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Casino Royale | Chapter 10 : The High Table | Summary



James Bond leaves Vesper Lynd with Felix Leiter and mentally prepares for the upcoming game of baccarat. He takes Seat 6, directly opposite the banker's chair, and waits for the remaining players to arrive. He will be playing alongside wealthy industrialists, an actress, a maharajah, an English lord and his rich American wife, and a well-known Greek gambler. Le Chiffre arrives and the game begins.

The Greek gambler in Seat 1 accepts the first bet. He stays with two cards, which means he definitely has cards valued at five or above. Le Chiffre flips over his cards to reveal a four and a five, "an undefeatable natural nine." The Greek's cards only add up to seven. Le Chiffre wins, and the Greek accepts the next bet. He loses. The next four players pass and Bond enters the game.


Bond is playing with high rollers tonight, but the only person he really needs to worry about is Le Chiffre. His quick survey of the other players reveals a group of extremely wealthy but not necessarily confident players. They may take too many foolish risks, which is in Bond's favor. His goal is to bankrupt Le Chiffre, and the easiest way to do that is to win two or three very large bets. The values of the bets increase only if Le Chiffre wins. Bond's decision to take Seat 6 gives other players a chance to lose and raise the stakes before Bond has a chance to accept a bet—and that's to his advantage.

In another writer's hands, the scenes at the baccarat table could come across as boring. After all, the only real action is the flipping of cards and the exchanging of plaques—the plastic gaming chips used to represent money during the game. Fleming, however, has a gift for turning otherwise boring activities into tense, high-stakes events through the use of imagery. His similes and metaphors transform the Greek's hands, for example, into "two watchful pink crabs," which "scuttl[e] out together" to gather the proffered cards. The table on which they play is a "grass-green baize battlefield" that will "soak up the blood of its victims and refresh itself." The lush descriptions of even the most basic objects lend an air of drama to a rather uneventful scene.

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