As I flew into Macau airport, I could see some of the new casinos and bright lights that are reminiscent of the Las Vegas skyline. Not knowing if this would be my last chance to get on some poker tables, I booked a spur of the moment weekend in Macau. The last time I had a similar trip was back in my younger days in Las Vegas when I would fly into Vegas after work on Friday night. This would be a good opportunity to compare experiences of Macau vs. Las Vegas.
For such a hot gambling location, I was surprised that the selection of flights between Shanghai and Macau was more limited than my NY to Las Vegas options. Back in the day, I would take a flight to Vegas from NY at 6PM, Friday and thanks to the time zone difference, I got into Las Vegas for a nice dinner before hitting the poker tables. After a weekend of poker and fine dining, we took the Sunday red-eye back to NY and went straight to the office. The best I could do for Shanghai to Macau was get an early Sunday night return flight. Macau’s immigration is very fast and the casino transports are frequent and convenient. I got from plane to Wynn casino in about 20 minutes time.
I did my research and it seemed that Wynn was the best option for poker in Macau. Not that there are many choices in Macau. The lack of poker competition in Macau results in higher limit games and longer waits for a seat at the tables. The Venetian seems to have queues that last the whole day before you can get in on a table. I put my name down on the Wynn Poker Room list for 50/100 HKD NL and headed over to Jade Dynasty for dinner. I figured I had enough time for a dinner and a walk around the neighborhood. But as I paid the check for dinner, the poker room called me to claim my seat. So, I hustled back over to the poker room.
As I sat down with my 10K HKD buy-in, I immediately noticed a few things. My stack of chips was among the smallest stacks at the table. Everyone at the table also seemed to know each other well. This scene was reminiscent of Matt Damon’s story in Rounders about the poker sharks. I felt like I am heading into the shark tank. The food selection that players could order at the table was quite good for my tastes. The food options are not like the giant shrimp cocktails and steaks in Vegas, but for Asian tastes the food selection was great. You are not permitted to use your mobile phone while you are seated at the table. That proved to be troublesome for me since my new boss needed to talk to me for some reason and answering his calls caused me to fold some hands. Lastly, I noticed no alcohol at the table. Lucky for me, I never had a taste of alcohol and I did enjoy the available tea selection.
With myself planted in the seat for the long haul, I set a firm bankroll for the weekend. Not wanting to be bored out of my mind if I burned through the bankroll too quickly, I played pretty conservatively for the first night. I had a chance to learn the tendencies of the players I was up against. I also exercised my seat change options to position myself to the left of the most aggressive players. Needing to hit my daily step count, I took periodic 30-minute breaks to jog around the casino, freshen up, and get some snacks. I managed to tread water til Sunday afternoon.
By the time Sunday afternoon came around, a few players were impressed at my stamina to play at the same table for most of the weekend from Friday night. I built up the stamina to play straight through the weekend during my early poker days in Vegas. They also read me as a fairly weak, predictable player. I think I might have said the same thing about them. They played like locals but it didn’t mean they were fantastic poker players. With my flight coming up in a few hours, I was ready to play a bit more creatively. Fortunately, this also coincided with a nice run of cards. I hit some nice hands betting on the draw. It seemed to put some of the locals on tilt. At least I could tell they were saying some not so complimentary things about my play. I told them I didn’t understand Chinese but that’s not entirely true. This action builds to the grand finale of the night.
I am on the button. Only one person in middle position limps in. I have KJ (King Jack) and give it a raise up to 300 HKD. My buddy on my left is the small blind. He and I have some light banter through most of the day. He’s also one of the guys who thinks I am a lucky idiot. He calls my raise. The big blind folds. The middle position guy calls.
The flop comes out Ace of spades, Queen of spades, and 10 of diamonds. What a feeling to flop the nuts. To the uninitiated, the nuts is the best possible poker hand based on the cards that are displayed combined with the cards in your hand. Though the 2 spades worry me a little bit, I am feeling like jumping out of my chair with joy. Small blind checks his hand. Middle position checks his hand. I bet 1000 HKD. By coincidence, the small blind has almost as many chips as I do. So, when he comes out with a check, raise of 10K, he does give you some food for thought. Middle position guy folds right away. I thought to myself that he could be trying to knock me out thinking I was trying to steal the blinds. Or he could have a legitimate draw to split the pot or beat me with a flush or a full house. Given that he only called my raise on pre-flop, I was willing to put him at 30% draw to beat me. Not that I am happy about a 30% chance to lose this hand, but I figured if you can’t go all-in with the nuts and a good chance to win, you should not be playing at this game. The only thing that gave me pause was his wife just sat down to observe him and their dinner just arrived at the table. If my wife sat down for dinner at the poker table, I probably want to make sure I am not playing a stupid hand. Anyway, I decided that my best choice was to go all-in. Amazingly, small blind did not bat an eye and pushed all his chips in. We were looking at a total pot of about 80K.
Although this is Macau, it seems an 80K pot between the local rock and the lucky tourist on the “low limit” table got around the poker room pretty quickly. Players from other tables hopped up to come see what was going on. The turn card comes out and it’s a blank, meaning it could not help small blind at all.
Amazing how time seems to slow down in these situations. But the dealer seemed to be taking his sweet time to turn the river card. Out came another blank. I happily turned over the nuts. The worst thing that could happen now is a chop. Small blind mucks his cards and starts to leave. His wife is in shock at turn of events. I bet there was some discussion in that ride home that night. They don’t even want to eat their dinner. I was wondering if I could eat the perfectly good dinner sitting there. I never had so many poker chips in front of me. It took me two more hands before I could get some racks to hold all the chips. The big blind guy, who is a buddy of small blind, told me that he didn’t even have a good draw. I guess I really got under someone’s skin.
It was a coincidence, but I needed to catch my flight back to Shanghai. I really could not stay around much longer without missing my flight. I told the dealer that I needed to go. If I really was the fish at the table, I didn’t get much protest from the other players that I should stick around to lose my money back to them. Instead a few of them offered to buy racks of chips off of me. I was a little leery about getting some counterfeit money, but I had a tough time carrying all the chips to the cage. I think the players figured somehow my luck was coming from those chips. I sold off a few racks chips to players and cashed the rest at the cage. I flew back to Shanghai and gave out some bonus money in red envelopes to my team. It was a memorable experience in Macau that I figured I should write down for my life experience.