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For many years, Macau and Las Vegas have both been growing and expanding their gambling options, each seeking to stand out as the top gambling destination in the world. Some say Macau is now winning that race, including PokerStars. A recent article on the PokerStars blog noted that Macau has overtaken Las Vegas in that respect, with the former focused more heavily on gambling and the latter becoming more of an entertainment city featuring shows and parties.

For poker, Macau could be in the process of becoming a larger draw for players. More poker rooms are downsizing and/or closing in Las Vegas this year, as the lack of online poker in America combined with tough economic times has taken players away from the poker tables. While the World Series of Poker undoubtedly brings thousands of poker players to Las Vegas from the world over for the summer months, the rest of the year sees serious players now heading to other destinations. Los Angeles card rooms remain popular, and other casinos in Florida, Pennsylvania, and even Maryland are making their poker rooms more attractive than those in Vegas.

Macau for Tournaments

PokerStars has every reason to promote Macau as the new top gambling destination. Its tournaments there continue to gain popularity, and it is all centered around and in its PokerStars LIVE branded poker room at City of Dreams Casino. Events are offered very regularly, such as the Macau Poker Cup with its signature Red Dragon events, the Macau Millions, and the Asia Championship of Poker. There is an Asia Player of the Year race, with a one-year sponsorship as the year-end prize. The new PokerStars Championship series heads to Macau this week through April 9 and more than 50 tournaments in all. And in October, the Asia Championship of Poker will offer 16 days of even more tournaments.

Of course, there are daily tournaments at PokerStars LIVE Macau as well, and other events at poker rooms in Macau proper. There are three main hotels just in the City of Dreams resort alone – Crown Towers, Grand Hyatt, and Hard Rock Hotel – and surrounding the tournament arena are shopping and arts options for entertainment.

Cash Games Attract High Rollers

Macau casinos offer cash games at every level so all players can compete, but it is the high stakes games that many casinos use to cater to the high rollers. For example, PokerStars LIVE offers No Limit Hold’em from HKD $25/$50 up to $100/$200, but players with the means to play higher can find the games they seek. Games are rumored to happen at the $25K/$50K level and up to $50K/$100K.

Poker players like Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan regularly spend time in Macau to frequent those high stakes games, and others are known to join them. In fact, even Team PokerStars Pro Jake Cody spent time in Macau to play daily cash games, though not with the highest rollers. As he told Poker Strategy, “I genuinely think the selection of the pros there are the best in the world. … Rather than the people who travel the tournament scene who you’ve heard of, these really are the best players. I think I’ve missed the golden era of Macau, but you can still do well there if you are willing to put the hours in.” He confessed to playing as high as £100/£200 but as low as £30/£60.

And as fellow Team Pro Celina Lin told PokerStars, “People don’t come to Macau to party or see shows; they enjoy the casino games too much.” Lin has lived in Macau for seven years now, considering she makes a living at the poker tables and certainly considers Macau the best place for poker, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Apples and Oranges?

Macau and Las Vegas do have a lot in common, with both places dominated by casinos and focused on the gambling industry. Both also provide much in the way of alternative entertainment as well. But as Las Vegas pushes harder in the direction of non-gambling activities, Macau keeps its focus on the gambling nature that seems to be in line with what the serious gamblers want.

As for poker, more players from the Americas and Europe are making the trek to Macau for the games. With poker increasing in popularity in leaps and bounds in the past few years, and with expectations of even further growth, Las Vegas does seem to be losing many of its younger pros, especially those in the high stakes realm, to Macau.

Las Vegas will remain the center of the poker world during June and July for the WSOP, but Macau is becoming a preferred poker spot during the other 10 months of the year.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.