Thursday, November 08, 2012

Travel Report: APPT Macau, ACOP Main Event, Day 2

After a short Day 1 on Wednesday, yesterday’s Day 2 of the Asia Championship of Poker Main Event was a long one, starting and ending late. Just 56 players survived the day, and the plan is for them to return today and play down to the bursting of cash bubble at 22.

The start time was pushed back to 5 p.m. yesterday to allow players and staff to sleep a little later following the late night party at the D2 Club in Macau. I said last post I’d link to some video of ElkY dancing to PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” Here’s a post I did yesterday with some pics (including one of ElkY) and a PokerNews video at the end which doesn’t show the dancing but gives a sense of the scene nonetheless.

Having a little bit of time on my hands yesterday, I took a cab to the Venetian Macao Casino located not too far from the Grand Waldo here on the Taipa Island of Macau. Really had no particular plan in mind other than to go see for myself what the world’s largest casino looked like.

After a short cab ride over, I took the main entrance and didn’t have to walk for very long before arriving at the casino that appears to occupy most of the street-level floor. It’s a massive building -- 40 stories high, the largest hotel in Asia, and apparently the sixth largest building, period, in the entire world.

Once you pass the guards and enter the gaming area, the casino extends on as far as you can see. Apparently there are 800 tables and 3,400 slot machines, and I’d spend probably an hour or more just walking around watching.

There were blackjack, craps, and roulette and other “money wheel”-type games. But the most popular games going were baccarat and Sic Bo, the latter being kind of version a roulette with dice. And those tables were packed, especially the baccarat ones, with all seats often occupied plus 10-20 people encircling the players, either sweating the action or placing bets themselves.

Baccarat is a drawing game involving the “player” and “banker” which allows players to bet on either to win (or on a tie), and for which the cards’ numerical value is all that matters (i.e., suits aren’t involved). If you’re curious, you can read the rules here and then visit this site where you can play a free flash version of baccarat to get a better idea of how the game is played.

It took me a while to appreciate the fact that many of the tables I watched had minimum bets of 800 or 1,000 Hong Kong dollars, and in a lot of cases the minimum was higher than that. (I didn’t wander into any of the “high stakes” areas.) In other words, the minimum bet was the equivalent of about $100 USD, although players usually were betting a lot more than that.

Afterwards Remko was quoting a statistic to me about the average wager in Macau being several times that placed Vegas, and searching online I’m seeing various references to that being the case.

I didn’t hang out at any one table for very long, usually just standing behind the crowd and watching a single hand before moving on. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but afterwards wondered if maybe I’d have been considered bad luck had I gotten too close or was too conspicuous with my railing. I suppose I was drawing on these years of learning how to be discreet while watching poker hands being played. Also helped that at six feet I’m taller than most here and thus could easily watch from a distance, standing behind the crowds.

Two players would be designated the “player” and “banker” each hand and thus were allowed to squeeze the cards, which they’d routinely mangle and crease to the point of destroying them, the dealers dropping the no-longer-usable cards in a plastic box for discarding later. All hands featured multiple players betting, and it seemed like most of the time everyone would bet the same way, thus eliciting a collective response one way or the other when the hand completed.

Like I say, baccarat and Sic Bo were really the main games getting most of the action. I did see in one corner some poker happening. I can’t tell you how many tables were reserved for poker, but it looked like only a couple were active. I believe the limits were $50/$100 (HKD).

I’m reading online about how the Venetian casino has different themed areas -- Golden Fish, Imperial House, Red Dragon and Phoenix -- but to be honest I didn’t really appreciate any distinctions between one area and another as I walked around. That is to say, there was a kind of coherence to the design all over the sprawling room, and I felt at times the place resembled a small city with neighborhoods of citizens all focused on their games.

There was smoking, and indeed afterwards I could feel in my lungs having been exposed to cigarette smoke more than usual, but it didn’t seem overly bothersome while I was there. In fact, the casino seemed especially clean with air freshener being pumped through to giving a more mall-like ambience.

I left and explored the shops upstairs for a while, which very much resembled what you find at other hotel-casinos in Vegas. There was the same canal and trompe d’oeil ceiling like you find at the Venetian in Vegas, too. An imitation of an imitation, I guess.

Am glad I looked in on the place, even if only as an observer. I kind of felt like I was in reporter mode as I walked about, even pulling out my notebook to jot down things from time to time. I suppose whenever visiting a foreign country where one doesn’t speak the language one will inevitably feel detached to some degree, but at the Venetian I felt doubly so whenever I considered the amounts being so casually bet all around me.

Back to the tournament today. I’ll probably try to sneak out at least once more either Saturday or Sunday morning to explore some more before I begin the journey home on Monday.

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