Casino Royale part 3
This week our guest writer Anne Larson continues her look at Casino Royale.
To follow along with the theme of the Wizard’s series of analyzing the casino scenes in James Bond movies, I will now cover YouTube clip 1 of 3 of the final poker tournament scenes in the 2006 version of the Casino Royale movie. This clip was introduced at the end of the last newsletter, and found again here. Also, I will follow the same method the Wizard uses in his Chemin de Fer article (which is the game he analyzed in the earlier James Bond movies) by addressing the positions or bets in the hands themselves starting with capital letters (such as “the Button position”, “the Small Blind”, etc.) and when referring to the human player playing in that position I will use lower case letter (such as “the person in middle position”, “one of the blinds”, etc.).
The beginning of this clip starts where a casino representative and the banker who is escrowing the money introduces the game the ten players present are there to play, which is a game of no-limit hold ‘em, and they go over how the players’ money is being held and how any additional transfers will be transferred to and from the escrow account.
At 1:04, the players are seated and the game starts after they draw cards to determine the button position. First level starts off with $5,000/$10,000 blinds. The small blind puts in one green chip and the big blind puts in two green chips to post their respective Blinds.
From this action, as well as further action I see from this particular clip, the current chip denominations are:
Green chips $5,000
Pink chips $25,000
Black chips $50,000
I will also comment that each player seems to have an abnormally high number of starting chips and high-denomination poker plaques as their starting stacks. I am referring to the number of them sitting in front each player, not the value of them. Typically, a poker tournament starts with enough chips that you can pile them into a single stack, usually 20 individual chips, maybe even less. The amount of chips and plaques in front of each player here is huge overkill, and I’m guessing was added exclusively for the Hollywood effect they were trying to go for, attempting to make the high roller action look more extreme.
A little time in that hand elapses as the movie fades into the 1:43 mark where the dealer is pulling in all the bets in what I’ll call the first hand. The dealer announces there are four players in this pot, Le Chiffre (the villain introduced in the previous newsletter who set up this game) and Bond included, with Bond having position over the other players. It appears, when I look directly at the chips the dealer pulls in from the seat four position, that someone must have raised to $30,000 pre-flop, which is the amount the other three players called. Seat four had six $5,000 chips out in front of him, and it’s unlikely any movie viewer would notice, but the chips the dealer pulled in from the small blind and big blind combined equaled only six green chips, when there should have been seven - one from the small blind folding and six from the big blind for calling. This is a tiny Hollywood error which is pretty insignificant. The pot is now $120,000. I can see there was no required ante, so the amount is the total from the four players having put in $30,000 each.
The dealer deals the flop, which is a 9, an 8, and a 5, all hearts. First two players check. Le Chiffre, who is third to act, bets $50,000, so just under half the pot. While Bond, who is next to act, pauses, we get an extreme close-up of Le Chiffre’s face where we see his face twitch and he places his hand against his face with his finger on his temple. It then cuts right to Bond where we see he is staring at Le Chiffre, having observed him, and Bond then calls his bet with the other two players folding, making the pot now $220,000.
At the 2:27 mark the dealer announces the hand is now heads-up and he burns the next card and then delivers a 9 of clubs as the turn, now pairing the board. Dealer reminds Le Chiffre he is first to act, and as he bets $100,000, Bond’s “lady”, his undercover partner character Vesper Lynd, simultaneously walks in the room and walks over to Bond to kiss him on the cheek and wish him good luck. Bond quietly makes a remark to her about how she was supposed to have walked in the room a certain way, with the intent to distract the other players in her dress with a low-cut back, which was discussed in a former scene in the movie as part of their plan. As she walks away the dealer reminds Bond it is his turn to act, and after asking to be reminded of the amount Le Chiffre bet, Bond calls his bet, making the pot now $420,000.
The game proceeds, and at the 3:30 mark, after burning the final card, the dealer delivers a 2 of hearts to the river and lets Le Chiffre know he’s first to act. Le Chiffre bets $200,000, about a half-pot-size bet, which Bond then calls. The dealer then reminds Le Chiffre that his bet was just called and asks him to turn over his cards.
Typically, in a real tournament, a dealer waits to get involved at this point, allowing the players themselves a moment first to show their cards to claim the pot, only stepping in when neither player will turn over their cards. In a case where that happens, and if the tournament is following typical Poker Tournament Directors Association (TDA) procedures, then the dealer would then ask the last “aggressor” on the river (the player who was last to bet or raise) to table their cards (turn them both face up).
The dealer in this movie, however, jumps the gun and asks Le Chiffre to show his cards. Le Chiffre shows he had pocket deuces (a 2 of spades and a 2 of clubs) and the dealer announces he has a full house and pushes the 9’s and the 2 on the board forward, indicating Le Chiffre’s 5-card hand. Bond, at this point, mucks his hand and lets Le Chiffre claim the pot, to which the movie cuts to the disappointed look on Lynd’s face, where she (just outside this clip) expresses to Bond her disappointment in him in losing this hand, scolding him on his risky behavior and reminding him of the millions of dollars the British government paid to put him in this tournament and about his goal to not lose so carelessly. Bond defends his action on this hand (again just after this clip finishes), saying he purposely played that hand precisely to pick up the tells (physical/verbal give-aways) Le Chiffre was giving off, notating how his eye twitches, so that he could use that read to make his maneuvers against Le Chiffre further along in the tournament.
It is quite possible, but not necessarily likely, Bond could have had a better hand than Le Chiffre’s deuces full of 9’s (such as a better full house, quad 9’s, or a straight flush) according to the board. Normally if you’re trying to play poker well, if you call someone on every single street through the river, you’re probably way ahead of someone betting their pocket deuces all the way through. In any case, it seems irrelevant whether Bond had the winning hand here since he made it clear his actions in that hand were specifically to pick up on Le Chiffre’s tells.
We will continue on in the next newsletter and cover the remaining clips that cover this climax-building poker tournament.