Poker rooms Poker

Making room for poker

Written by Ben Blaschke

I’ve been to any number of casinos around the world and I’ve seen all manner of poker rooms, from the truly spectacular to the dodgy corner room tucked away and conveniently forgotten, or even worse a dingy space down a back alley with a guy named “Bubba” on the door!

I recently popped into The Star in Sydney after an extended absence and was pleasantly surprised to see the poker room had been moved to an awesome space at the southern end of the main gaming floor. I found plenty of room to move about and a wonderful environment in which to play poker.

But then staff told me why poker had suddenly enjoyed this considerable slice of luck, having previously been shuffled from place to place and at one stage occupying a long, poorly laid out and highly unpopular corridor on the second floor (where, incidentally, our CEO Andrew W Scott once witnessed a full-blooded fist fight in the middle of a high roller event). As it turns out, the southern end of the casino tends to be dead most of the time, even on weekends, while the northern end where poker had been immediately before this latest move was much busier and therefore the preferred location for roulette, baccarat, blackjack and the like.

The old poker room at The Star in Sydney was far from popular with players

The old poker room at The Star in Sydney was far from popular with players

In other words, although Sydney’s poker players love their new room, it wasn’t with them in mind that casino management shipped them off to the south.

This got me thinking about why cash game poker has had trouble truly taking hold in Macau. The powers that be need to address the table cap issue sooner rather than later. It makes sense that with only a limited number of tables at their disposal, casinos want to maximise their potential profit and the fact of the matter is games like baccarat bring in a lot more money a lot quicker than poker does. A poker table or a roulette table? It’s a no-brainer.

This is also why PokerStars LIVE Macau had so much trouble finding a permanent home before finally settling upon their current arrangement at City of Dreams – their last permanent residence at Grand Lisboa came to an end because management needed more space to accommodate the junkets which make up such a significant portion of Grand Lisboa’s profit.

The logical answer to this problem, of course, is to treat poker differently to other table games for the purposes of the Macau table cap – and that is perfectly justified because poker (and mahjong, for that matter) is a player versus player contest, not a player versus casino contest. It is fundamentally different to games like baccarat, sicbo, roulette and blackjack.

Cash game poker continues to fight an uphill battle in Macau and we should give enormous credit to Wynn, City of Dreams, Venetian and StarWorld for giving poker the time of day. We can only hope the opportunity arises for many more to join them in the coming years.