Live & Let Lie: The Truth Behind the James Bond Roulette Strategy

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The irony of the information age is that the truth has never been more obscured and harder to find. Lies and half-truths thrive on the Internet; the endless hunger for content, blurring fact and fiction.

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Good content – according to the mighty Gods of Google – should inform and entertain. It should be trustworthy, credible, and helpful. It should meet the wants of the content seeker.


Spoiler Alert: the James Bond Strategy Doesn’t Exist

james bond roulette strategy .
Image: brava_67/Flickr

So, the brief was to explain the James Bond roulette strategy.

The problem is: it doesn’t really exist. It’s a fabrication.

Google the phrase ‘James Bond roulette strategy’ and nothing appears until March 2013. Only then, did someone add two and two together to make 007.

Here’s the thing: writers are lazy. How easy it is to simply rehash incorrect information.

Yes: in the book Casino Royale, Bond does play roulette – and he does use his favorite ‘gambit’.

But he simply bets two thirds of the table and gets lucky. There is no system.

Why the James Bond Roulette Strategy Doesn’t Make Any Sense

According to the Internet, the James Bond roulette strategy has Bond betting 70% of the total stake on numbers 19 – 36, 25% of the stake on 13 – 18, and the final 5% on the zero.

None of this is in Casino Royale.

In fact, in the novel Casino Royale, Bond wins six times in a row, by just covering the first two groups of 12 at the table.

He loses on the seventh game and doesn’t play the eighth; when a zero hits. Bond dodges this zero (this piece of luck cheered him further’).

If Bond was betting his own system, landing the zero would have been a win.

The word ‘roulette’ is featured in the book Casino Royale exactly 12 times. Baccarat is mentioned 20 times.

If you want to find James Bond at the casino, he will probably be at the baccarat table; that’s his game. It’s the game where Le Chiffre gets his comeuppance.

Of course: in the Daniel Craig Casino Royale, Texas Hold’em is the game du jour; a much better choice than baccarat.

At least poker requires some skill, strategy and eye contact. Baccarat is primarily a game of chance.

Where the Made-Up System Came From

It is often said: ‘repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it’.

Google the same ‘James Bond roulette strategy’ phrase today, and you get 100s – if not 1,000s – of results; nearly all repeating the same misinformation.

Of course, there is no smoke without fire. There is a reason that some canny blogging Blofeld turned Dr No into Dr Maybe.

James Bond’s creator Ian Fleming did have a preferred roulette system, so that part is true.

You can find it in his 1963 travelogue Thrilling Cities; a compilation of articles Fleming wrote for the Sunday Times, between 1959 and 1960.

Ian Fleming’s World Tour

Leonard Russell, the features editor for the Sunday Times, invited Fleming to take a 35-day, all-expenses-paid, trip around the world.

In 1959, armed with £500 in travelers’ cheques (the equivalent of more than $14,000 today), Fleming visited Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York.

The Sunday Times chairman Roy Thomson loved the articles so much, he commissioned Fleming to take a second tour.

This time, it was Europe; with visits to Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Geneva, Naples, and Monte Carlo.

Now, we are getting closer. In the final article, the last chapter of the book, Fleming heads to the casino at Monte Carlo.

He is not impressed:Do not approach casinos with timidity or reverence. They are simply fruit-machines tended by bank clerks and mechanics. Be relaxed and confident. They are very pleased to have you come in and will be sorry to see you go.’

He adds: Part of the trouble with the Monte Carlo rooms is that they were built in an age of elegance for elegant people, and the gambling nowadays has the drabness of a Strauss operetta played in modern dress.

james bond ian fleming
Ian Fleming and Sean Connery. [Image: IMDB]
Despite his reservations about the venue, Fleming grabs a seat at the roulette table (Remember: a seat at the table is essential. Most people lose money in a casino because their feet get so tired, they decide to fritter away a few chips and go to bed.’).

Fleming meets a woman he knows at the casino; he recalls what she says: I suppose James Bond’s got an infallible system,’ she said frostily. ‘Why don’t you let other people in on his secret? Tell me, or I’ll never speak to you again.’

And now we get to the meat of the matter: Fleming’s system, which is – by default – James Bond’s system.

The Real James Bond System

Fleming’s system is called the Labouchère (aka split martingale); named after English 19th century politician and avid gambler Henry Du Pré Labouchère; anti-women, antisemite, fiercely homophobic, and pro-gambling.

A libertarian on his own terms: gambling is fine, everything else: nope.

The system is basically a mathematical device that helps you keep track of your bankroll. You write out a list of numbers and add and subtract, depending on your wins and losses.

You need deep pockets, and steady nerves, to make it work.

All it takes is a run of losses, a couple of zeros, and it all goes south. Whatever way you skin it, in the long run, the roulette table – much like Bond – always wins.

Curious? Fleming goes into great detail about his system in Thrilling Cities.

Lie Another Day


That’s as close to a real James Bond roulette strategy, as we could find: Fictional Bond bets two thirds of the table, his creator plays the Labouchère.

Can you imagine James Bond standing at the roulette table; a beautiful girl on his arm, in his hand a piece of paper with a sequence of numbers.

From across the table, a surly, one-eyed man stares at him: “Mr Bond… are you holding the codes to the nuclear warhead?”

“No… it’s my beat the roulette system, mate. One more win on red and the dry martinis are on me!”


  1. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
  2. Thrilling Cities, Ian Fleming
Paul Cullen
Casino Industry Expert
Paul Cullen
Casino Industry Expert

Paul Cullen is an industry veteran, with a track record that stretches back to day one. He started his career as a copywriter and creative for the world’s very first online sportsbook: There was no one else. Since then, he has seen the industry evolve and grow, working at BetonSports, BetWWTS, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, InterCasino, PartyGaming, Mansion, Bodog, Casino Choice, Costa Bingo and Casumo. The evolution of Internet gaming, the arrival of the online casino, the poker revolution, and the bingo boom. He’s got the t-shirt.