Gone are the days when one could play Blackjack with a 100 HKD minimum bet in Macau's top casinos. In 2015, the minimum bets increased to 500 HKD in popular casinos like Wynn, MGM, and Venetian. Baccarat tables at even 500 HKD became scarce and rather started at 1000 HKD. And if you happened to be playing a game like Three Card Poker, where a total of three bets are placed for a single game (Pair Plus, Ante, and Play), you would end up betting 1500 HKD to be able to compare your cards with those of the dealer. In Indian Rupees (July 2016), that would be INR 13500 for a single game that will take a couple of minutes to complete. In such a setting if you are not getting lucky quickly enough, you will run out of your bank roll before you know it. During my 2015 Macau trip, I incidentally landed in Wynn (Macau Peninsula) before any other casino because I wanted to change some Singapore Dollars into HKD. I have found sometimes that Wynn offers better exchange rates for some currencies in Macau than other casinos nearby. Anyway, that was the first time I realised that there wasn't a single table of Blackjack, Three Card Poker, or Caribbean Stud Poker with a minimum bet of less than 500 HKD. During my earlier trips I had played in many casinos at 200 or even 100 HKD bets. So what had really changed? Keep reading...
|Wynn Macau with MGM In The Background|
Why Minimum Bets in Macau Casinos Increased?
It is baffling to me but I know if I Googled a bit, I will find some articles on this topic. From what I personally knew, the Chinese government had not long ago cracked down on Macau's junket business and that had considerably reduced the gaming revenues of Macau casinos. Ideally they should have reduced minimum bets to attract more people to the gaming tables. But were they trying to make up for their revenue losses by increasing minimum bets? Let me give a quick idea of how higher bets increase casino profits. Its the fear factor. Most gamblers have a limited bank roll and playing at higher bets makes them more stressful. They fear losing and because of being in a stressful mood, end up losing everything rather than winning. For the casino, there is more money at play in the same time frame and their guaranteed 'house edge' rakes in more money.
But another reason for the higher minimum bets could be the demand supply gap in terms of the number of players vis-a-vis the available number of seats at gaming tables. Even though the number of 'VIP' players had come down, the number of tourists flocking to Macau kept increasing. As a result, there was no shortage of people looking for seats at gaming tables. Most likely that was the reason. Now the next question is, will it be possible for us poor chaps to play at a Macau gaming table for less than 500 HKD a bet? The good news is that yes, it is possible even now.
Where To Find Lower Minimum Bets in Macau
I can't say for Wynn in Macau Peninsula because they do not want low end customers, but there are several other casinos who at least on certain days and during certain seasons still have gaming tables starting at 300 HKD. And I am talking about major casinos here. If you decide to venture into small casinos located inside hotels like Golden Dragon, you may find Blackjack tables accepting bets of just 100 HKD. Yes, I saw this in June 2016. Let us talk about the major casinos first. I have personally seen this in The Venetian during weekdays and in Studio City even during weekends that they have 200 - 300 HKD gaming tables. The gaming atmosphere in Studio City is much better than in Venetian and thus it is fun to play table games there (but not slots because they just never pay back anything). I do not like Venetian for either table games or slots because their slots are too greedy and their tables are too crowded with tourists. Coming back to the topic, in general, the casinos on the Taipa side of Macau are more likely to have gaming tables starting at 300 HKD bets. This is true also of Galaxy and City of Dreams. On the Peninsula side, one can try Sands, Lisboa, or StarWorld but I doubt if there will be a 300 HKD table in MGM or Wynn. Another issue is required to be kept in mind here. It is that of the gaming rules. Not all Macau casinos pay equally for similar wins.
Gaming Rules and Low Minimum Bets
While we hunt for low minimum bets, it will not hurt to know a few important rules of popular games like Blackjack and Three Card Poker. The two American Casinos on the peninsula side, Wynn and MGM have very player friendly Blackjack rules. To give an example, if a player lays an additional bet by way of Splitting or Doubling down a hand and the dealer later comes up with a Blackjack, the additional bets of the player (split, double, etc.) are returned and the loss is restricted to the original bet only. This, however, does not happen in all the casinos. Some casinos restrict the occasions when a player can double down or split hands. A casino may not allow you to double down on soft hands like a soft 16 (A+6) when the dealer has a low card showing. They may allow double down only when the player has a 9, 10, or 11. This reduces the winning chances of the player and increases the house edge. Small casinos actually play dirty tricks when it comes to Blackjack tables. In Golden Dragon where a couple of 100 HKD Blackjack tables can always be found, I saw the dealer offering "Even Money" to a player who had a Blackjack when the dealer's up card was just a picture card, not an ace. Taking even money on a Blackjack even if the dealer is showing an ace is not advised, but this guy was offering it on his picture card. I have never seen it before. After seeing that, I could not muster the courage to sit on that table even if the 100 HKD minimum bet was very tempting. I did not know what other surprises that funny casino was going to throw at me.
Three Card Poker in most Macau casinos is branded as 'Fortune Three Card Poker' and pays 40 times for a straight flush, 25 times for three of a kind, five times for a straight, four times for a flush, and even money on a pair. A small casino may change some of these payouts in order to reduce the players' advantage.
Demand-Supply and Seasonal Factors
Even if major casinos would like to keep minimum bets at 500 HKD for as long as they can, a lower demand during weekdays and lean months could temporarily force them to lower minimum bets. One may look around to find a more affordable table in any casino.
Studio City opened during 2015, and August/September 2016 saw the opening of Wynn Palace and The Parisian. The new MGM will open in Taipa Macau in 2017. All these casinos are coming up in the vicinity of The Venetian. Now ideally, new casinos should mean more competition and perhaps lower minimum bets. Unfortunately that is not going to happen. The local government, under orders from the Chinese government, have decided to force casinos to look for more non-gaming revenue and is restricting the number of gaming tables available to players. Therefore, we should not be surprised if the minimum bets in casinos like Wynn increase beyond 500 HKD. Let it be known, the future of Macau punters does not seem very bright.
|Posted by Narinder Singh|