secularuncle
secularuncle
Joined: Dec 11, 2019
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PokerGrinderMrCasinoGamesGialmereblount2000smoothgrhJoemanRigondeauxblackjackladAyecarumbajjjooogggTigerWuOnceDearsodawater
December 11th, 2019 at 6:41:15 PM permalink
Long time lurker, first time poster. This is a trip report on my 4-day trip to Macau in November of 2019. There is actually very little good English-language information on Macau out there, and much of it is outdated so I thought I would write up what my experience was like.

This is intended to be a Western recreational gambler's perspective on Macau. As you'll see very soon, this is important, because Macau is very much not currently intended for people like me. It's geared exclusively towards the Chinese market, which, of course, makes sense, because it is in China.

I'm going to keep this post light on facts you can get other places, but here's the gist: Macau is a very small peninsula and set of islands on the coast of southern China. It's a short ferry ride away from Hong Kong. It's a special administrative region (one country, two systems), like Hong Kong, and the Chinese government has continued to allow gambling in Macau even after control was handed over from the Portuguese. As you've probably heard, gambling revenue in Macau is huge, many times larger than Las Vegas. However, that doesn't mean it's bigger than Las Vegas, which I'll get into in a minute.

That's the basics out of the way - for more, you can check out Wikipedia.

My wife and I stayed for 4 nights at the Grand Hyatt Macau. This hotel is in the Cotai area, which is actually landfill between two of the existing islands that make up Macau. The Grand Hyatt is attached to the City of Dreams casino complex, along with 2 other hotels. I would compare it to the original vision for Las Vegas' CityCenter: a single casino complex (now Aria) with several adjoining hotels and condos (now the Waldorf Astoria, a condo building, the Cosmo).

City of Dreams is comparable, brand-wise, to Aria as well. There's plenty of luxury stores. Actually, there's boatloads of them. Like, bucket loads. So many luxury stores. In fact, half of Macau feels like a luxury mall. This is a guess, but I think that many of these brands are not available (or perhaps not available at these prices) in Mainland China, so I think they get a lot more traffic here.

The City of Dreams' best feature is probably their show, The House of Dancing Water. "Insane" is probably the best adjective to describe this $250-million-US production (that is not a typo). The show involves a water tank (like "O" at Bellagio), high-flying stunts, and dirtbikes. Yes. Dirt bikes. It's hard to explain, but I think it's a must-see if you're there. Tickets were about $100 each, so comparable to a high-end Vegas show, like O.

The Grand Hyatt was excellent. In the USA, Grand Hyatt is like a 4-star resort brand, but I found the experience in Macau to be more of a 4.5 star. Everything was very high quality - room service, furnishings, the bed. Prices are generally reasonable on hotels and trend lower than Las Vegas, especially for the quality received.

As for the Cotai strip itself, which is where I spent most of my time, I think it was a bit underwhelming. Remember how I mentioned that people say how Macau's gaming revenue is "8x more than Las Vegas", which conjures in your head a strip 8x the size of Las Vegas? Nope. The Cotai Strip is roughly 1/4 the size of the Vegas strip. I would say it's comparable in size to the section from MGM Grand to the Bellagio, maybe even smaller. It's also not a perfect "strip" like Vegas - many casinos, including the MGM, Galaxy and Wynn Palace are a block off the main strip itself. There's a monorail incoming as well - it wasn't active when I arrived but will be when you read this.

The reason the Cotai Strip feels so small yet the gaming revenue is so huge, of course, is because the Chinese gamble more. A lot more. Unlike westerners, many of whom now see gambling as a degenerate hobby, Chinese people gamble and they gamble a _lot_. But it's definitely not like gambling in Vegas.

I've seen Chinese gambling described online as "like planning World War 3", and I would mostly agree with that assessment. Chinese gamblers are there on a mission - to have good luck and win money - and not to be entertained, get drunk or really even to "have fun". This leads to an overall atmosphere of business on casino floors.

There are also a number of Chinese habits you'll have to get used to. One is the coughing - people cough loudly and frequently! The other is that Chinese gamblers seem to have a thing for "watching". I think they're looking for a "hot" table before they put down a bet. You'll see tables with huge crowds of people packed around - often 20-30 spectators watching just 2-3 people play baccarat. Most of them are just watching, but many are also throwing down bets on the action themselves, sometimes from 2 rows back. This habit of betting on "other people's hands" is very common in Macau. I even played a blackjack machine which allowed you to do the same with the other players nearby, which I've never seen before.

Despite the majority of gamblers being Chinese, pretty much all machines on the floor have Chinese or English language options, even for Chinese games like Sic Bo or Baccarat. Speaking of machines, their miniums are far lower than the tables. Roulette or Baccarat machines can be easily found for $1-2 minimum bets, while tables are easy 20x that amount.

You've probably heard that no one drinks alcohol in the casino in Macau. This is true. Drink service consists mostly of tea and milk. At Galaxy, there are actually large drink carts slowly making their way around the floor with different beverages, which I actually really enjoyed.

There's security everywhere. There's manned checkpoints at all casino entrances, with a mandatory passport check (to see if you're over 21) and a metal detector. The security on the floor itself is extensive as well, far more visible than you would see in the States. There's security guards walking around everywhere! I have heard before to be wary of scammers or otherwise shady people in Macau casinos, but it must have been from years ago because I never encountered such a problem, and I'm sure how you could given all the security walking around. I did see one random police checkpoint outside the venetian where they appeared to be stopping foreigners and asking for visas.

Venetian and Galaxy both had very large signs advertising the table minimums of each area of the floor - 500 HKD here, 1000 HKD here, etc. I noticed that Baccarat minimums easily reached $100 US for the premium casinos, such as the Wynn. I also noticed that very few people seemed to be buying in chips at tables. This probably has a few causes: one, I think many people get their chips from dead chip junkets, which is essentially the Triad's way of inserting themselves into the gambling trade. Basically, you buy your chips through a shady intermediary, not the casino, and get 1% back. While tempting, because it basically eliminates the house edge, these programs are so tightly associated with organized crime that I don't find it ethical to use them. The casinos themselves do offer more reputable dead chip programs with worse discounts.

As for games, baccarat seems to make up about 80% of the gambling floors across Macau. I noticed a few variants of the game which I haven't seen before. No commission Baccarat evens out the payouts for the banker and player hands, making both 1:1, but a Banker win on a 6 pays 1 to 2 instead. I also saw a three-card Baccarat variant at the Venetian, which eliminates the Banker hand and makes the game a little bit simpler.

3:2 blackjack is the standard, I saw no 6:5 tables anywhere in Macau. However, table minimums are higher to compensate - the lowest I saw was 300 HKD at the Galaxy. There was a small poker area at the Venetian with a few active tables.

For a quick casino comparison, here's the casino floors I saw a quick review of each:

* The Grand Lisboa. Kind of a strangely laid out floor, and reasonably modern machines. Small sized.
* Lisboa Hotel. Very small. Felt like a nuclear bunker, as it was underground with a low ceiling. Tons of security everywhere. Like a smaller, more cramped version of the pit at Caesar's, with cheesier 80's decor.
* City Of Dreams. Almost 100% baccarat. While City of Dreams itself is styled as "cool and hip", the casino floor is strangely boring and dull.
* MGM Cotai: Another boring floor. 1 craps table at the end.
* Wynn Palace and Wynn downtown: pretty much carbon copies of the Wynn in Vegas, down to the signage. Both have interesting side-attractions, like the dragon show downtown and the gondola ride at the Palace.
* Galaxy: Huge. Maybe my favorite, as it was a massive floor with tons of stuff, reasonable minimums (for Macau) and I like the drink carts. Craps and blackjack can be easily found.
* Venetian. Another huge floor, the biggest in Macau. I like the table minimum signs found here and at the Galaxy.

Overall, I think I preferred the Galaxy and Venetian the best, both for overall appearance and for the conditions on the casino floor.

I'm mostly a craps player, so to close out this post I'd like to talk about the craps tables I saw in Macau.

Each major casino in Macau generally has about one craps table. Old or small casinos, such as the ones downtown, won't have a table, and sometimes even the larger new ones (City of Dreams, for example) don't have one either. Minimums are usually $200 HKD ($25 US at time of writing) with 5x or 3-4-5x odds. Field bets are always 2x on the 12. I did not see any feature bets on any felts.

The rules and play are exactly the same as what you would expect. The game is called in English, which is a little weird given that everything else on a Macau casino floor will be in Chinese.

As for betting, Chinese craps gamblers play a lot differently than their Western counterparts. On a Macau craps table, 95% of the action will be for the box numbers. Inside, outside, place, buy - Macau craps players love to bet the numbers. There is almost no center action, and I never saw a field bet or darkside bet made.

Actually, Chinese craps players don't even play the passline. Only the shooter tends to put down a passline bet, and as the shooter moves around the table, that person puts down a "last-minute" passline bet for the table minimum.

I noticed that the usual Chinese number superstitions - unlucky 4, lucky 8 and 9 - didn't seem to hold at the craps table, as bets were made on all numbers all the time.

That's my story about visiting and gambling in Macau. Overall, I think I can't really recommend it to a Westerner, unless as a day trip from Hong Kong. The games have very high minimums, there's no alcohol, and the atmosphere can be a bit tame. However, if you're interested in a bit of "cultural experience", to see what it would be like if you transplanted a quarter of the Vegas strip directly into China, then I think it can be an interesting view on Chinese culture.
PokerGrinder
PokerGrinder
Joined: Apr 30, 2015
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December 11th, 2019 at 7:27:47 PM permalink
Welcome to the forum and thank you for the great trip report. I visited Macau for four days back in 2017 and I found it much the same as you. Itís very business like when it comes to the gambling and nothing like Las Vegas.
You can shear a sheep a hundred times, but you can skin it only once. ó Amarillo Slim Preston
Gialmere
Gialmere
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December 12th, 2019 at 7:47:59 AM permalink
How busy are these lone craps tables? Easy to get a spot or are you making bets from two rows back? Also, if you play the dark side does anyone care?
Have you tried 22 tonight? I said 22.
PokerGrinder
PokerGrinder
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December 12th, 2019 at 8:41:59 AM permalink
Iím assuming busy. I was surprised when I was in Singapore that their craps tables were full (all Chinese) even though itís not a game they usually have in Asia.
You can shear a sheep a hundred times, but you can skin it only once. ó Amarillo Slim Preston
EvenBob
EvenBob
Joined: Jul 18, 2010
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December 12th, 2019 at 10:23:38 AM permalink
"That's my story about visiting and gambling in Macau."

Wow, an actual trip report that
doesn't suck! Great read. And
not a single mention of how
the plane ride was, no pics of
your hotel room and how the
beds look, no 14 pics of every
meal you had, no pics of you
standing in front of some
giant Panda. No description of
the water pressure in the shower
or how far away the ice machine
was from your room.

Just a great story of what actual
playing is like in Macau. Did you
see much spitting by staff
onto the carpeted floors? I've
heard that Macau is famous
for dealers hawking up a big
wad and spitting it right onto the
carpet. Disgusting.
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
Rigondeaux
Rigondeaux
Joined: Aug 18, 2014
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Forager
December 12th, 2019 at 12:02:40 PM permalink
Quote: EvenBob

"That's my story about visiting and gambling in Macau."

Wow, an actual trip report that
doesn't suck! Great read. And
not a single mention of how
the plane ride was, no pics of
your hotel room and how the
beds look, no 14 pics of every
meal you had, no pics of you
standing in front of some
giant Panda. No description of
the water pressure in the shower
or how far away the ice machine
was from your room.

Just a great story of what actual
playing is like in Macau. Did you
see much spitting by staff
onto the carpeted floors? I've
heard that Macau is famous
for dealers hawking up a big
wad and spitting it right onto the
carpet. Disgusting.



Yes. Who would want to know the facts about traveling to a destination in a report about traveling to that destination. Just tell us about the local spitting habits.

(I really doubt the dealers at the wynn spit on the carpets).
mcallister3200
mcallister3200
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ForagerJoeman
December 12th, 2019 at 12:19:26 PM permalink
One of the many instances where EB likely doesnít really believe what heís typing just trying to get a rise out of a subset of people. I think thereís a term for doing that on the internet, canít quite put my finger on it.
EvenBob
EvenBob
Joined: Jul 18, 2010
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December 12th, 2019 at 12:31:24 PM permalink
Quote: mcallister3200

One of the many instances where EB likely doesnít really believe what heís typing



So 99% of trip reports are not
the same? Had an uneventful
flight. Here's my room that's
like every hotel room on the
planet. Here's the buffet, here's
my plate of food, here's the
Strip, here's the view from my
room, blah blah blah. And oh yeah,
we gambled for an hour.

This Macau report had actual thought
and observations behind it. I learned
from reading it. Didn't you?
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
michael99000
michael99000
Joined: Jul 10, 2010
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December 12th, 2019 at 1:23:03 PM permalink
Quote: EvenBob

So 99% of trip reports are not
the same? Had an uneventful
flight. Here's my room that's
like every hotel room on the
planet. Here's the buffet, here's
my plate of food, here's the
Strip, here's the view from my
room, blah blah blah. And oh yeah,
we gambled for an hour.

This Macau report had actual thought
and observations behind it. I learned
from reading it. Didn't you?



Iím with EB on this one. Pictures of hotel rooms and food are useless in trip reports.
smoothgrh
smoothgrh
Joined: Oct 26, 2011
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December 12th, 2019 at 2:11:45 PM permalink
Welcome to the forum, and thanks for the trip report!

I visited Macau for the first time almost exactly one year ago, so your report brought back good memories.

You're right that security is everywhere. My wife was playing at an electronic roulette terminal, so I sat next to her at an empty terminal, and was going to take a photo of the screen, but before I could even frame a shot, a security officer swooped in to stop me.

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