Casinos can't lose as poker players try their luck
Poker is increasingly becoming big business in Macau. On Sunday a 25-year-old from Dublin pulled down a top prize of HK$4.19 million after finishing first among a field of 429 players in the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) at the Grand Lisboa.
The APPT amassed the biggest known prize pool to date for a poker tournament in Asia: HK$16.13 million.
The tournament, organised by online casino PokerStars.net, came hot on the heals of the Asian Poker Tour. That contest, across the street at the StarWorld Hotel, saw a 23-year-old Frenchman pocket HK$3 million for besting a field of 326 entrants that saw a total prize pool of HK$10.92 million.
Tournament organisers stand to gain handsome revenues from staging such events. The buy-in for the APPT, for example, was HK$40,000 and consisted of HK$37,600 paid into the pot plus a HK$2,400 fee.
Multiply that by 429 players and the gross revenue to the organiser was just over HK$1 million. Of course, that has to cover a number of costs associated with marketing and player sponsorships, but it's not bad for a game that only officially came to town in February of last year.
The casinos, by contrast, don't make anything from the tournaments. Instead, they stand to gain by raking the cash from games on the sidelines of the tournaments, and from poker players who might wander over to the blackjack (pontoon) tables or slot machines after getting knocked out of the main contest.
The poker rooms across Macau - at casinos such as the Wynn, Grand Lisboa and StarWorld - saw total pots averaging around HK$8 million to HK$9 million per day during the first half of the year, based on analysis of official figures.
But in those regular cash games, the casino only takes 3-5 per cent of the pot, so of the HK$8 million to $HK9 million per day that is won and lost by players betting against each other, the house only averaged around 350,000 patacas in gaming revenue. It's a drop in the ocean compared with what casinos make from baccarat, but it's worthwhile.
After all, poker players play poker - and many wouldn't otherwise be visiting the casinos.
20-cent slot machine pays nearly HK$5m
Speaking of big pots - one lucky punter this week hit a tidy HK$4.8 million jackpot while playing a 20-HK-cent-minimum-bet slot machine at the MGM Grand Macau.
The winner, a Macau local, was playing at one of 36 machines on the casino's main gaming floor that were linked via a Fa Fa Fa Fortune King progressive jackpot.
The last time the jackpot hit was around Easter, when it paid out HK$750,000. But the pot had been growing steadily richer since, and the casino said as recently as Tuesday that it was primed to go off at any time. The jackpot was triggered just after 3pm on Wednesday by an unidentified local punter who had been playing for only around 15 minutes.
Jackpots on progressive jackpots linked across multiple slot machines frequently swell into the millions of Hong Kong dollars in Macau.
This wasn't the biggest slot payout in town - as far as All In can tell, that title still belongs to a HK$1-minimum-bet machine at the Wynn that last year went off at around HK$5.5 million. Of course, there's only one way those jackpots grow so large ... But you have to feed the pot for a chance to walk away with it.