'The two cards slithered towards him across the green sea. Like an octopus under a rock, Le Chiffre watched him from the other side of the table. Bond reached out a steady right hand and drew the cards towards him. Would it be the lift of the heart which a nine brings, or an eight brings?'

That, of course, was the question. It is always the question, whether you are James Bond sitting calmly in the Casino Royale, or a happy holidaymaker trying your luck on a night out on the town...The casino is a place where you can have more intense excitement during a few short beats of your heart than you could expect in an entire year watching your stocks and shares rise and fall.

Roulette, blackjack, craps, baccarat or poker, it's all the same - in a casino you live for the moment. Predicting that moment, waiting for it and the potential elation at the moment itself, that is what lures people to have fun in the burgeoning number of casinos all over the world. And the very latest world-class casinos are increasingly available on board luxury liners, adding a fantastic glitz and chic to the concept of 'having a flutter'. The American-based company Century Casinos Inc. has just announced the opening of the second of its four shipboard casinos being installed on the famous Silversea luxury cruise vessels.

As one punter put it, while playing the tables on board the Silver Cloud liner somewhere in the blue Mediterranean last week, 'Rolling dice just got to be a lot more fun.'

What To Expect

There can be something a little daunting about walking into a casino for the first time. Even regular patrons can feel a touch nervous as they anticipate an evening of chance. So here are some of the basics of casino-life ...

You could say there are two types of gambling; one involves nothing more than sheer luck, the other incorporates good fortune and skill. All casino games involve luck, so experts suggest that a sensible plan is to learn a game involving skill and learn to play it well. This, obviously, increases your chances of winning.

Modern casino games that involve some degree of skill include blackjack, craps, video poker, Pai Gow poker and sports betting. The former are card-based games where a knowledge of combinations and odds can greatly increase your chances. The latter are betting-style games that give you some chance to analyse previous form.

Craps, played with dice, is in a category of its own, but still involves some skill as experienced players learn two inseparable golden words: 'wager wisely'. In other words, the experienced player knows how to manage his or her bets sensibly. They might also know some of the extraordinary language used by the 'stickmen' who run the game. 'Snake eyes', for instance, refers to two-craps when there's a single spot showing on each die. 'Muleteeth' is when the dice show 12-craps and there are the maximum six spots showing on each die. Twelve on the dice is also called 'midnight'. There are, of course, hundreds of other obscure terms in this most popular of casino games.

The original James Bond would have regarded craps as a little crude, but Ian Fleming's special agent of the 1950s simply wouldn't recognise many of today's casino games. It's likely that he'd have demurred if anyone had offered him a spin on a slot machine, a dabble in a lottery, or a quick nibble at a scratch ticket. None of these games requires any degree of skill and people play because they have the money to buy a stake and because they enjoy the fun. It's as simple as that.

But centre stage at any casino is the roulette wheel. As most people know, this almost mystical device is marked up with the numbers 1 to 36, as well as 0 and 00. They are alternately coloured red and black, with the exception of 0 and 00, which are green. After buying chips from the dealer (each player is given a different colour) there are almost limitless betting combinations available. You can bet on a single number, a dozen numbers, a column of numbers, a corner of four numbers, on red or black, odd or even, for green or 0 or 00. Bets may be placed until the moment the dealer announces 'no more bets' as the ball begins to drop having been spun on the wheel. Odds, of course, are determined by the combinations selected by the player, but they range from 35-to-1 to even money.

So much for life at the casino, but what other extravagances await the modern-day James Bond?

Well, had the original 007 been around to enjoy life on one of the casino-equipped Silversea liners, he would undoubtedly have felt very much at home. Fabulous luxury at every touch and turn, the latest technology ... These ships would have had Bond happily stirred, but not in the least bit shaken. Especially when he learned that Silversea is the only company to receive the coveted 'World's Best' designation by Condé Nast Traveler magazine for five years running.

Imagine enjoying breakfast alfresco on your private veranda, watching the ocean pass by in a warm breeze under a golden sun. A morning massage, a stroll around the deck, another pamper at the Mandara spa, a tour around the designer boutiques, a workout in the fitness centre. All this before a sumptuous lunch!

Well, that's the tough life aboard one of these unbelievably luxurious cruise ships. Each suite is beautifully appointed with all the comforts of home, complete with a full sized marble bath. Silversea ensures luxury is found in every detail. Cut crystal, crisp Frette linen, personalised stationery, Bvlgari soap, shampoo and lotion... and three-quarters of the suites have their own teak verandas.

The list of refinements goes on and we haven't even mentioned the fabulous dining facilities yet. Dear old Bond would have loved the whole concept and would, no doubt, have found himself feeling cooler and bolder than ever, on the way down to the casino for a dabble at chemin de fer...

Useful contacts

Silversea Cruises is a six-star, ultra-luxury cruise line based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida - visit their website at www.silversea.com.

Century Casinos is an international company with more than 100 casinos in 25 different countries.
Their address is:
200 E. Bennett Ave
(P.O. Box 1006)
Cripple Creek
CO 80813
Tel: (719) 689-9100
Fax: (719) 689-9700
Web site: www.centurycasinos.com

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