What It’s Like to Play Poker in Macau

What It’s Like to Play Poker in Macau

It takes a minute to acclimate to Asia, especially coming from the Western world, where the slightest inconvenience is met with disdain. Poor hygiene, air pollution and the lack of infrastructure are superficial differences one notices immediately when touching down.

Once you accept these things (a mental ‘jet lag’), your journey begins.

Phuket makes that transition easy. And after hitting 7 countries in 30 days in 3 continents, we were ready to unwind.

I did some serious chilling, including a 3 day cleanse and enough massages to last the rest of the year. Even doing my ‘homework’ (crunching numbers and reviewing hands by the pool with a coconut) seemed unfairly easy. It felt wrong to call it work.
But just when we were beginning to relax, our trip came to an end.

Time to hit Macau.

Macau panoramic viewIt’s going to be a relatively short stop: 10 days there, then Philadelphia for 4 to play on Poker Night in America before circling back around the world to Monaco for the European Poker Tour Finals.

After that, we return to being homeless.

As I write this, sitting on the plane from Phuket to Macau, the peaceful and tranquil energy of Thailand slowly leave me, and I’m filled with adrenaline for the competition that awaits.

I know that the moment I walk into the Wynn poker room I’ll be ready, like a kid on Christmas morning.

Macau has evolved into the ultimate test for the poker player. Pros, amateurs and hopefuls alike fly from all over to take their shot on the big stage, and currently nowhere in the physical world is the market more saturated. Sure, it may be far from the lime light, media and pop culture of poker, but it’s by far the toughest, wildest and most epic place to play.

It’s simple economics really: where the most opportunity is, the most competition will be. Some go home millionaires. Most lose bankrolls they’ve spent years building.

But one thing’s for certain: you haven’t truly played poker until you’ve played in Macau.

Things weren’t always this way. When I got first got there three and a half years ago I was one of the very few guilos (white men) based there. A perpetual mental image replays in my mind of the ‘glory days’ (like PartyPoker in 2006), surmising the nostalgia for the games at that time.

Poker Chips 2One of the many unknown, legendary punters sits down at a $1000/$2000 HKD game (one of the three that were running), pulls out a briefcase of cash, says something in Chinese, and is handed a small laminated piece of paper with the hand rankings and rules of Texas Hold’em.

There’s a first time for everything, I suppose.

Those days are long gone.

Taking his seats are the Russians, Germans, Brits and Scandinavians, the mediocre of whom have been weeded out throughout the years. The face of the game has changed from ‘fish and one shark’ to ‘sharks waiting for a fish’.

It’s sink or swim, do or die, eat or be eaten. Despite the immense challenge, nothing is more exciting to me than competing at the highest level and testing the capacity of my limits; physically, mentally and emotionally.

People say it’s all about the money. For the pros whom are willing to move their entire lives to a place so vastly different from their own such as Macau, there must be more than that.

And I’m speaking on behalf of the community when I say what it truly means to play poker there.

It’s sitting with the absolute best and, for the lucky few, being able to say those two ever so sweet words.

‘I won.’

What is your favorite place to play poker? Share your thoughts and experiences from Macau or any other city in a comment below.

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