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Beginner's Luck
By Mey Shyuan

Gambling or the game of chance has always eluded me. I need to be dragged into a casino by friends who are eager for a game or two. The slot machines and game tables look the same to me, and I am absolutely clueless as to how to play each game. Most of my time is spent sitting in front of one machine, slotting coin after coin wanting time to pass faster.

It is exactly this reason that Macau, to me, is such a fascinating place. It is akin to Las Vegas with almost 8 million visitors each year, over 80 percent being Hong Kong Chinese, who go with only one main purpose, gambling. Those looking for a quick buck will find Lady Luck lurking at any of the nine main casinos in Macau. Five are located in hotels, namely Hotel Lisboa, Mandarin Oriental, Kingsway hotels, Holiday Inn, and Hyatt Regency. The others are the Jai-Alai Casino, the Kam Pek Casino, New Century, and the Casino de Macau, otherwise known as the Floating Casino since it's located on a permanently moored floating barge.

Choosing a casino to visit should not be too difficult. All offer a large variety of casino games, bringing together eastern and western favorites. Games include roulette, its cousin boule, blackjack, baccarat, pai kao, fan tan, "big and small" (Dai-Siu), and pacapio.

If the games of chance sound foreign to you (just like it does to me), there is always the option of slot machines, which are also known as the "hungry tigers" to the Chinese. However, most true gamblers will say that money is harder to come by through these machines. Nonetheless, they are linked for super jackpot payoffs, which equals BIG BUCKS, although only the very, very lucky ever win.

Bets vary from game to game. For example, baccarat, or Chemin de Fer, has a minimum bet of $100 and a maximum of $35,000. Naturally, the highest payoff is $35,000. However, those wagering in VIP rooms can gain as high as US$100,000! Roulette, boule, and blackjack have smaller minimum bets with smaller payoffs. They range from a minimum bet of $20 to a maximum of $400.

Chinese games come in the form of fan tan, which is a very ancient Chinese game using porcelain buttons, and "big and small", where three dices are thrown under a covered glass canister. For more information on gambling and casinos, you can check:


As with most things Chinese, superstition is highly regarded in the casinos in Macau. Water is a symbol of luck and the Chinese word for water is soi. Not surprisingly, the Cantonese slang for money is the same. Choi Sun, the god of luck and fortune in Macau, is revered with much respect. However, he is not to be invoked as he only visits on a random basis.

I guess this type of game with its unique characteristics will need a little more time to comprehend. It is a developed interest only certain people will enjoy. Despite all its excitement and adrenaline high, I think that I shall continue to act as a passive gambler and concentrate more on rooting for my gambling buddies!

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