Baccarat vs. Poker

The switch in Casino Royale from the baccarat of the novel to poker for the film drove a lot of fans crazy. Including me. It’s Ian Fleming, for fuxake! That’s a total baccarat situation! And when people like co-producer Michael Wilson have talked about the switch, they’ve mostly said that people don’t understand the rules to baccarat, and all that.

Which is true, except the rules to baccarat are insanely simple. Only the rules of betting are complex. In the novel, Leiter was there partially to have baccarat explained to him; an American wouldn’t know the rules, and Fleming liked his exposition to come in the form of dialogue (often involving Leiter).

But the more I think about it, the more I think it’s a good idea. And believe it or not, I was thinking about it over breakfast.

Here’s the thing. Baccarat is pure luck. The movie version of Vesper Lynd would’ve lost her shit had she learned that Bond was betting the treasury on a game that’s pretty much 50/50. In the novel, Bond understands baccarat to be a game of nerve, to face your opponent down and be able to handle the stress of increasing amounts of money on the table, all risked on the turn of a card that may or may not wipe you out.

Contrast that to poker, a game of nerve, yes, but also skill, calculation, judgement, and psychology. It’s not just understanding the game that’s better for the audience, but also what goes on between and among the players, and what’s worth paying attention to.

Actually, if Bond visits casinos in future movies, I wouldn’t be averse to seeing poker again.

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7 Responses to “Baccarat vs. Poker”

  1. Butterfly Says:

    In a totally nerdy move, I bought the Casino Royale poker chip set made by GaraMundi (sp) the same company that made the chips for the movie. Its very cool and I recommend it.
    I had the same reaction on the chemin de fer vs texas hold em until I realized that baccarat requires multiple decks making it harder for the home gamers. Hold em is easier to play, and its cool to flip the chips in your hand a la le Chiffre!

  2. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Le Chiffre’s chip-flip is very cool. I have a deck of CR playing cards, but not the chips.

  3. Boromir006 Says:

    I blew a gasket when I first heard that baccarat was being replaced with poker – at the time it seemed only a “cash in on the craze” move. But it was absolutely the correct decision, and worked beautifully in the movie – for the very reasons you suggest.

  4. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Yeah, it did seem like it was about the craze. I wonder if they knew how many advantages they were introducing?

  5. Butterfly Says:

    they probably did. Lets face it, baccarat is unkown to what 90% of today’s movie goer? Having a one hour centerpiece of your movie a game that no one knows how to play would be commercial suicide. Time marches on, they merely marched with it. Its all good.

  6. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Butterfly, that’s kind of what I meant. I suspect they were just thinking of the unknown factor, the confusion factor. But they did better than that by shifting from “luck and nerve” to skill and calculation, and I wonder if they realized that. I don’t actually think so, not in advance anyway. At least, none of the interviews with Wilson or Campbell have mentioned it.

  7. Not one of the great bond films IMO.

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