Visiting the next home of poker
After the traditional EPT London, I was lucky enough to be able to go to Macau this year again, for the Asian Championship of Poker Series (ACOP). The ACOP is the biggest annual tournament Series in Macau. Macau is certainly the gambling capital of the world, and even if poker isn't as big as in Las Vegas yet, I can clearly foresee the potential. The new poker room in the City of Dreams complex is one of the most comfortable rooms I've ever played poker in. Everything is brand new, from the large leather office chairs, to the shuffling machine, to even the PokerPro tables. PokerPro is electronic poker against human opponents, which is in my opinion the best of both worlds. Deals are instantaneous and free of mistakes, because even though dealers are excellent at all the PokerStars tournaments, the long hours and days unfortunately leave place for mistakes, which could happen to all of us. I would love to be able to play an entire poker tournament on those tables.
Macau is a very modern city, growing really fast. Even if poker isn't part of Chinese culture as much, when you know their passion for gambling, it is only a matter of time. The continuous growth of tournaments (the ACOP main event grew +40% compared to the previous one) in terms of buy-in and players, as well as a field composed of a lot of beginners, which is a rare thing to see outside of Asia nowadays. The PokerStars Asia team led by Danny McDonagh does a fantastic job, and those successes are very well deserved!
The main difference with Las Vegas, besides the fact that the poker scene is just beginning, is the real focus on the city with gaming and gambling. During my first stay at City of Dreams, I tried to go and see the only remaining show of the city, and managed to get tickets fairly easily, only to be informed that the show would be cancelled because the smoke machine broke down. This time, I tried again, but the show was on annual holidays during the time. The night life and party scene also pale in comparison to Sin City, and you are rapidly aware that the only thing most of the Chinese visitors are interested in is gambling and only gambling. Even so, I was surprised to discover a culinary experience as good as the Las Vegas one, with the added bonus of having most of the restaurants - despite really being world class - always open and almost always half empty. Getting a table at a Michelin starred restaurant at 8.30pm on a Saturday evening? Booking is only optional.
Personally, I like the fact of not having that many distractions and to be able to focus on the game of poker itself. It would probably be hard to stay for few months like Las Vegas every summer, but the last couple of weeks went by really fast. In case you get kinda bored and are looking for something else, there is always the opportunity to go to Hong Kong, which is an hour away by ferry, a wonderful city where I always wish I could stay longer. There are things for everyone in HK, no matter what you are looking for!
The only main downside of Macau is probably the pollution, and I can see why some players dislike it. The smog is visible every day, as opposed to the sun which you can't really see. It really doesn't bother me much, because also the vast majority of Macau activities are indoors, besides some touristic sites and the biggest bungee jump in the world.
You have to know what to expect, but Macau is a unique experience and city to discover, and probably the future of poker!
ElkY is a member of Team PokerStars Pro