Baccarat: The James Bond Favourite

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 26th, 2010

Find out about the link between James Bond and his favorite casino game, the French baccarat or Chemin de Fer.

The casino game, baccarat, is one of James Bond's most recognized attributes along with the gadgets and the "shaken but not stirred" Martini. The charismatic secret agent has been described playing baccarat, or, to be more accurate, the French version of the game called Chemin de Fer, in many of Ian Fleming's books and their adaptions to the big screen.

The first novel in the James Bond series, Casino Royale, centers around a baccarat game that takes place between the agent 007 and the SMERSH operative, Le Chiffre, in a luxurious casino in France. Here is how Ian Fleming describes James Bond's attitude towards gambling in the Casino Royale novel from 1953:
Bond has always been a gambler. He loved the dry riffle of the cards and the constant unemphatic drama of the quiet figures round the green tables. He liked the solid, studied comfort of card rooms and casinos, the well padded arms of the chairs, the glass of champagne or whiskey at the elbow, the quiet unhurried attention of good servants. He was amused by the impartiality of the roulette ball and of the playing cards and their eternal bias.

In reality, baccarat is less sophisticated than it is described in James Bond novels and films. The description of the posh atmosphere, the well padded arms of the chairs and the glass of champagne is quite authentic actually. In luxurious land based casinos, you will not meet casual dressed people around the green baccarat tables.

Baccarat has always been popular among the high society. In the 15th Century, when it first arrived from Italy to France, it was still known by the name of baccara, which is the Italian word for zero. Since then the game changed its name, new rules were made up and this gave birth to several variations: European baccarat played in UK casinos, the slightly different American baccarat played in Las Vegas casinos and Chemin de Fer, also known as French baccarat or the James Bond game.

The object of baccarat is pretty simple: two hands are dealt and the player bets on one of the hands, either the player or the banker hand, which will gain the highest score. While in American casinos, baccarat takes place against the house, in Chemin de Fer players compete against each other where one player acts as the player and the other as the banker.

In the plot of Casino Royale, the British secret agent and baccarat expert James Bond is hired to beat the SMERSH agent, Monsieur Le Chiffre, at Chemin de Fer. The purpose of the game is to increase Le Chiffre's gambling debts so that the SMERSH would kill him themselves. The baccarat game lasts for hours and ends with James Bond winning. Eventually, Le Chiffre is assassinated by SMERSH, but not before he captures and tortures Bond with the help of Bonds beautiful double agent Vesper Lynd, who had previoulsy served as Bonds assistant.

The book, Casino Royale, has been adapted for cinema twice in addition to once on TV. The latest one will be released on November 17, 2006 and it is currently one of the most anticipated movies. It will be the 21st official James Bond movie and the first with Daniel Craig as James Bond. In the 2006 version of Casino Royale, Bond and Le Chiffre will be playing Texas Holdem against each other. Oh, the times are a changing!


Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
Joined: April 29th, 2015
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