Casino Royale | Study Guide

Ian Fleming

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Casino Royale | Chapter 9 : The Game is Baccarat | Summary



Vesper Lynd tells James Bond the third man involved with that afternoon's bombing was caught heading toward Paris. He confessed everything. The men were promised two million francs (approximately $52,720 in today's USD) and armed with everything needed to get the job done. They were told the red camera case was an explosive while the blue camera case was a smoke bomb to provide cover for their getaway. However, both camera cases held explosives. The agent who hired them lied to make the men think they'd get out alive. The only reason Bond survived was because they decided to set off the "smoke" bomb so no one would see them throw the "real" bomb. The third man—who was hiding nearby—saw the explosion and ran. Later, at the police station, he realized they were set up. Unfortunately, the authorities can't find evidence connecting the bombing to Le Chiffre.

Bond asks Vesper how she came to be involved in the operation. She explains she is the personal assistant to the Head of S., who came up with the plan and wanted his department to play a role in its execution. She says everyone in her office was jealous she got to work with a Double O agent. Bond says "it's not difficult to get a Double O number if you're prepared to kill people." He tells her about the two men he killed to earn his designation.

Vesper begins to comment on how lovely the meal would be if only they weren't working, and Bond, fearing he has blurred the lines of their professional relationship, changes the subject to the plan for the evening. Vesper is "thoroughly deflated by his harshness" and mentally chastises herself for not paying more attention to the Head of S., who told her Bond is without "much heart" and is "absolute hell to work for." She vows not to let herself get drawn in by him again as he explains the finer points of baccarat and his strategy for beating Le Chiffre.


Baccarat is not a complicated game, but it does take a little explanation to understand. This is how it's played:

  • The banker (in this scenario, Le Chiffre) sits on one side of the table while the other 10 players sit across from him. He announces an opening bet of 500,000 francs (approximately $13,180 in today's USD). The player in Seat 1 can accept the bet or pass to Seat 2, who can accept or pass to Seat 3, and so on. If nobody takes the bet, players and onlookers can combine their money to reach the bet amount.
  • When the bet is accepted, the banker deals two cards to himself and to his opponent. The goal of the game is to have the values of the cards in one's hand come as close to nine as possible. This can be done with two or three cards. Each card is worth its numerical value except face cards and 10s, which are worth zero. If the sum of one's cards exceeds nine, only the last numeral in the number counts. For example, if Bond was dealt a seven and a five, he would have two, not twelve.
  • The opponent looks at his cards first. If the count of his two cards is lower than five, then he asks for a third card. If the count of the two cards is higher than five, then he does not request a third card. A count of five is the "turning point of the game." The odds of players improving or hurting their count is exactly even with a count of five, so players' decisions must be made on gut instinct, not statistical probability.
  • The banker then decides if he wishes to take a third card or not.
  • Both players turn their cards faceup. The player whose count is closest to nine wins.
  • If the banker wins, the amount of the bet doubles and the process begins again. If the banker loses, the amount of the bet goes back to 500,000 francs and the next player is given the opportunity to play.

Bond plans to "attack" Le Chiffre's bank as much as possible, which means he will accept every bet no matter how high it is. He hopes his aggression will unnerve his opponent and provoke him into making bad decisions.

Bond's aggression has already unnerved one person this evening—Vesper. Her reaction to Bond's sudden change of mood is unusual not because her feelings are hurt, but because readers are aware of her feelings at all. Up to this point Fleming has used a third-person narrator with a limited point of view. The narrator has had access only to Bond's thoughts and feelings. Yet as Vesper and Bond dine, the narrator adopts an omniscient point of view, which means he knows what all the characters are thinking.

This narrative omniscience recurs randomly throughout the rest of the book. From a literary perspective, this inconsistency in voice could be considered sloppy writing, which may be why some critics consider Casino Royale and the rest of the James Bond series to be pulpy entertainment instead of thoughtful literature, written with a certain art, but not art per se. It also brings up questions about the way Fleming presents Vesper. She is shown as being romantically interested in Bond during their dinner, yet her thoughts never touch upon her role as double agent. Determined to do a good job for SIS, she apparently and unrealistically has no concerns about the pressure exerted on her by the Soviet Secret Service. Yet Fleming portrays her as innocent until the very end when all of a sudden she's revealed to be working for the other side. His one-dimensional treatment of Vesper's character may be seen to do a disservice to the story as a whole, though it is consistent with the misogyny throughout the book.

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