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Bennett Winch SC Holdall

Is the poker game in Casino Royale realistic?

04 November, 2008

In the fierce Texas Hold'em game in Casino Royale, James Bond looks down on a board showing As Ah 8s 6s 4s. The player to his left moves all in for $6 million, another player calls, and Bond's nemesis across the table mini-raises it up to $12 million. 007 over $40 million in his stack and is pondering what to do...

photo © 2006 Sony Pictures

But before we start analyzing the hand further, let's look at the game they are playing.

Obviously it's No Limit Texas Hold'em, the game to play when the film was released back in 2006. In Ian Fleming's original, however, Bond was playing high stakesChemin de Fer (similar to baccarat,) which alongside roulette was the number one high-stakes game in those days. There is a big difference between these games though. Whatever Baccarat or roulette strategy you choose, the games are unbeatable in the long run. Poker, on the other hand, is not. 
"Today the big stakes game is Texas Hold'em. It's not unreasonable for ten, twenty million dollar pots to be seen. So, when we came to think about what the game would be, Chemin de Fer didn't seem appropriate but Texas Hold'em was," producer Michael Wilson explains. 
The film team brought in Thomas Sanbrook as the poker expert and he taught the actors how to handle the chips, look at the cards and stare one another down. He managed to do this and the game looks realistic.

...Back to the Hand

James Bond is facing a $12 million raise and decides to push all in for $40. His opponent, portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, says "I think I have to call you on that one" and the players reveal their cards.

The first player, who moved all in for $6, only has a flush - a surprisingly weak play. Next player has a pair of eights in the hole for a full house but Mikkelsen has an even stronger full house with A-6. 
You can probably guess what Mr. Bond has. Yes, 7 - 5 of spades and an unbeatable straight flush. The $115 million pot is pushed towards him. Wait a minute. $115 million! Didn't the producer say that the game was going to be realistic?

What Is a Normal Pot Size?

If we start by looking at online poker, this pot is far from realistic. The biggest pot ever won on the Net was a little bit over $600,000. In comparison that is nothing...but only in comparison. 
In the history of live casino gambling the most recognized high-stakes poker game was played between multimillionaire Andy Beal, a sucker for poker and blackjack games, and a group of poker players called the Corporation, including Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Ted Forrest and a few other pros, 
The corporation had to play as a team because the stakes were too high - $50,000/$100,000 limit hold'em to be more specific. 
That is also a nickel-and-dime game compared to Casino Royale
Thomas Sanbrook and the film team managed to create a realistic poker game but they forgot about the money. On the other hand, if you want to see a documentary and real poker action, you probably won't choose a James Bond film.

© 2008 Andrew

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Although I agree with you that the last hand is pretty crazy to have 115 million in the hand...

You have to remember that everybody bought in with 10 million and it's a tournament, which means the last hand of the tournament HAS to be worth millions and millions.

Watch the final table from the WSOP a few years back at its apex and the last few hands are for millions and millions of dollars because the two players effectively have EVERY dollar from everybody that entered into the tournament.

Still, that is absurd. The flush would have folded, I could see a full house losing to a straight flush, and obviously the movie was done with obvious hands so that the general public (who doesn't follow poker closely) can understand.


I used to work with Tom on a poker show, great guy and a very well executed scene. Read more about this here:
I disagree that the flush would fold as he was the first to act after two rounds of checks. What he should have done is put a feeler bet of about 500000 after the turn, you can get an idea of where you are that way. As a person who enjoys playing poker I took it for what it was, a film. I enjoyed the game for what it brought to the film not for the strength and or weakness of the players, it needed silly unrealistic hands to add to the drama, after all if LeChiffre was such a genius why would he call an all in bet with A6o when all Bond needed was A8o to have a higher full house. Quite a donk move. Anyway, anybody over analysing the game needs to lighten up a bit me thinks.
This comment is hilarious. You want the guy to put in a "feeler" bet of 500,000? At this point in the tournament, the big blind was 1 million. So a bet of 500 thousand would be illegal, as minimum bet is equal to the big blind. Even if that wasn't the case, this would still be a ridiculous thing to do. The man had 6 big blinds! Is he going to bet a million and then fold to a shove with the nut flush? That's insane. It was a "donk" move to call with aces full of sixes? Do you know how unlikely it was he was beat there? Do you see how crazy it would be to fold because Bond "only" needs A8?
"The first player only has a flush - a surprisingly weak play." Um, what? Have you never played poker before? A flush usually will beat just about anything in real life. In an average game you'll get a flush once, maybe twice. People win Poker tournaments with pairs of 5s all the time. Flushes are huge. What's really unrealistic about this scene is #1 how apparently nobody bet anything pre-flop, as the first player's K-Q is high, as is the villain's A6... as is the 2nd player's pocket 8s. And then apparently none of them bet anything on the flop either. And THEN, how by the turn everyone already had ridiculously powerful hands, which were even more ridiculous on the river. Nothing about this game was realistic in the least.
The real realism question is how does Bond call what are likely to be large value bets after the flop holding only a straight flush draw? As was said, it's only a movie...and we join the action on the hand only after Bond has turned the mortal nuts.

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