Is Macau the new Vegas? PokerPlayer’s in-depth look at the new home of high stakes poker

With poker making waves in the gambling centre of Macau, is this the start of a new poker boom out East?


When the Macau government ended the region’s long- standing casino monopoly in 2002, it ushered in a new era for the local economy and its gambling activities. With the opportunities finally there for the taking, large international gaming corporations poured in billions of dollars to set up hotels and casinos in the region.

The result is that Macau has now surpassed Las Vegas in growth and revenue. A few years later, it is only fitting that another product from the west is making headway in the former Portuguese colony, as poker finally gains a foothold in Macau’s casinos.

The first big sign of the game’s arrival in the region came when PokerStars decided to hold the APPT Macau poker tournament in late 2007. The APPT also held its second Macau tournament this past September at the same venue. The APPT, though, is not the only major poker tournament in Macau.

The Asian Poker Tour (APT) held its own tournament, the APT Macau, from 27 to 31 August this year.

The APT Macau event was held at the and drew hundreds of poker players and personalities from all over the world. Legendary figures like Doyle Brunson and Jack Binion were there, alongside renowned players such as Johnny Chan and JC Tran. Brunson even held a book signing at the event, the huge popularity of which was further evidence of the growth of the game in the region.


It’s not just tournaments that are taking off either. Due to popular demand, hold’em cash games have finally made their way to Macau too. Earlier this year the government authorised local casinos to offer the game for the first time, and shortly afterward the Grand Lisboa began offering cash games at its casino. It was followed by the APPT, which launched its ‘PokerStars Macau’ poker room at the Grand Waldo Casino.

The APT also recently opened the APT-sponsored poker room at the Galaxy StarWorld Casino. The stampede of players to Macau resulted in the addition of eight more tables at the APT room. Six new state-of-the-art shuffling machines had to be added to cope with the demand.

With poker finally being offered at local casinos and large tournaments being held on a regular basis, things are definitely looking up for poker in Macau. While it has yet to match the overwhelming popularity of baccarat, poker is certainly getting closer to establishing itself as a mainstay in Macau’s casinos. If nothing else, this certainly gives weight to Macau’s claims to be ‘the Las Vegas of the East’.

The last word, however, should be left to Doyle Brunson. ‘I have been to so many tournaments and so many places in the world but I have to say I am so impressed with the APT and Macau. This is the first time I have been here. I thought Las Vegas was the gambling capital of the world but I was wrong. It feels like coming home.’

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