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Casino Royale was Ian Fleming's first book, completed at his Jamaican estate Goldeneye, and according to legend on the eve of his wedding. The book introduces the character James Bond 007 and a choice selection of Fleming villains, but it's also a bit of a tutorial on the rules of the game and the art of chemin de fer, or baccarat.

What makes baccarat so interesting is not only that the stakes are high, but that the odds are so even. Mathematically the 'house' or dealer has only a 1% advantage, and draws are not decided in favor of either party, but played over.

The game carries with it its own mythology. Fleming speaks of the 'sound barrier', that magical ceiling of two winning hands in a row, and the empirical fact that rarely, if ever, does either player break it. But when someone does, they can be on a run that lasts forever.

It's the right-most digit in the total of your cards that counts - 9 is the highest score, but 10 becomes zero again - the lowest score. You start at two, get at most three cards.

Dealing baccarat is a science: The dealer can and should know for any given hand exactly what to do. Four cards are dealt face down, whereupon the player must decide whether to take a third card or not. (In the game, your cards as the player are already turned face up for you, but you'll just have to trust that the dealer can't see them.)

Even the player should be a bit of a rocket scientist. Knowing that 9 is the highest possible score, and knowing what hand you have, you can calculate exactly when you should take a third card and when you should not. But the dealer is counting on your discretion too: Your decision to take or to not take a third card will influence his own decision.

But there is one case where this does not matter: When either player has an 8 or a 9 with the first two cards - a natural. In this case both players turns their cards over and the higher of the two wins. Note that you have to declare a natural in baccarat: Missing your opportunity doesn't count.

Royale starts you with a bankload of 50,000 (francs, Kreuger rand, whatever). You bet as little as 1000, as much as 20000. When you're broke, the game is over. If you quit with at least 100000 in your pocket, you may be invited to join the Royale Hall of Fame.

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