Texas Hold’em is a type of poker that is sweeping the world. While increasingly popular and playable in places such as Europe and the United States it has recently begun play in Macau, giving it a much grander scale and new horizons to conquer. Although coming late to allowing Texas Hold’em to be played Macau promises to serve up a place to play with its own unique flavor.
Texas Hold’em is a particular flavor of poker marked by the player having two cards and three additional community cards which can be used to make the player’s hand. The unusual method and popularization by the media, trends, and broadcast tournaments has made it catch on fast. There are books, sets, and tables sold to learn about the game and play at home, as well as many online offerings. Keeping up with the trend is important for gambling establishments to bring in new players and entice old players to try new things.
In November of 2007 the PokerStars Asia Pacific Poker Tour, sponsored by PokerStars, was held in Macau with special permission from the Macau government at Galaxy Grand Waldo Casino. It drew 352 entrants to a six day tournament featuring a $2,500 buy in for the main event as well as special “high roller” buy ins of $15,000. The estimated total prize pool was well over $800,000. The event was the first time Texas Hold’em poker was played live on Chinese soil and drew alot of attention along with the many players who participated.
Before this event Galaxy Grand Waldo Casino had the only poker room offered in Macau; four Poker Pro machines (which offered no-limit Hold’em games ranging from around a dollar to twelve dollars USD) and two Poker Pro heads up tournament tables at Star World, its flagship property. During the APPT event the Grand Waldo also tested a Lightning Poker table, which is engineered by a company run by professional poker player Brian Haveson. The casino was able to have the poker machines before Texas Hold’em poker was allowed because the Texas Hold’em poker machines are automated and thus categorized the same as slot machines. So while live Texas Hold’em is new to Macau, the actual game and its rules aren’t as new as one might think.
Stanley Ho’s Grand Lisboa, the flagship of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), started with four tables in February of 2008 has already doubled that number to eight this March. Employees have been trained in the nuances of the game to help players who are not familiar play without too much pressure to learn the rules before playing. Even though many players in Macau are not Texas Hold’em players they had hoped to draw in enough from mainland China as well as international players to keep the tables full while it caught on with the rest of the players who normally flock to Macau. They were surprised to have mostly players from southeast Asia and not international players as they expected. An entire pit will now be dedicated to Texas Hold’em poker with a couple of tables being open all day and others opening based on demand.
Only one other casino has put in an application to the Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau (DICJ); the The Galaxy Entertainment Group, operator of the Starworld casino. Officials will allow the casinos to take 3-5% of the pot, as the game is not as profitable for the house since players are competing with each other and not the house. The maximum of five times the “big blind” (which is a forced bet) will allow the house to still make some profit as compared to the more profitable games such as blackjack and baccarat. Games will be able to start with as few as two players, although the tables will be required to hold at least ten players plus the dealer if needed.By allowing the casino some leverage in how many people can play it will also give opportunities to increase profits.
The Grand Lisboa is hoping that the new choice will encourage new players to visit the casino which will make it worth the lower profits from having Texas Hold’em as one of its offerings. For the time being, and especially while they are the only casino in Macau to offer poker, they have a huge chance to set themselves apart. Other casinos have not responded to whether or not they will seek to offer Texas Hold’em at their casinos as well, although the obvious answer would be affirmative if they hope to compete in the changing markets. Gamblers who previously may not have looked into coming to Macau may now add it to their plans because it offers familiar games they enjoy playing in an unfamiliar venue. By having Texas Hold’em in Macau it will also give them the chance to host international tournaments as well as televised tournaments which can help divert gamblers from other locales.
Macau is a former Portuguese colony which was returned to China in 1999. Gambling has been legal in Macau since the 1850’s. Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) held a monopoly in the casino world until 2002, but has since had competition from other casinos including some owned by Vegas casinos. In 2006 it raked in more revenue than the Vegas strip according to regulators. Continuing new offerings and competing with a world market have helped turn a small specialized base into a thriving destination in the gambling world. Today there are 16 casinos in Macau including the MGM Grand, Sands Macau, and the Wynn Macau. Horse racing as well as greyhound round out the gambling in Macau with the Macau Jockey Club being owned by Stanley Ho.These types of bets closely resemble those in the United States offering on-course, off-course, internet betting, telephone services, etc. Many players from Hong Kong and mainland China visit Macau to gamble, although locals may be less apt to partake of the gambling themselves. Macau has been called the Asian Vegas and it is easy to see why.