Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond(pictured) has been having a rough year at the tables online. After starting March off strong and winning over $220,000, the high-stakes grinder quickly lost it all back, plus another $1.2 million, in just a few sessions. The sudden downswing led Galfond to post a lighthearted Tweet about his current misfortune: “What’s the best way to make a quick $1.4m back? Asking for a friend.”
While the Tweet garnered several responses, some serious and some tongue-in-cheek, the most interesting came from Tom “durrrr” Dwan, who said, “In Macau, the standard way to get even is baccarat.”
While Dwan could have been joking, his response, at the very least, highlights the absurd amounts of cash being gambled on a regular basis at Macau’s casinos. The tiny Chinese gambling enclave has become the de facto center of the ultra high-stakes poker world in recent years, with action moving away from Las Vegas.
In fact, the former Portuguese colony took in $45 billion in revenue in 2013, over seven times what Las Vegas made in the same period, according to CNN.
In card rooms like the Poker King Club Macau, you can find Dwan battling pros, wealthy businessman, and Chinese mega-whales for millions of dollars in games with blinds up to $12,500/$25,000.
Entrepreneur and poker player Tom “Hong Kong Tom” Hall, a Macau high-stakes regular, recently gave an interview revealing some rare details on the game. He said that since it began, around 100 to 150 players have participated, with 10 to 20 playing regularly.
For pros, entry is not guaranteed and a recommendation from another player already in the game is needed. Usually, only a set number of grinders will be allowed at the table and those not willing to gamble a little are frowned upon. “I don’t think any individual is specifically unwelcome, but those super-nitty, ‘silent at the table’ pros are extremely unlikely to get a second invite,” said Hall.
With blinds so high, huge wins and losses are commonplace. “I would say approximately… $12.8 million [was the most] won/lost in a single session, bearing in mind these sessions can run 30 to 40 hours regularly with perhaps a mini-food break or quick nap or break to watch a soccer game.”
According to Hall, “all of the local regulars usually play their own funds, whereas most of the pros are either staked or pierced out to a certain degree.”
Perhaps that’s why Dwan(pictured), who is known to play an extremely loose-aggressive style, is so welcome at the game. And as the ex-Full Tiltsponsored pro joked with Galfond, he regularly sees wild swings of his own in the Macau game. Last September, he Tweeted that he had taken his “biggest loss ever” there; people familiar with the game claimed it was more than $4 million.
If Galfond doesn’t prefer baccarat, several other prominent members of the poker community chimed in with other suggestions. Lance Bradley, editor of Bluff, quipped, “Find Gus [Hansen],” while PokerStarsteam member Jorge Limon recommended “a flight to Macau.” Jimmy Gobboboy Fricke brought up Antonio Esfandiari’s “Rocks and Rings” high-stakes crew, while Victoria Fath proposed Galfond do some “hand modeling.”
Galfond seems to be taking the loss in stride and, with such a solid track record in online cash games and live tournaments, it’s hard to imagine he will be too affected by the downswing. According to HighstakesDB, the 29-year-old is up around $7.3 million over a half-million hands in seven years. He’s no slouch in tournaments either, boasting $1.8 million in total tracked earnings.