I went to Macau about 10 years ago while still in college. I was visiting my girlfriend at the time, who was studying for a semester in Hong Kong. Back then, I was super poor, so I didn’t play much when I went. I played one or two hands of blackjack, but it was for one of my degenerate friends who asked me to make a bet for him.
My deepest memory was of the Venetian. At the time, it was the largest casino in the world. It was pretty sick when it first opened. It had one of those curved escalators, one of I think 3 in the world. I remember standing in the middle of the floor, and looking around in all 4 directions, and just seeing endless tables filled with people.
Yep, Chinese people love to gamble.
But fast-forward 10 years, and my wife and I decided to take a last-minute 3-day weekend trip before the baby comes out. She was about 30 weeks pregnant, so she could still fly, granted she got a medical note from her doctor.
My wife is great, she knows that I like to play poker, and this will be one of the last chances I can play live. We found a great deal, with our tickets being a little less than 1,000 RMB round-trip per person.
Unfortunately, my wife double booked the hotel room at the Wynn. She went to two different booking agencies to compare prices, and booked the hotel at both. They have a non-refundable policy, even though we made the reservation more than a month in advance. I tried calling both the booking agency and the hotel, but the hotel was super adamant that the reservation was non-refundable, and so we had to find someone else to tag along for our trip. Luckily, since Celine’s mom is retired, we managed to convince her to come with us.
That was my first experience dealing with the people in Macau. I have to say, they’re super stubborn. I’ve never had an issue changing or canceling a reservation, especially after booking it so far in advance. But they were like “NO” you can’t change it or else you will be charged the FULL amount of the room. What a ridiculous policy.
The trip was already off to a bad start, before it even began.
Day 1 – Flying into Macau on a Saturday
So when we finally arrive at Macau early afternoon on Saturday. It was pretty bleak to say the least. Typhoon Hato had just passed through, and it claimed numerous lives in Macau. The aftermath was still readily apparent in the city, with broken trees scattered everywhere, and plenty of debris on the roads and grass.
We took one of the free shuttle buses from the airport to the Wynn, which was a quick 10 minute trip. We ran into more issues while we were checking is, since apparently the hotel canceled our second room, and with their crappy English / Chinese, tried to blame us for this mix up. It was infuriating talking to them, because they had no sense of providing customer service.
Basically, we had to argue with them for close to an hour to give us the second room at the rate we booked online.
In any hospitality service industry, I have never met people who were so unfriendly, and un-assisting to their clients. The attitude they gave me was that they don’t really give a shit about you.
After we finally got the room stuff sorted out, we went out to grab some food.
We went to an old part of town, right north of the Venetian and Galaxy casinos. There were these small streets with a historical European feel, and we grabbed a bunch of snacks and local delicacies, and ate at a hole-in-the wall restaurant. Everything we ordered was delicious. I had an ox-tail soup, and my wife had some fried noodles with chicken. We tried the pork chop buns, and had some almond cookies and peanut sesame candy. It’s weird but usually I don’t care much about food, but I can easy remember what everything tasted like because whatever we ate tasted amazing!
Afterwards, we went into the Venetian to get some of the famous egg tarts (Lord Stow’s Bakery). We had to wait in line for about 15 minutes, but it was worth it. And it was only 10 HKD per egg tart! We ended up buying 18 over the two days we were in Macau.
We didn’t do much the rest of the day, mostly just wander around some more. I went to check out the poker rooms at the Venetian, City of Dreams, and Wynn, but every place I went to had some ridiculous wait time for the 25/50 HKD games. I’ll save the details of the poker experience for another post.
Day 2 – The reality of how much Macau sucks sets in
I spent the morning walking around the Venetian again with Celine. We went and grabbed some breakfast at the food court there, and I managed to eat some Pho which was decent. Celine went to do some shopping and I finally had some free time to go play poker.
I spent most of the afternoon playing 25/50 Texas Holdem at the Wynn. Let’s just say the tables are pretty tight and tough.
In the evening, Celine and her mom went to watch a show called “The House of Dancing Water” at the City of Dreams. I played some more poker until they got back, and we rode around the cable car around the Wynn a few times.
Since I didn’t get a chance to do much gambling with Celine, we walked around looking for a craps table. Since she’s pregnant, I thought she might be able to bring us some good luck when rolling the dice.
We found a table at the City of Dreams, which had a 200 HKD minimum bet (around $25 USD bet). We bought 2,000 HKD worth of chips, and literally went through it in like 10 minutes haha.
We were there just to throw the dice, since we both like doing that and it’s fun. But apparently they have a rule that you have to place a bet while someone else is throwing before you have the right to throw. I’ve never heard of this rule before, and I thought I could just wait until it was my turn to throw, and then place my pass line bet.
At first, I placed a bet when someone else threw, and didn’t have any issues.
Once we lost the 2,000 HKD, I asked Celine if she wanted to throw one more time, and use 500 HKD more. We left the table, and when we went back, they told us about this lame rule.
I was like, dude, I just left this table 2 minutes ago to get some more money, why can’t you just let me throw? I waited patiently for the dice to move around the table, but the dealers were super adamant about me placing a bet while someone else was throwing, before I had the right to throw myself.
I was freaking pissed off. I had just blown 2,000 HKD at their table already, and we couldn’t have been gone from that particular table for more than 2 or 3 minutes. But they wouldn’t let us place our bets to throw.
I bitched the dealers out, telling them they sucked compared to Vegas. I’ve never had this issue before in Vegas, and even if they had this rule, I’ve never seen it enforced.
I will say though, there was a guy at the craps table who went through 20,000 HKD in about the same span we went through 2,000 HKD. LOL. He kept betting every single number, and kept pressing his bets every time a number hit. Unfortunately, every other roll was a 7-out, and he lost all his bets. The average roll per person must have been like 2 or 3 rolls. That dude was getting crushed.
The one thing that struck me about Macau was that everyone was there just to gamble and try to win money. No one was having any fun. It was a huge turnoff for both me and Celine. While we were at Vegas, the craps table was always rowdy, and whenever you hit a number, everyone would cheer you on and give high fives.
The atmosphere at the craps table in Macau could only be described as solemn. Dead serious, almost no one saying anymore, and silence except for the sound of the dice and chips moving around on the table. The guy who lost 20,000, he had no expression on his face. When he won some money, he wasn’t excited, and even more scary, when he lost that much, he didn’t get mad. He just kept betting.
Granted we went on a Sunday night so those were probably all the degenerate gamblers, but still…
We went back to our rooms and called it a night. Macau definitely isn’t the right place for us.
Day 3 – Finally leaving Macau
The last day, it was raining like crazy in the morning. We had a flight around 11 AM, but I was dying to just leave already. We weren’t sure if the flight was going to be delayed, but I would rather wait at the airport than at the casino anymore.
We grabbed some breakfast at the bakery in the north part of the Wynn. The food was still delicious. We tried the egg tarts there, and it was definitely not as good as the ones from Lord Stow’s, but it was still good. I also ate a chicken pot pie, which was amazing! I haven’t had chicken pot pie in years, so it was a great treat. Honestly, we didn’t have a bad meal in Macau.
Luckily, the rainstorm passed, and our flight wasn’t delayed at all. At least flying didn’t cause any additional headaches this trip.
I don’t think I’ll ever go to Macau again. It’s not fun to play anything, and the table minimums are ridiculous for the casual gambler. I frequently saw full tables that were 1,000 HKD minimum bets!
Add to the fact that everyone is super serious and unfriendly, as well as the service everywhere being extremely crappy, I don’t think it’s the right place for anyone except the most hardcore gamblers.
I know that Macau, in the past few years, surpassed Vegas in terms of gambling revenue, but I think in the long-term, Vegas, because of it’s more family friendly atmosphere and other attractions besides gambling, will always make it a more attractive tourist destination. However, when it comes to the bottom line, the fact that Chinese people love to gamble will always make casinos in Macau ridiculously lucrative.
One day, when casinos become legal in China, Macau is screwed. The fact that they rely so heavily on Chinese people from the mainland, yet their attitude and service towards Chinese mainlander’s are so bad, one day they will likely lose everything.
One last aside, I was talking to my boss the other day, and he suggested that China legalize gambling, and similar to Vegas, build a city in the western desert / flatland of China. The government will make a ton of money from taxes on the casinos, and it will help development of the weak western part of the country, which is lagging behind in terms of GDP and growth.
If the Chinese government is reading this, go copy Vegas! Haha, I can’t think of anything that could go wrong.