Famous (and Unexpected) Gamblers through History, Part 3

Famous (and Unexpected) Gamblers through History, Part 3

Who’s the most famous gambler you can think of, either real or fictional? One person who probably springs to mind is 007, James Bond, with his passion for cards and his ubiquitous presence in the casinos of Europe.

In previous articles, we’ve covered a famous author from the 19th century, and a card shark-turned-US President. But we haven’t talked about the man who was 007.

Would it surprise you to learn, then, that the actor who played the original James Bond has also had his share of luck in the casino? Ladies and Gentlemen, the name’s Connery, Sean Connery.

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The Original and Best?

The very same. Sean Connery, the man who played 007 in the original Bond films, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was exposed to gambling from an early age. In one interview, he said that he had accompanied his father during the latter’s gambling activities in pubs in their neighborhood of Fountainbridge when still a young boy.

Evidently, the bug bit at an early age, then, as he later went on to play one of the most famous gamblers in literary history, and also to pull off some rather unlikely yet impressive wins in reality.

The Legend of James Bond

As we all know, Sean Connery’s most famous roles were in the original 007 films, which introduced the trope of gambling to the Bond film character, something which, though mentioned, had been absent from the novels.

Indeed, the introduction of James Bond to the world, the iconic scene with Sean Connery lighting a cigarette before answering with the classic phrase, “Bond… James Bond,” takes place during a high-stakes game of Baccarat. Bond, of course, shows off his skills, winning several hands against Sylvia Trench.

Bond’s behavior in the casino was meant to establish him as a man of class and fine taste. His success, of course, also made the audience respect him. Sean Connery himself, though, was no slouch at the gambling table, becoming something of a legend for his seemingly impossible win shortly after his breakthrough role in Dr No.

Dr No was released in 1962, to relatively mixed reviews, but it became financially very successful. As we know, the casino scene has become a staple of popular culture. But what happened afterwards is even more impressive.

The Man, Sean Connery

In January 1963, Connery took a trip to the Casino de la Vallee in Saint-Vincent, Italy, where he proceeded to play a few spins of roulette. Bearing in mind the odds on roulette, this was a bit of a risky endeavor, but with great risks could come great rewards.

He placed a bet on number 17, spun the wheel, and… lost. He tried once more, and again, predictably, he lost. But third time’s the charm, as they say, and on his third attempt, he managed to hit the number 17. Not too shabby!

This in itself isn’t that incredible, though, as the odds of the ball landing on any one number are 37 to 1 (in European roulette, at least), but this is where the story gets more exciting. Leaving his winnings on number 17, he again spun the wheel, and, amazingly, the ball landed on number 17 — a simply incredible occurrence.

But the man who played James Bond wasn’t finished yet. Betting on number 17 for the 5th time in total, he left his winnings on number 17, the croupier spun the wheel, and amazingly, the ball landed on number 17 for the third time.

What are the Odds of That?!

As you can imagine, the chances of the ball landing on the same number 3 times in a row in roulette happening are pretty unlikely. In fact, it’s about a 50,000-to-1 chance of that happening (to put it into perspective, Costa Rica were given a 2,500-to-1 chance of winning the World Cup!).

As a result, Sean Connery walked away with a massive 17 million Lire win, which translates into about £163,000 in today’s money. Not bad for 3 spins of the roulette wheel!

The Legend Continues

Legend has it that, for years after this incredible occurrence, croupiers reported that the most commonly played number in Roulette became 17. And, in a homage to his incredible (personal) win, Sean Connery also won on number 17 while playing James Bond in the 1971 film Diamonds are Forever.

Sean Connery, ladies and gentlemen: international man of mystery, iconic actor, suave gambler, and a man who started a legend!