James Bond has always been a gambler of sorts, he loves to push himself beyond any normal means of rationality, he takes chances, and usually finds himself in the black. An addictive personality, Bond allows himself to experience the pleasures of the world: women, fine alcohol, cars, guns, and gadgets. Yet some of 007's most exciting moments have come at the card table.
In The World Is Not Enough Bond indulges in a little blackjack in order to get information about the murderous Renard from Valentin Zukovsky. The scene is brief, but it is a staple of the Bond franchise: gambling scenes happen at the start of the films in order to introduce characters. When 007 takes part in a game, he usually loses during the first hand, but makes a spectacular comeback in the second bet to embarrass potential antagonists. Along with The World Is Not Enough, there were Dr. No, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, Goldeneye, Diamonds Are Forever, Octopussy, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and perhaps the most definitive rendering of gambling in a Bond film, Casino Royale.
In Casino Royale, Bond finds himself facing off Le Chiffre, a man renowned for his banking services for terrorists and his high-stakes poker games. Montenegro is the last chance for Le Chiffre to win back his money if he wants to continue to run in the nefarious circles he does. While the spectacular set-pieces of Casino Royale start and end the film, undoubtedly, the most suspenseful moments of the film are when Bond is holding cards.
Here, we have Bond directly across the table with one of the biggest money managers in the world. If he loses, then M16 will have directly funded terrorism on a large scale. The camera lingers on Bond's and Le Chiffre's faces as each of these men eye each other. They each know that if either man loses, he faces gargantuan stakes. The immediacy of the event cannot be understated. If Le Chiffre walks away from that table with ten million pounds, the world will see an event of massive consequence. Bond must win this game.
Now, James is no stranger to losing money at the tables, but when he does, he takes it in stride (an amazing feat considering his civil servant's salary). However his enemies very rarely show such composure when they lose. Unfortunately for Bond in Royale, when Le Chiffre loses the grand finale of the poker game he does not take it lightly. In one of the more infamous scenes in a 007 film, Le Chiffre hopes to make Bond less of a man, literally. Maybe Le Chiffre should stick to an online casino, or at the very least stop playing with other men's money.