is set up as a 10-handed $10 million dollar buy-in event with a $5 million rebuy, winner-take-all. Le Chiffre’s plan is to be the one the individual to win that event, and it seems obvious he plans on manipulating the game to be the one who wins it.

Typically, in a rebuy tournament, a player is allowed to re-buy into a tournament for a pre-determined specified number of “levels” if he or she gets knocked out before the end of the rebuy period. If a tournament is running 60-minute levels, they may give a buyer through the first 9-levels, for example, to rebuy into the tournament, usually for the same amount of chips as what your initial buy-in got you. Re-buying into a tournament allows you to buy immediately back into the tournament, allowing you to retain your same seat in the tournament and continuing right where the action left off. Re-entering a tournament is different, in that, in the example of a multi-table tournament, when you are knocked out of a re-entry tournament, you have to get up from your seat and re-enter the tournament. In doing so in that case, you potentially are assigned a different open seat at a different table, or, in the case that there is an alternate list, with players already waiting to be sat in the tournament, you are placed at the end of the alternates list and you have to wait until your turn to be sat in an open seat in the tournament. This usually happens in a tournament where there are not enough seats and tables in a particular tournament, and you purchase your buy-in into the tournament but have to wait until a certain number of players get knocked out for you to fill a seat.

James Bond

We find out the details of the planned tournament earlier in this movie when M, the head of MI6 (played by Judi Dench) fills Bond in on the details and gives him his orders which is to play as one of the 10 players in this game. The goal is for Bond to prevent Le Chiffre from winning this event and therefore prevent him from making up the terrorists’ money he is trying to recoup.

The fact that this particular game is set up as a winner-take-all is not typical. Usually, a no-limit hold ’em tournament, as ones run by casinos, first takes the sum of all the buy-ins and subtracts a “rake” from it. The amount of the rake usually varies from tournament to tournament and from casino to casino as well. The rake is usually a percentage taken out of the total amount to cover the cost of the venue and staff to run the event, and sometimes they take out an amount to cover any additional promos. Usually the smaller the buy-in (such as a $60 buy-in they would charge in a typical daily casino tournament), the higher the percentage they take out of the rake. Often, in that case, it would amount to around a 25% rake or so. The higher the buy-in, the lower the rake, usually. In the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event, for example, they took out a 6.75% rake for the $10,000 buy-in, thus subtracting $675 from each buy-in. Secondly, after a rake is taken out, the proceeds go into the event’s “prize pool”. That prize pool is then usually paid out based on the percentage of the total entries, usually 10-15% of the “field”. To use an extreme example, in this case, if all ten players bought in for $10 million and all ten players then rebought for another $5 million, it would have brought in a total of $150 million in buy-ins. If they took a very small rake out to cover the event’s expenses in this case, for example 0.4%, as is the same amount they are taking out of the $250,000 buy-in for the 2021 WSOP Super-High Roller No-Limit Event, there would be a $600,000 rake taken out, thus leaving a $149,400,000 prize pool left. With 20 entries, in this example, if they were paying out 15% based on the entries, then 3 players would be “in the money” and split the prize pool, usually with 1st place winning the highest percentage of that prize pool, 2nd place winning a somewhat smaller percentage, and 3rd place receiving the least amount. All other players would walk away with nothing. Le Chiffre, though, structured this game as a winner-takes-all, meaning only 1st place walks away with the entire prize pool, leaving the rest of the 9 players to walk away empty-handed. We can tell by the fact that he set up this game this way that he intends to be the solo winner of this game, thus planning on using forms of manipulation to make sure that is exactly how the result of this tournament ends up.

James Bond

The game itself in this movie is set up to take place in Europe in the country of Montenegro at the Casino Royale. Although there is a real Casino Royale (now Merit Casino Royale) in Montenegro, no filming actually took place here. Rather, as per many Hollywood productions, they set-designed and filmed the exterior portion of a famous spa in the Czech Republic to represent the exterior of the “Casino Royale”, and filmed the interior poker scenes at nearby Grand Hotel Pupp for the inside “Hotel Splendid” scenes.

My analysis will continue next week where I will cover at least the first clip of the final poker scene itself with an analysis of the clip(s). Here is a link to that first clip.