Eventually, I’m going to see that new James Bond film. Spectre came out two weeks ago here in the States, and it’s supposed to be quite good. It better be – they spent almost $250 million making it. It’s also heartwarming in a strange way that Bond is finally going toe-to-toe once again with his arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It’s been over 40 years since their last encounter – unless you count the opening sequence of For Your Eyes Only or Never Say Never Again.
What I’d really like to see is Bond playing baccarat again. Unlike some people, I was okay with them replacing baccarat (chemin de fer, to be specific) with no-limit Hold’em for the 2006 movie version of Casino Royale. If you’re going to play a card game to take down an enemy, it might be a good idea to play a game you have an edge in. Baccarat is not that game. But it is a great game with a very low house edge if you play your cards right. And it’s everything I think about when I think about Bond. Okay, that and Famke Janssen in GoldenEye.
The Iron Track
I read Ian Fleming’s books before I saw any of the Bond films, and Casino Royale was the first one I read. Fitting, since it was also the first Bond book of the series, way back in 1953. No, that’s not the year I read it. This is the book that laid the groundwork for everything that we know about Bond today. It also comes closest to capturing the author himself.
In the unabridged version of Casino Royale, Fleming includes a how-to guide for readers who might be unfamiliar with chemin de fer, the original version of baccarat that remains popular in France to this day. This particular variant uses a six-deck shoe, or to be more precise, an iron box – which is where chemin de fer gets its name. Fleming later claimed he lost a lot of money playing against a German agent at the Estoril Casino in Portugal, thus giving him the inspiration for the central plot of the novel. Others say Fleming only played against local businessmen.
Not a lot of Bond fans talk about the original film adaptation of Casino Royale, the spoof version from 1967 with David Niven, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. But this film did better than any of the “canon” Bond films when it came to baccarat. The game also pops up in Dr. No, the first of the Sean Connery films, as well as Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and For Your Eyes Only. Famke Janssen’s character, Xenia Onatopp, even mentions it in GoldenEye. Since then? Nada. Don’t worry, though: I’ve got a script for Eon Productions that they can’t possibly turn down. It’s got action, drama, romance, and more chemin de fer than you can shake a martini at.