The Macau Casino
I finally got some time today to hit the casinos, Casino Lisboa and it's brand new larger neighbor Grand Lisboa. Casino's in Macau are quite different than ones in Las Vegas. To gain entry, one must pass through a metal detector and have whatever bags you are carrying searched. The security guard put a "No Photos" sticker on my camera bag. I guess this is their way of reminding you just in case you forget and start digging for your camera.
Casino Lisboa, which is about the size of the main casino pit at Caesars Palace, is jammed to the hilt with table games. There is no center bar, or any bar for that matter, and the only cocktail waitresses you'll see are old ladies pushing carts filled with cups of tea, water bottles and crustless white bread sandwiches. All of these items are complimentary of course, but you can forget it if you'd like to have some scotch with your Sic Bo. There are also self-serve drink areas that have soda, bottles of water, and boxes of tissues in case you get a runny nose.
At Casino Lisboa, I observed a blackjack game for a short period of time. Minimum bets at this table was HK$100 (US$12.50) and Max Bet is $4000 (US$570). The game is dealt from a continuous shuffler, and after cards are dealt (face down) the players look at them then flip them over. The dealer has what might be called an 'action puck' that tells the players what they can do at any given time. One side of the puck says "Surrender" the other side says "Draw". At this point, the dealer moves the action puck to the player at 3rd base, then backwards position by position giving all players the option to surrender after their first two cards. The dealer then flips the action puck to the "Draw" side and the game play is similar to Vegas style, with the action puck moving from position to position.
At Casino Lisboa, dealer hits all 16s and stands on all 17s. Insurance pays 2-1. One hand, with dealer showing a 5, the player at 3rd base hit his 8-2. I was a little shocked to see this, but it could be that double down does not exist here. I did see another player who had four hands of split pairs out on the board as well, but none of his double down opportunities were taken advantage of. This is where speaking some Chinese sure would come in handy. I'm going to try and inquire at the casino to see if there is a floor person who speaks English to answer my questions about some of the games. I'll probably wait until I'm at Wynn Macau, since Wynn's employees have always been incredibly helpful to me.
Another interesting thing in the casino is some of the noises on that accompany the games. Periodically, a loud bell would go off, the kind you'd find at a hotel reception desk to wake the sleeping clerk up. I'm not sure which game this was attached to, but I'm going to go back and find out. Also, when the dice on Sic Bo are dealt, the dealers slam the dice cup on the table making a loud thwack. Sometimes the players are allowed to throw the dice and they each have their own rituals as to how to squeeze out the winners, sometimes one thump of the dice cup, sometimes three, sometimes two small thumps and one loud one... you name it.
The Casino Lisboa has a small slot room below the casino pit. The slot room is non-smoking and there is a complimentary drink and snack bar in the back. There are about 100 slot machines, most of which are the video reel variety - in fact I've yet to see one spinning reel slot machine that was in operation. The ones at Casino Lisboa were turned off. The Casino Lisboa slot room also had a large electronic Sic Bo table like the one I played at StarWorld and a number of multi player electronic Baccarat games. I found a couple of Game King video poker machines and gave em a whirl. The slots take HK$5 coins (a little less than US$1), which parse out credits in HK$.50 denominations (US$.08). There are ticket-in ticket-out machines, but these ones were all about the buckets. I ran through about HK$20 in twenty or so minutes and hit 2 flushes, 2 full houses and a bunch of other small time sustaining hands. Nothing to write home about. I decided to take a walk across the street to the brand new Grand LIsboa's casino and see what they had up in it.
Unlike the Casino Lisboa, the Grand Lisboa is massive and nearly all of the tables were full, and about 1/2 of them with people three deep watching and sneaking their bets in when they could. The Grand Lisboa's casino is essentially one long, yet wide room. The Grand Lisboa is neatly decorated with large bronzed columns that look like the 'leaves' that jut out of the outside of the building. It's extremely high ceilings (40') have lavish chandeliers that are similar in character to the ones at Red Rock's casino in Las Vegas but way way larger. The carpet is red with intricately intertwined right angled designs similar to the Chinese symbol for luck. To one side, in the middle of the casino is a casino bar, behind which there was a three woman stage show who would do a 4 minute performance, go off stage, change costumes then come back on stage and do a different performance. The one I found most entertaining was when they all came out in outfits that could be best described as Catwoman meets Crazy Horse, the prancing and pawing choreography was downright hysterical, although I was the only one laughing.
While observing the goings on in the casino from the Crystal Lounge and Deli - where I had a great grilled chicken Caesar sandwich, and taught the waitresses how to get Heinz ketchup out of the bottle easier - I began to think... how can Macau rake in as much cash as Las Vegas? There aren't nearly as many casinos, and they aren't particularly luxurious. What they do have is volume, as in number of gaming tables in operation. Grand Lisboa's casino is probably about 2/3 the size of Wynn Las Vegas, but there are four floors of it. The further up you go, the higher the table minimums, until eventually you are in VIP lounges where jokers like me and you aren't allowed. It is in here that the big time whales do their business... the frosting on the cake that can swing a corporations bottom line with one run of good luck.
Obviously, the game of choice here with the general public as well as VIPs is Baccarat. I'd say that baccarat out numbers the other games 8-1. I've seen Sic Bo, Fish Prawn Crab, Big Small, Blackjack, Roulette, Big 6, PaiGow, Caribbean Poker (Stud) and a few that I couldn't identify. Hopefully there will be someone at Wynn that can talk me through some of the Asian casino games.
I did manage to get a little time in at the Roulette table. I'm not a roulette player, in fact I detest the game because of the lousy odds and the stupidity of the whole thing. But, in this case simplicity would trumps the language barrier, so I'll take the bad odds just to get a little time at the tables. I cashed in HK$500 (US$62) got a pile 25 HK$20 chips and started spreading them out on the layout. The dealer obviously knew I didn't speak a lick of Chinese, but she took a liking to me and kept apologizing when I lost. She apologized a lot. In fact she kept looking at me with the biggest sad face, she was really hoping that the American guy would win at least once on her Roulette table. I quit when I got down to my last 5 chips and cashed them in for a yellow SJM HK$100 chip that I stuffed in my pocket to add to my collection.
Unlike some of the other casinos where they seperate their slot and table games operations, Grand Lisboa has slots - all video reels - tucked away in various corners of the casino. There was some action at these, but nothing of any substance. I decided to high-tail it out of Grand Lisboa and head over to one of the other new SJM casinos - The Emperor, to see what was going on over there. More about that later though.