The world’s most lucrative gaming hub, Macau, is an ever-expanding metropolis of glitzy casinos. From themed venues and established brands, to online operators taking a punt in the world of brick and mortar gaming, the Asian gambling capital has it all. I’ve backpacked my way through the city country state a couple of times over and love the thrill of it all.
Naturally, with so much variety, the line between what’s hot and what’s not isn’t as clear. With dozens of high-rise entertainment establishments to choose from, it can be tough to know where to cash in your chips.
Fortunately, having travelled the length and breadth of the Cotai Strip in search of excellence, I’ve managed to find the best bets in town. But what if I’m not a gambler I hear you cry? It doesn’t matter. Macau’s bourgeoning wealth (annual gaming revenues are around $44 billion) wasn’t built on casino games such as blackjack, roulette and poker alone.
Of course, the riffling of chips and flashing LEDs are what most people visit Macau for, but during my trip I found a whole host of things to do away from the casino floor. So, even if you aren’t tempted to take a ride with lady luck, there are literally hundreds of things you can do instead.
Well, what are they then? While I can’t give you a breakdown of every experience you’ll find in Macau’s top casinos, I can regale you with some of the highlights and tell you where you should ante-up.
So, without any more stalling, here’s my guide to Macau’s casino culture:
It’s Gambling but Not as you Know It
To wax lyrical about the range of casino games in Macau is easy. Thanks to some of the most expansive gaming floors in the world, the city’s top casinos have every table game imaginable. Whether you have a love for blackjack and roulette or something more exotic such as punta banco, you won’t be short of action in Macau. Personally, my favourite game was blackjack as it’s relatively simple to understand, but many locals prefer baccarat as the swings of luck are more engaging.
However, as popular as casino games are, there’s another game that trumps them all: poker. Seen as the gambling cousin of table games such as blackjack and roulette (mainly because there’s a skill element to the game), poker is easily one of the most played games in Macau.
One of the main reasons for this is the plethora of high stakes games on offer. As well as attracting the biggest players in Asia, venues such as PokerStars LIVE in the City of Dreams welcome players from all over the world. Through a combination of online poker satellites to events such as the Macau Millions and generous cash games limits, Macau has become one of the leading poker destinations in the world over the last few years.
Big name players from the US, such as Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan and Alec Torelli, regularly post pictures from the biggest games on offer where pots can range from $100,000 to well in excess of $10,000,000. Indeed, you only have to look at the stacks of chips on the table to know that some of the best poker action in the world takes place in Macau.
If you’re looking to rail some high stakes cash games then I suggest you head over to the Poker King Club. However, if you fancy testing out your poker face in something a little more affordable, then the following poker rooms are certainly worth a visit:
- City of Dreams.
- Wynn Macau Poker Room.
- The Venetian Macau.
- StarWorld Macau.
Refuel and Party
When the gambling comes to an end but your adrenaline levels are still on a high, there’s always something going on in Macau. Usually located a short stroll from a casino’s main gaming floor, there seems to be a touch of glamour running through all of Macau’s non-gaming activities.
For those who enjoy fine dining there’s a slew of high-end restaurants perfectly positioned within Macau’s top casinos. Catering to high rollers with expensive tastes, the eateries offer some of the best dining experiences in the world. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Grand Lisboa’s Robuchon au Dôme is recognised as one of the “most beautiful” restaurants on the planet. Sitting atop of the imposing Grand Lisboa, this three-year-old venue comes complete with decor as fancy as its dishes. Also for the cheap backpacker there are street snacks and markets such as the place I tried Custard Tarts and Macau pudding Serradurra a few years back.
Indeed, while you’re sampling Maine Lobster and white bean stew, you can gaze across Macau’s skyline or simply sit and stare at the lavish crystal chandeliers draped across the restaurant’s ceilings. Of course, if you’re not a fan of heights then Macau has hundreds of fantastic alternatives, including: Don Alfonso (Grand Lisboa), Beijing Kitchen (City of Dreams) and the Golden Peacock (The Venetian Macau).
Once you’ve fuelled up, Macau’s nightclubs are on hand to help you burn off the calories. Naturally, the biggest venues are located inside the city’s top casinos and you’ll find many of the biggest music acts in the world on location. Two clubs are often touted as “the” places to go in Macau: Club Cubic and China Rogue. The former is the largest club in Macau at 2,800 square-meters and was designed by Bosco Lam. Thanks to its $13 million interior, the club has five VIP rooms as well as a live stage that’s seen the likes of Flo Rida, Steve Aoki and LMFAO wow the crowds.
If you’re looking for something a little more exclusive away from City of Dreams’ Club Cubic, then China Rogue is your best option. Although it’s billed as a member’s only club, the door policy is a little less strict than similar venues in the city. Basically, if you turn up looking smart (think finely pressed suit), then you stand a good chance of getting in. However, if you don’t make it past the burly security guards you can always head over to Club Cubic and enjoy a night of excess.
When the Lights Go Down
Once the lights go down and it’s time to sleep, Macau’s casinos are equipped to offer a range of hotel rooms like no other. Varied and lavish enough to compete with anything Las Vegas has to offer, it’s possible to enjoy a night of luxury for a relatively reasonable price in Macau. Although opinions are often divided as to Macau’s best hotels, those owned by Sands Resorts often come out top of the opinion polls.
The jewel in the company’s crown is the Venetian, but between that and its other interests in the city, Sands Resorts has won almost 100 accolades for its hospitality since 2014. From its hotel rooms to its facilities, Sands properties seem to win favour with almost everyone that experiences them. A night in the Venetian will cost you anywhere from a few hundred dollars per night to $10,000+.
Overall, Macau is a destination that’s worth visiting at least once. Much like Las Vegas, the city is now a metropolis of man-made excess, but that’s ok. A short stay in one of Macau’s top hotels will give you access to some experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Indeed, there are few places in the world where you can play poker for millions of dollars, eat some of the best food in the world and then party like a rock star all under one roof. For this fact alone, I’d recommend a trip to Macau for anyone that wants to experience the thrill of excess at least once in their life.
Safe and happy travels!