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Have you played Chemin de Fer – James Bond’s main casino game?


18 Jan 2018

Settle down for the evening to watch one of the 24 James Bond films and there is a decent possibility that at least one scene will be shot inside a casino and 007 himself will have his chips on the betting layout.

In fact, Dr No was the first Bond film released back in 1962 and our introduction to Sean Connery playing the lead character comes inside the then-fashionable Les Ambassadors nightclub in London.

Handling the cards, we soon here the first usage of the now iconic catchphrase “Bond, James Bond” when asked to disclose who he is by recurring love interest Sylvia Trench, played by Eunice Gayson.

The game the pair are going head-to-head at is Chemin de Fer, which is the original version of the card game baccarat. Bond can also be seen playing the same game in other films including Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and GoldenEye.

Similarities to baccarat

In all forms of baccarat, there are two hands in competition – one for the Player and one for the Banker. It is then up to you on which of these two outcomes they want to place your chips. You can bet on the Banker hand if you wish.

There is also the option of betting on the tie between the two outcomes and numerous other side-bet possibilities for those with a greater understanding of the intricacies of the game.

The winning hand is that which totals closest to nine points. All cards score points at face value, with aces worth one and all 10s and picture cards worth zero.

Should a hand total exceed nine, such as a six and a seven totalling 13, the first number is dropped. This means that such a hand would score three points.

Both the Player and Banker hands are initially dealt two cards by a dealer, although there are occasions that a third card could be added to either hand, depending on pre-determined hand rules.

The basic thing to remember is that once you have made your initial bet, it is then solely in the hands of Lady Luck whether you win or not. The hand will play through in a certain way that is out of your control.

Differences to baccarat

Where baccarat is an Italian game, Chemin de Fer originates from France. Aside from these roots, the main difference relates to who banks the game.

This is typically done by the casino in more recognised baccarat, with the dealer responsible for handling the cards. In Chemin de Fer, this isn’t the case.

Instead, the responsibility falls in the direction of one of the game’s players, with this duty rotated around the table. We see Connery dealing himself a fine winning streak when playing in Dr No, including the perfect combination of king of clubs and nine of hearts to score the optimum nine points.

There is also slightly more strategy to Chemin de Fer, as the ability to add a third card to either or both of the Banker and Player hands is a decision made through choice and not pre-determined hand rules.

So, the player operating as the banker is always forced to bet on the Banker hand, although they do get to set a betting limit by outlining the maximum they are willing to lose.

Then, starting from the dealer’s left, all other players state how much they are willing to stake. Should any player agree to match the dealer’s maximum loss, they automatically get dealt the hand and no other players are allowed to participate.

Following the deal, the player to have bet the most is tasked with deciding on whether to take a third card or not. If they do, this has to be displayed face up.

The banker then faces the same decision before all other cards are turned face up and then the hands are scored.

Other Bond casino games

Although 007 has played his fair share of Chemin de Fer over the years, he has also shown that his casino skills are not limited to a single game.

For example, he tastes plenty of success playing craps in Diamonds Are Forever, especially when winning $65,000 and giving some of this to love interest Plenty O’Toole.

Meanwhile, Texas Hold’em is the game in question in Casino Royale, where Bond has the challenge of outmanoeuvring leading villain Le Chiffre.

He eventually does so by winning $115m when achieving a straight flush from the four of spades to the eight of spades, beating two full houses and a standard flush in the process.