The smugness was almost palpable at Exchange Square before the much-anticipated market debut of Beijing Enterprises Holdings. Brokers, lawyers, valuers and others associated with the float wore the unmistakable glow of the gambling man who knows he is on a sure thing in the first at Happy Valley. There was never any doubt their horse would come in. Chairman Hu Zhaoguang even received a standing ovation from brokers when he made a pre-trade speech on the trading floor, stating: 'We will do our best.' Within just a few minutes of trading in the red chip, the shares were doing just that. The $12.48 issue price became but a distant memory as the shares rocketed past the $40 barrier. As they scaled stratospheric heights, the self-satisfied atmosphere was quickly transformed into one of boisterousness. 'We're going to Disneyland,' shouted a delighted representative of Morgan Stanley, one of the float's co-sponsors, when asked for his opinion minutes after the listing. Inside the exchange, at least, the success of the float was measured by the degree to which the share price surged. Elsewhere, the self-satisfied grins were far less in evidence. For most of the small punters - the men and women on the street who helped ensure the company's headline 1,276 times oversubscription rate - the listing price was the last thing on their minds. Many were busy tracking down funds they had either withdrawn or borrowed in a vain bid to cash in on the hottest red-chip show in town. Less than half of those who had enough funds to apply for 300,000 shares received even 2,000. Even more remarkably, to be assured of a 2,000 share allotment, investors had to put up $8.73 million - the amount payable for 700,000 shares in the float. A queue of several thousand snaked hundreds of metres from the Museum of Chinese Historical Relics all the way to the Wan Chai Sports Ground during much of yesterday - mostly made up of slouched investors who missed out on any allocation. Many of those who lined up to get their money back were first-time share market investors who will most probably continue to be stock exchange virgins. A lucky few in the queue hit the jackpot, even though they put up relatively small sums of money and were there to claim share certificates, but they were in the significant minority. Small investors were notably absent from securities purchase and trade counters of major banks in Central. Consultants at Hongkong Bank's counter in its Central headquarters said there had 'not been much interest' in the stock during the morning session. It was not only the 'mum and dad' investors left out in the cold. Small brokers that were not actively part of the float were forced to take whatever they could get in the all-singing, all-dancing Beijing Enterprises extravaganza. And that was not very much. One private client broker said they had been given a total of 6,000 shares to allocate across their entire client base. Back at Exchange Square, the media melee was in full swing. More than 20 television camera crews - a record for any exchange event - used the tools of their trade as weapons to sweep unwanted obstructions like reporters out of the way, as they circled triumphant company chairman Hu Zhaoguang when he approached the public gallery. Amid the euphoria, a note of concern was sounded by Alex Ko, managing director of Peregrine Capital (China). Mr Ko said he believed there were 'some elements of gambling' in the way the grey market price - and, ultimately, the share price - topped $40. Maybe so, but no mug punters got a look in. This particular gamble was for high rollers only.