Spitting, Screaming, Spewing: Poker in Macau

Posted at 14:13 2009-09-17
Aussie Tim Napper shares his experiences at the recent APT and APPT poker events in Macau...
I was certain she was dead; this ancient Chinese woman in the aisle across from me. Cadaver-like, easily over a hundred years old, hands bent into gnarled claws. She was shrunk back deep, deep into the seat, glazed eyes staring blankly ahead. In Papua New Guinea, some remote tribes keep the bodies of dead ancestors in their dwelling. The shrivelled corpse of grandma, tied to a chair, sitting in the middle of the hut.
I had assumed this is what was happening here; that her family, with great deference, had loaded her corpse into the exit row of the AirAsia flight to Macau. That assumption held until it began; until the dead ancestor began extravagantly clearing her throat, hawking up massive lugies and spitting them into a sick bag clutched in one of her shrivelled hands. And it went on like this, every few minutes, for the entire three hour flight.
As the flight came to a close and I gagged in revulsion as corpse-nan worked up another uber-lugie, I looked down at the glittering lights of Macau and wondered what the poker Gods had in store for me.
Macau isn't just any part of China. It's the gambling capital, the cosmopolitan ex-Portuguese colony, the great cross-roads of Asia. Oh yes, and one of the spitting capitals of the world. Macau has grown in recent years. Grown so much it has even outstripped the mighty Vegas in terms of gambling revenue. And like Vegas, Macau is an artificial construct, a dream bought to life through the raw power of human will, ingenuity and greed. Parts of Macau rise up from the ocean on reclaimed land, much like Vegas has risen from the inhospitable sands of the desert.
But the real question is, will Asia ever compare to the US in terms of poker? Only a couple of casinos in Macau currently spread poker, and it's not clear yet whether the local players are willing to pull themselves away from the Baccarat tables long enough to play a real game. As a poker market, Asia is still untapped, and this is what the Asia Poker Tour and Asia Pacific Poker Tour were here to test - two competing tours, occurring at the same time, taking a gamble on the gamble of Asia.
That’s why I’m here - to play in both the APT and APPT, and throw myself against the worst Asia had to offer. I hope I’d find in Macau something akin to the Moneymaker boom of 2003/04: an ocean of drooling, grinning hee-haws throwing chips away like they were part of a government stimulus package and handing unimaginative TAGs like me undeserved riches. Ah, the glory days.
Shift forward two days and Matt Savage is narrating the final table of the APT with JC Tran, David Steicke and some French luckbox who looks about 13-years old, won a five dollar satellite to get into the event, and ended up winning the whole fucking thing. I'm not at the final table. I'm sitting out in the floor of the poker room playing a side event; a few feet away from me Chino Rheem, Johnny-fucking-Chan, Amnon Filippi, and a bunch of members of the so called 'Poker Pack' are engaged in a high stakes private game. But I'm not thinking about them. Scantily clad 'final-table-money-delivery-girls' with napkin sized crop tops and Vegas sized breasts saunter back and forth in the poker room provocatively; but I’ve barely even glanced in their direction.
My thoughts were on one thing and one thing only - the two hole cards appearing on the one square foot of green felt in front of me. I was on the bubble of the six-handed event, desperately short stacked, wanting only the table to fold to me so I could shove with any two and take down the sky-high blinds and antes.  After an agonisingly long wait, I found A9 – which at that stage looked like pocket quads.  AQ called my push in the big blind and I didn’t get lucky. Stupid game. I tell you, there are not many other competitive pursuits that can emulate the exquisite pain of the poker bubble.
I seemed to be running a lot better the next day in the US$1,300 buy-in tournament on the other ‘tour’, the APPT. I'd just busted Jonathan 'xMONSTERxDONGx' Karamalikis. He min-three-bet me with 37s preflop and put it all in on the flop with a flush draw. I called with two pair and it held up.
So I was riding high with a big stack early when the following hand went down. An Asian gentleman in early position raised it up. He was the only other big stack at the table and played a lot of hands, but I had him pegged - his opening bet was 2x the blind with a weak hand, 3x the blind with a medium strength hand and 3x the blind accompanied by a clear verbalised "raise" with a strong hand. So he opened in early position with the ‘strong’ version. I looked down at TT on the button, and really felt I was behind. But I didn't travel all the way to Macau to fold tens on the button, so I called and took a flop.
And the flop was beautiful - QT2 rainbow. The Asian guy did a weird ‘thoughtful’ check. I bet -I'm not going to be clever and slow play here when I'm sure he's strong and not folding the flop. He calls. Turn is an A. I guess KJ can beat me here, but I know he doesn’t have that given his early show of strength. After I bet again and he calls I’m almost certain he has AK. The river is a brick and I bet again for value. The pot has over 20,000 in it now and I’m salivating, willing the gentleman to call with TPTK. Blinds are only 100 – 200 and I’m a few seconds away from a 30,000 chip stack the chip lead for the tournament.
The Asian guy shakes his head ruefully, looks at me with a pained expression, looks back at his cards and shakes his head one more time before reluctantly throwing the call into the pot.
I triumphantly turn over my pocket tens. He looks at my hand for a second, blinking, slowly starts to smile, then turns over his hand quickly. Pocket queens.
Oh – a set. Is that all? A fucking set you weak, timid, head shaking, slow playing, nurf herder. But suddenly, before I can mouth any of this disdain for what has just occurred, an old Greek guy next to me – who has thus far remained silent for most of the day, explodes, “A set - I thought this was Texas hold‘em. You don’t like this man’s chips? A SET!” He starts jabbing his finger in the direction of the Asian gentleman, his voice getting louder and louder, “Give the man the nuts and he'll be brave next time. I THOUGHT THIS WAS TEXAS HOLD‘EM!”
I really don’t know why he was so offended, but I was silently egging him on, willing the diatribe to escalate...yes yes – now call him a donkey, throw your coffee at him, punch him in the mouth – punch him in the mouth!
Alas, no punches were thrown, and as I was short stacked I went out soon after. My usual post-knock out ritual in Macau is to go the bar on the same floor as the poker room, buy a beer and a packet of cigarettes (I quit smoking some time back, but often relapse after a bad beat or tough knock out). I did the same here, chain smoking and watching soundless car racing on the screen behind the bar. After an hour or so I slouched out of the casino, past the degenerates and the show girls, past the pallid Internet kids who looked like they had just risen from the crypt to play some ’live’ poker, and out to the taxi line.
Funny thing about chain smoking after you’ve quit – the body doesn’t react so well. I found myself increasingly nauseous during the 15-minute cab ride back to the Venetian. No lunch, two pints of beer and half a pack of durries were catching up with me. It had to be the longest cab ride of my life. Macau was swirling by me faster and faster, but we didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the destination. I felt like death, silently begging for the ride to end, gripping the seat in from of me, breathing in and out heavily, trying not to hurl on the unsuspecting cab driver. And I nearly made it. And unlike the cadaver I accompanied over in the plane, I didn't have a sick bag.

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Spitting, Screaming, Spewing: Poker in Macau Spitting, Screaming, Spewing: Poker in Macau

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