Forget Texas Hold ’em, James bond would never play such a common and crude game — unless he was seducing a beautiful woman that is. Along with shaken vodka martinis, tuxedos, Walther PPKs and women with oddly suggestive names, Bond’s game was baccarat.
I’ll forgive you for not knowing about baccarat if you’re only familiar with the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig interpretations of this British icon; these roguish Bonds lacked the subtly, in my opinion, to enjoy this simple yet elegant card game.
Lucky for you I do remember Sir Thomas Sean Connery’s Bond movies, and am prepared to take you on a step-by-step cultural journey, which — unless I have miscalculated — will leave you a suave Casanova, equipped to seduce anyone your heart desires.
Step one: Look the part
You could walk up to a baccarat table looking like one of Burton Cumming’s backup singers, but why would you? Jeans, T-shirts and sneakers are out. Instead, have your manservant retrieve your tuxedo from the wardrobe. After all, the clothes make the man.
A money clip bursting with $50 and $100 bills is also advisable, as baccarat is a game of high stakes, often with a $25 per hand minimum.
Step two: Act the part
A tuxedo won’t do a lick of good if you drag your feet and insist on discussing what happened on Mad Men last night. Baccarat players are a cultured sort, so be sure to brush up on your geo-politics and romance languages before leaving the house, lest you embarrass your self by not knowing who the current regent of Siam is.
Careful not to be too cultured though; that’s where your drink comes in.
Now, anyone who knows martinis knows that you: A: make them with gin, and B: stir them so as to not over chill the drink or bruise the gin’s aromatics. Not Bond’s martini though. He lets the spectators know he’s keepin’ it real by ordering a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.
A century of martini making be damned!
Step three: The game
Now that you’re looking and acting like a baccarat player, you are ready play a few hands.
In baccarat, the “player” opposes the “banker,” or house. The objective is to get a hand consisting of two or three cards whose point-value is closest to nine. Two to nine cards are taken at face value, aces are one point, and tens, jacks, queens and kings are worth zero.
Your score is the sum of your cards unless you go over nine. If your cards total more than nine, 10 points are deducted from your total.
So, for example, if you draw a two and a three card, you score five points. However, if you were to draw a nine and an eight card, you would score seven points, since 10 would be deducted from your total of 17. If you draw a six and a four card your score would be zero.
There are more rules, mostly governing when a third card is drawn by the bank, but they are a bit complex and inconsequential to your goal of appearing and acting sophisticated.
The trick of baccarat is that you can choose to bet on either your hand or that of the bank, and the larger you bet — keeping in mind that large bets are expected in baccarat — the more “oohs” and “ahhs” you can expect from the crowd of beautiful people, which will no doubt surround you as soon as you sit down.
So there you have it: a practical and comprehensive guide to your life as a sophisticate.