Poker scene from the 2006 Casino Royale

This week’s newsletter we will have another look at the first poker scene in Casino Royale. I attempted to write about it last week. However, I confess that live poker is one of my weak areas when it comes to writing about gambling. So, I asked my friend Anne Larson to write about it. She is a much stronger poker player than I am. I also enjoy her witty and direct style of writing.

Her probabilities were all accurate. For example, she correctly says that probability of pocket aces beating pocket kings in Texas Hold ‘Em is 82%. The exact probabilities are:

Aces win: 81.71%

Kings win: 17.82%

Tie: 0.46%

You may find any such probabilities using my Texas Hold ‘em Calculator.

That said, I welcome Anne to the newsletter. You may look forward to her continued coverage of Casino Royale next week.

In this week’s newsletter we get to explore a poker scene from the 2006 Casino Royale movie, which is the final James Bond movie in which we find casino scenes in. Not only was this the first time we see Daniel Craig debut as a 00, but this is the first time we see any Bond character playing the game of poker.

There are several poker scenes throughout the movie, which I would like to write about separately, and I will start here with the first poker scene which is set at a beach resort in the Bahamas, the clip of this scene found on YouTube. This scene clip starts as Bond asks to take the empty seat at what appears to be one of many five-handed poker tables in the room, meaning each table seats 5 players, each table also including a seated staff dealer. Normally, the typical poker variations played in modern-day casinos and card rooms are 9- or 10-handed. I’m not entirely sure why they are playing 5-handed here, but I would guess that being this is in a foreign country and my own experience is of playing in U.S. casino poker tables, this may just be a seating variation in other places. The table Bond is joining is playing what seems to be a cash (or ring) game of no-limit hold’em. Bond takes his seat and the dealer keeps the action going.

At the 0:50 point, presumably several hands in since Bond has sat down, the film cuts to the middle of a hand where we see the dealer lays out the turn card, known as 4th street, and Bond is heads-up in this hand with an opponent, character Dimitrios, who happens to be a villain in the movie. Dimitrios has the dealer button, which means he is last to act in this hand so Bond has to act first before him on each street. Here, with the board showing 9d 3h Ac 7h, Bond checks his hand, with his opponent then betting $5,000 into what already appears to be just over a $10,000 pot. Bond calls this bet. Now, I am making assumptions on the amount in the pot based on two factors: one, the colors of the chips they are putting out in front of them during their action, and two, the approximate number of chips they are putting out.

Let me just pause here to make a few comments. If my numbers are assumed to be correct, and the blue chips represent $500 and the black chips represent $100, then in real life the opponent, who appears to be trying to intimidate Bond out of the pot, made a bad choice by betting the $5,000 amount for a couple reasons. First off, betting $5,000 into a $10,000 pot is only making a bet worth half the pot, which could be a perfectly fine decision in many points in a poker hand, but in this example is not the kind of action you would want to take to intimidate your opponent into jumping ship and folding right then and there. And this would be especially if your opponent already hit the board and made a big pair or has a big drawing hand, cause poker players often hate to throw their drawing hand away at that point, especially when not given poor enough pot odds to fold there. Secondly, we soon find out the opponent is holding pocket Kings, and with there having been an Ace already on the board as we can see here, and with that normally being the worst community card you want to see out there when you are holding KK (since anybody holding an Ace already has you beat, it would never make sense to play aggressively at that point unless you really, truly for some reason did not put the other player as holding Ax. In this case, Dimitrios was probably just hoping Bond didn’t have an Ace AND was simultaneously trying to convince him that he, instead, did. Thirdly, when Dimitrios bet the $5,000 in chips, he only left himself with a small stack of black chips appearing to equal just under $1,000. No good poker player would act that aggressive up to that point and leave themselves with no wiggle room to continue betting on the next street with such a weak amount behind. If anything, he could have just shoved all-in with it all right there if his goal was to attempt to intimidate the other player to fold. So I can already see that in the real poker world he would not be considered a good poker player.

As we move on in the scene, when the dealer counts out Bond’s chips (the ones he just called with), before she added them to the pot, she stacked them in a very atypical way. Usually for ease of counting stacks of chips dealers will pile them in stacks of five, and here she did something funky and stacked them in what looks like four and put the remaining two chips on top, which would have made no sense in the real world. Anyway, after pulling his chips into the now $20,000 pot, she burns the final card and then delivers the King of clubs to the river. Bond checks again, and Dimitrios announces he is all in while pushing his small remaining stack in, then says, “No, wait… $20,000” and appears to be pulling out a checkbook. The dealer, however, stops him from proceeding and says, “Table stakes, I’m sorry sir.” What the dealer said here, at least to my knowledge, is not typical poker table jargon, but what I understand she is trying to say is what is usually a rule in poker which is the only money/chips/stakes in play in any hand is no more than the amount on the table that you started that hand with. In other words you can’t just add more chips or more money in the middle of a hand due to the unfair advantage that would create to not just to the other player still in the hand, who made his decisions each street in that hand taking his opponent’s chip stack into consideration, but also the other players who were dealt into the hand who made their decisions as well with all the same initial information going into that hand.

So, picking up where we left off in the scene where the dealer stopped Dimitrio from adding more money in the middle of the hand, Dimitrios turns to Bond and, while throwing the keys to his car into the pot, verbalizes he is throwing in his Aston Martin DB5 as part of the bet on top and asks Bond if he wants to bet. The dealer again attempts to stop him from betting anything additional to which Bond indicates to the dealer he is ok with Dimitrios’ additional bet, showing the finalization of his agreement to this bet by toppling over the rest of his many chip stacks into the pot. This, by the way is what is called “splashing the pot” in poker, which is a big no-no because doing this can mix your chips in with the main pot, making it hard to get an accurate count of what chips you put in, thus slowing the game down if they have to stop and recount all the chips put in from the beginning of the hand in to get to see how many chips you sloppily threw in at the end there.

The dealer, however, doesn’t say anything to how Bond incorrectly shoved his chips in the pot, and just moves on and asks the gentlemen to show their cards. Here, while Bond eases back in his chair, Dimitrios turns over his cards at the 1:51 mark to show his pocket Kings to which the dealer pushes forward the King of clubs river card and announces he has “three kings”. Typically the dealer would push forward all the community cards on the board which would contribute to a player’s best 5-card hand, so she should have pushed forward the 9 of diamonds and the Ace of clubs as well but didn’t, this being a Hollywood movie directing error. A full 10 seconds after Dimitrios turns over his hand, which now puts us at the 2:01 mark, Bond turns over and shows he has pocket Aces which is the winning hand, and the dealer announces he has “trip Aces”, which is incorrect lingo. Bond has a “set” of Aces, which is a pair in your hand and one of the same cards on the board. The true poker definition of trips is a pair on the board and one of the same cards in your hand. So, another movie error. While announcing the incorrect trip Aces, the dealer pulls back the King of clubs as she pushes the Ace of clubs forward on the board, which, again, is incorrect dealer procedure due to the fact that as I just mentioned, all 5 cards that belong to the winning hand are usually pushed forward, so another movie error here gets added to the compiling list.

In this hand, we had two opponents, one holding KK and the other holding AA. When a player holding KK gets beat by a player holding AA, this is known as a “cooler” in poker. The odds of AA beating KK in this case is 4.5:1, AA winning 82% of the time against KK. The odds of being dealt a specific pair in the first place in poker (such as AA “or” KK) are 1 in 221. The probability that one of your opponents holding AA, when you’re holding KK preflop, when you’re playing against 4 other players, as was Dimitrios’ case at his 5-handed table, is 1.96%.

I will say that I intentionally pointed out the fact that Bond tabled his hand a full 10 seconds after Dimitrios did because I wanted to point out that in the real poker world that is called “slow rolling” which is probably the worst no-no in poker and is considered not just very poor etiquette but is kind of, if I am allowed to say, douche-like behavior. Bond not only had “the nuts”, or an unbeatable hand, but should have known very well that he did and that Dimitrios couldn’t have had made a better hand no matter what he was holding. By looking at the cards on the board Bond could see that it showed no other possible 5-card combination of hand that could have beat his set of Aces, and since he knew that and made Dimitrios show his hand AND allowed him to think he had the winning hand before showing him he was instead beat, that is something in the real poker world that could turn all the other poker players against you for your very bad taste in doing that.

With that being said, in summary in this particular poker scene Dimitrios’ decisions with his betting shows in the real world he would not be considered a good player because no matter how good his hand was he risked way too much especially knowing he very well could have been beat (which is what ended up happening). And Bond played his pocket Aces in this hand very well strategically, letting Dimitrios bet into him and roping him along like he did. So, so far Bond seems to play poker well, but as far as having splashed the pot and choosing to slow roll his opponent in the end, no matter how well you play, or how much we’re supposed to root for the “good guy”, doing things like that in real life would just win you a lot of enemies.