Spend any time in a casino in North America, South America, Australia or Europe and you will quickly become familiar with the incessant electronic melodies of hundreds of slot machines all competing for your attention. The machines typically take up more than 90% of the gaming floor in the standard casino and can quickly become distracting, which of course is the intent. Slot machines try to mesmerize you with their sights, sounds and ridiculous combinations of pay lines, all in the hope that you’ll slip $1, $10, $100, maybe $1,000 into them.
Things are a little different in Asia.
When the APPT last landed in Seoul in Season 2, our blogging desk was located adjacent to an obnoxious bank of one-armed bandits. Limited space on the gaming floor meant that we had no choice but to grin and bear the repeated exhortations of the “Mystical Mermaid” as we transcribed four days of high-stakes (and slightly crazy) poker action.
Since then, the Paradise Casino has removed almost all of the slot machines from its gaming floor. Table games now dominate, much as they do in Macao. And like Macao, the table game of choice in Seoul is baccarat.
At just past 4pm on a Thursday afternoon here in Seoul, 16 of the 18 baccarat tables on the Paradise Casino floor are in use. Six $10-minimum tables, four $50-minimum tables, and six $100-minimum tables are picked to the gills with players. Another three tables in the high-limit salon are also in full action, operating at minimum limits of $200 and higher.
On the far side of the floor, behind the area where the APPT Seoul Main Event is unfolding, 12 more baccarat tables are set aside for special occasions. “Thursday” is apparently a special occasion here in the Paradise Casino, as a “Special Thursday” baccarat tournament just kicked off with eight full tables.
James Bond, eat your heart out.
I thought baccarat was basically a 50-50 game – choosing player or bank is the only decision a player can make, apart from making an incredibly -EV bet on a tie – so I have no idea how a baccarat tournament should work. “It’s all in the betting,” said my blogging partner Heath Chick.
I don’t know whether Heath was serious or whether he was “taking the piss”, as Aussies are fond of saying. What I do know is that the only sound that’s competing for our attention at the blogging desk this year is the cricket chirp of hundreds of players – poker and baccarat alike – shuffling chips. After three and a half years of covering poker tournaments, that sound can almost lull me to sleep.