Monday, August 6, 2007

Casino Royale

So a while ago, before I created this blog, I saw Casino Royale and, since they played a lot of poker, I'd been asked by a couple of friends for my opinions on the depiction of poker in the film.

The very first scene, where Bond was at a ring game and the dealer insisted on table stakes was my first "Yes!" moment. So often in the movies they make a big deal about one player or another trying to either add a marker to a bet or what not, where the reality of modern poker games is that table stakes is all you ever see. I don't think the casino would have (or should have) allowed the car as a bet, since there was no way to quickly establish the value of it so that Bond could correctly match the bet, but whatever.

That takes us to the tournament. Which had some issues.

1. They splash the pot a lot when making bets, particularly all-ins. If you are a monster chip-lead at the table and you go all-in, the usual move is to put out a small token stack of chips as you say "all-in," not to take your hands and mush a big pile of chips forward. After the hand, if you win, you don't have such a mess to clean up if you do it the right way. If you lose, the dealer will count your opponent's stack and tell you exactly how much to count out to double him up.

2. This was a tournament. That being the case, the apparent relationship between the buy-in amounts and the tournament chip denominations is fiction. The players were regularly making "million dollar" bets and raises, but it would be far more likely for them to start with T$10000. And if this was Montenegro, wouldn't it all have been in Euros?

3. Vesper should not have had any qualms about giving Bond the re-buy. His entire explanation should have been, "Bad beat (shrug)." Her response, "That's poker. Go try again." If he was bluffing with 72o, it would have been a different story, but he had LeChiff beat until the river.

4. The last hand had some issues. When the two short-stacks moved all-in, there was $30M in the pot. LeChiff's raise of $6M was way, way, way too small. Given his hand, he should have pushed all-in at that moment. The showdown was also wrong. Bond was the last player not all-in to take aggressive action, so he would have been first to show his hand. He would have shown the straight-flush and everybody else would have mucked. Not nearly as dramatic, of course. But if LeChiff had raised the correct amount, then he would have had to show first and Bond would have shown second - the side pots always come before the main. Another way that play could have gone would have been for LeChiff and Bond to just check the hand down. Their real interests were in getting rid of the short stacks and going heads-up for the tournament. It's hard to make a case for that play with a boat and a straight flush, but it would have been a reasonable alternative. The saying is, "Never bluff into a dry side-pot." Finally, What was Bond doing anywhere NEAR that last hand with 57s? That's a donkey play. It would have been defensible if he was the big blind and was allowed to check, but from what I could tell, he was on the button. Maybe he raised on the button to steal, but then I'd be surprised that he got 3 callers. It would have been far more plausible for him to have shown A8 for a better boat than LeChiff's Aces-over-6s (he would have had top two pair on the flop, too, though at that point the two short stacks had a set of 8s and a flush and were both beating him). In the film, until the turn, all he had was the 7-flush with an outside straight-flush draw. Yes, it's a flush, but it's vulnerable to an over-flush (which in this case the short stack actually had). Last, but not least, if there was $20M in the pot before the flop, why weren't the short stacks already all-in? ESPECIALLY the guy with 8s? What, exactly, were they saving the extra $5M and $6M for? He could have easily pushed Bond out pre-flop, and probably LeChiff as well. The two blinds would have battled it out and the flush would have been sent packing and the 8-boat would have doubled up. The three-handed chip-stacks would have been not entirely unreasonable, with LeChiff and Bond both about even with about 40% chips each and the short stack with 20%.

5. At the end, Bond tipped the dealer with what would have been a tournament chip with no actual monetary value. Asshole. You know that's the case because of all of the real money shenanigans with the passwords and the telephoning into swiss bank accounts and on and on that followed. If the chips were money, then he wouldn't have bothered with any of that. He simply would have cashed them out.

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