While Casino Royale may not match the card-playing authenticity of a poker-centric movie like Rounders, which is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, it still managed to provide poker enthusiasts and action film aficionados with a glimpse of James Bond engaged in high-stakes Texas hold’em.
The movie is based on Ian Fleming’s inaugural Bond novel from 1953 and features 007 engaging in a battle of wits at the poker table with the international terrorist financier known as Le Chiffre. Bond pins his hopes on Vesper Lynd, his romantic interest, to assist him in defeating Le Chiffre and bankrupting him.
Interestingly, director Martin Campbell revealed that the film’s producers initially wanted to remove the poker scene from the movie.
“James Bond is determined to use every advantage to secure his victory, and he views his associate, Vesper Lynd (played by Eva Green), as a captivating asset,” as noted by SlashFilm.com. “Campbell embraced this concept, but he also perceived Lynd, much like Tracy played by Diana Rigg, as Bond’s equal. This idea didn’t sit well with producer Barbara Broccoli, especially during the scene where Bond and Lynd dress up for the tournament.”
Bond Joins the Poker Craze
Campbell, along with actor Daniel Craig, introduced a grittier interpretation of the British secret agent. The Craig-era Bond films portrayed him as a more ruthless assassin, shedding some of the campy and gadget-laden action of previous installments. Casino Royale also provided an origin story for the character.
While Bond had been depicted as a gambler in earlier films, he typically played baccarat, blackjack, and other games. However, with the poker craze sweeping through in 2006, adding Texas hold’em to Bond’s repertoire seemed like a natural choice. Yet, there was some discord among producers regarding the scene in question, as they aimed to eliminate the sexism that had been prevalent in previous films.
“In the scene, Bond struts in with an air of arrogance, hangs up Vesper’s dress, and says, ‘I want you to wear this because I want the players to be distracted by you, not their cards. It’s a distracting technique,'” Campbell recounted to authors Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman in their book Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond.
“It was incredibly chauvinistic. Then he goes back in, and, my God, he sees this beautiful suit laid out. I remember Barbara saying, ‘You can’t have that. You can’t have that. Bond has his own suit.’ I said, ‘But he’s not Bond yet.'”
A Winning Hand
Despite Broccoli’s objections, the scene featuring Vesper ultimately made it into the final cut of the film. In the movie, Bond initially faces difficulties in his poker duel with Le Chiffre. However, when it matters most, the suave spy consistently prevails—and perhaps his unconventional strategy pays off.
Spoiler alert: the climactic hand involves plenty of suspense as Bond’s improbable straight flush triumphs over Le Chiffre’s full house. The film went on to gross over $600 million at the global box office.
You can view the poker scene below.