Texas Hold’em Poker

Bluffing and Tells in Casino Royale

In Casino Royale, James Bond masterfully lures his opponents into doing exactly what he wishes them to do. How does he do it? Observe these two scenes:

While at the exclusive Bahamas getaway, the Ocean Club, James Bond takes a seat at the poker table opposite the sinister Alex Dimitrios.

In a particularly interesting hand, we can see that the flop has already been dealt, revealing a 9, 3, A. The fourth card is turned over to reveal a 7. Bond checks, but Dimitrios bets $5,000. Bond calmly calls his bet, placing $5,000 in chips in front of him, which the dealer then counts and slides into the main pot. When the fifth card is turned over to reveal a K, Bond checks once again. The villain immediately goes “all in,” and even tries to raise the bet to $20,000. When the dealer objects, citing “table stakes,” he tries to bet his car, a gorgeous 1964 Aston Martin, and he tosses his keys into the pot. When the dealer objects once again, Bond gives an easy smile and convinces the dealer to “give him a chance to win his money back,” and Bond slides all of his chips into the pot. At the showdown, Dimitrios flips his cards to reveal a hand of K, K, and along with the king in the flop, he smiles confidently with his hand of three kings. James Bond calmly flips his cards to reveal A, A, and with an ace already among the flop, Bond’s hand of “trip aces” trumps the three kings.

Once the scene has unfolded, and the hand has been played out, we can now see that Bond had successfully lured Dimitrios into a false confidence. When the scene opened, and the 9, 3, A had already been flipped, Bond would have already been holding the best hand possible. No other combination can beat his hand, at least not yet. When the seven was turned over, Bond still held the best hand, and the chances of his hand being beaten had grown even slimmer, yet Bond calmly checked. When the final King was revealed, Bond knew that no other possible combination could beat his “trip aces.” Even knowing that he held the best hand possible, Bond still checked. Dimitrios, knowing that he held a very strong (though not the strongest) hand, and not having detected any strength or confidence coming from his opponent, felt certain that he held the best hand, and he went all in.

Seasoned poker players will probably tell you that Bond’s strategy of checking was extremely risky in this case. Perhaps he should have been making strong bets, as this might have been his only chance to take full advantage of his superior hand. But, his ability to conceal the strength of his hand pays off, and his opponent leapt at the chance to go all in.

James Bond would later employ this technique during the high-stakes poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro:

During the game, Bond carefully observes LeChiffre’s playing style, and begins to uncover a ‘tell.’ LeChiffe tends to twitch and touch his eye when he tries to bluff his way through a weak hand. Bond’s strategy is to use this knowledge to his advantage, and ultimately outwit his opponent by betting strongly when LeChiffre reveals his weak hand through his tell. Bond’s strategy backfires however; after observing the ‘tell’ once again, Bond goes all in. But he is shocked to find that the villain was holding a strong hand after all. Bond loses it all.

Later, after Bond has bought back into the game and seems to be holding his own, the last hand is dealt. There are now four players left, including Bond and LeChiffre. When the fourth card has been dealt to reveal A, 8, 6, 4, Bond checks. Then the final card has been dealt to reveal an A, 8, 6, 4, A, and four of the cards are spades.

We can also see that several good hands can be made with what is shown on the table. Bond checks, and two of the players have gone all in, with four and five million respectively. When it is his turn to bet, LeChiffre raises the stakes to $12 Million, causing Bond to look pensively at the bet that has just been placed. Bond looks up at LeChiffre and begins to stare into his eyes. Having been unsuccessful at reading LeChiffre’s tells earlier, Bond seems to be contemplating LeChiffre’s motives. Bond then makes the bold move of going all in, raising the stakes to $14.5 Million. LeChiffre seems taken by surprise, but looks at his cards once more. Holding an ace-six combination, giving him a full house, LeChiffre confidently calls Bond’s bet. The first player flips his cards, to reveal a flush. The second player flips to reveal a full house. LeChiffre flips his cards to reveals pockets card of A, 6, to make a higher full house, A, A, A, 6, 6.

James Bond doesn’t look well as his bet has been called. He sheepishly slides his cards toward the dealer, perhaps to quietly fold his cards. But, he flips is cards to reveal a 5, 7, creating a 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 combination; a straight flush–not only the highest hand possible on the table, but one of the highest hands in all of poker.

Just as he had done in the Ocean Club, Bond waited until he had the best possible hand at the table, and masterfully gave an aura of weakness, coaxing his opponents to attack, and then took full advantage.

This technique is known as “bluffing.”


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