Day 2 – Macau, China
Waking up after a fairly late night, and an extremley long day. A plane ride, a drive through Guangzhou, a ferry from mainland to Macau, and capped off with a Billionaire’s idea of a 1st Birthday party. Turns out that after we crashed out, some of the party go-ers hit the casino and one uber unfortunate chap lost 30 million RMB (…yes), on a run of bad luck. Here is my view looking down from the hotel room :-o
The beginning of the day (3:00PM already) we decide to spend exploring. Looking around town at the different casino’s and whatever else Macau has to offer. The lasting mental images I have are 1) of the Grand Lisboa Casino.
A grotesque and monstrous overblown Y-shape of a building, that is somehow beautiful in its grotesqueness, and 2), the mixture of Portuguese and Chinese on every sign. Macau was a Portuguese colony for 400 years, and was returned to China around the same time as Hong Kong became repatriated. It is supposdely promised another 50 years of autonomy in the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration. Portuguese is still an official language, and most the locals speak one or more forms of Chinese, and Portuguese as well. I couldn’t tell of any other Portuguese influences, but I can’t say in the moment I really looked for them.
Casino’s are strange places. This was my first exposure to them, and I can’t say I adjusted. No mirrors, no clocks – mostly so that you don’t notice the passage of time, and you also can’t see how much you look like shit after a 30 hour binge, only stopping for whiskey and cigarettes occasionally. Stranger than that is the casinos seem to flaunt how much money they are making off you right in your face. They are impeccably designed, beautifully furnished, staffed by employees in immaculate outfits and every visible room or hallway is adorned with gold, and velvet, and rich mahogany, marble fountains and fabulous tapestries. I understand that people want to be in luxurious surroundings, and like looking at all these things, but it just came off reeking of desperation to me. It seemed to me like a rich guy, flossing his Bentley, showing a girl photos of celebrities he’s met, talking about how he loves volunterring and thinking of others. Until he gets to fuck you, and then you find out he spends his time watching jersey shore in his underwear, while inhaling cans of spray-cheese. What’s even weirder in these casinos is that once you get past the entry, and the hallways of velvet walls, the gaming rooms are often simple and bare. Rows of slot-machines, or a room of 20 poker tables with no fancy shit anywhere. Like now that you’re in the inner sanctum, they’ve given up the show and their just happy to pull you up a fold out lawn chair and a solo cup with a free whiskey sour.
Take this example. A row of Rolls-Royce’s that were outside the MGM Casino. A line of perfect, dark burgundy, 2012 Rolls-Royce Phantoms, parked facing out at 60 degree angle to the curb. Obviously, these are for VIP pick-ups, and for guests that want to rent them out. But here’s the oddity from my thinking. Any VIP who is at the hotel, will just call and ask “Do you have a luxury car and driver that I can have for the afternoon”, the fact that they walk by them on the way into the casino probably drums up no business. So to me, it is the casino saying “Look how much money we’ve taken off all the guests before you, we can afford to have these awesome cars, and just leave them here in case they are needed sometime! Come in, and help us buy another 6!” That being said, they looked impressive, and we couldn’t resist getting pictures right in front of them, even though it made a security guard to come over and shoo us away.
That was the second warning we got for security in about 5 minutes. Just before a guard had come over to ask to look at my phone when I snapped these photos inside the casino. A big No-No. Luckily I had two camera apps on my phone, and so when he asked to see it, I just opened the gallery from the app that I hadn’t used, and there were no casino pictures to be found. Below are the pictures that I came away with from that little white lie.
I’m not really a gambler. I lost about $2,500 during university when I briefly became addicted to online poker, but since then I’ve never had the desire to play other than some friendly home games. I was more interested in seeing the insides of the casinos, the people, the architecture and design, and taking it all in. The one bit of betting I was in for I was talked into by my buddy. Our idea was to take the $400 of chips that came with the room and let it ride on BlackJack. We’d try our luck right before going out for the night to eat and drink. If we won, it would make the night that much more exciting, and well-funded, and if we lost, it was no real sweat. A pretty enticing offer when put as All-Win, No-Lose.
On our way out of StarWorld that night we stopped on the third floor. We spent a few minutes looking over the tables, scoping out the “best” one. We picked a table at the far end, with 2 empty seats of 6. Tony sat down, and watched the first hand. On the first hand where the dealer could put him in, he put all $400 on his spot. He stayed with 16, and the dealer bust. Two other people who stayed in won as well. This time, almost $600 on the table, he hit a two card 21 and the dealer killed almost everyone else. The Chinese woman next to him, said that not only he was good luck, but he was in a lucky seat. The 3rd round, she put $200 on HIS cards, and he put his $1100 back in. This time, he got two face cards, split them, and got 18 and 19 respectively, the dealer busting on the 4th card. This time everyone at the table got good, and everyone was showering him with love and claims of his luck! The woman next to him again said that it definitely had to be his seat that was lucky. Not willing to take such a blatant shot to his ego, Tony told her that if it was the seat he’d be happy to switch with her, which they did. This was it. With about $1700 now (we had set a $2500 limit that if we hit, we’d just get out and celebrate) and one more hand to get there. It was do-or-die. Hot-streak, new seats, and everyone at the table throwing money onto our cards now. The first card to come was a 6, the first hit a 10. Knowing the dealer would be aggressive because they had just busted on the 4th card last hand, Tony decided he had to hit. A 4! Magnificent, and we stick on 20. The visual and physical release from both of us was a huge sigh and a rush of air outwards, after a moment of flop sweat. Both of us gitty and wide-eyed from the high of winning each time so far with ease. The dealer starts to take cards. Ace, shit. 3, shit. 8, OK a bit better, she now has 12 and has to hit. A 5, which is amazing, because she has no choice to hit, but anything 4 and under and we’re sunk. All this luck crashing to a stop and our high instantly plugged like being stoned and seeing a cop drive through Dairy Queen right behind you. The flip of the card and the turnover in her hand feel like it takes a minute alone. The flick of the card as it scrapes against the top of the pile sounds like a 2-by-4 snapping, and the thud of the card hitting the velvet is like the thump from a fat computer programmer’s feet hitting the ground in his mothers basement. Rolling out of bed, their feet hitting the puce-yellow carpet over thin running boards with the weight of 8 lifetimes of Cheetos and the disappointment of 1000 prom nights spent alone. A Jack – which means 10! She’s gone over, and on the 5th card! :-0 We’re in shock for a second. Relief and shock. Joy and a release of endorphins like ecstasy covered chocolate! When all is cashed out, we’ve made well over $2500 and to say the least the night is well funded. We think about our hot streak for a second, and whether we should turn to the poker tables near-by, but one look and the first thing we spot is highly televised, and reasonably famous poker star Tom Duan sitting at a table. We’re both know we’re not that lucky, and we walk over to the cashier.