We’ve always wanted to go to Macao, China’s casino capital, and try our hand at baccarat. Maybe take some names.
But a spread in this week’s New Yorker magazine has made us reconsider that thought. The piece is called “The God Of Gamblers, why Las Vegas is moving to Macao,” by Evan Osnos — and OK, Las Vegas may be moving to Macao, but that doesn’t mean the strip in the East is like the strip in the West.
The main, most terrifying difference that we noticed, is that a hot streak in Macao could get you into major trouble. Like — someone trying to kill you type of trouble. Take the case of Inveterate Gambler Ping, for example:
About four months into (Ricardo) Siu’s streak, a gossip column in the Apple Daily, a popular Hong Kong paper, took note of a “mysterious” figure making the rounds in Macau, said to be amassing a fortune as large as a hundred and 50 million dollars. “Is he extremely lucky or does he have the real magic touch?” the paper asked in January, 2008. The next day, a member of Hong Kong’s legislature, Chim Pui Chung—a devoted gambler himself—told the paper that he had heard people hailing the new high roller as the “God of Gamblers,” borrowed from the title of a Hong Kong movie starring Chow Yun-fat.A streak of that scale was also likely to attract suspicion.
Macau garners its share of creative casino cheats; last summer, local police arrested members of a gang accused of embedding miniature cameras into card-shuffling machines. Too much success can be cause for distrust. A casino’s advantage in baccarat—about 1.15 per cent—ordains that the chances of winning all but evaporate for a gambler after 30 thousand hands. A dedicated player can draw a thousand hands in a weekend and come out ahead, but after seven months almost nobody should go home a winner.
Not long after the article appeared dubbing Siu the God of Gamblers, his 20-year-old son received a series of anonymous threatening phone calls. Then one night someone slipped into Celebrating Fortune village and tried to set the family house on fire. Finally, Siu’s friend Wong Kam-ming, who had introduced him to several V.I.P. rooms, received an angry call. The man on the other end demanded a meeting to discuss the question of Inveterate Gambler Ping’s having cheated.
So yeah, if you’re in Macao, don’t just quit while you’re ahead… quit early.