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Karung guni man blows $400,000 in one go at casino

In less than 20 seconds one night last year, he blew $400,000 at Marina Bay Sands' (MBS) Paiza VIP area. -TNP
Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

Tue, Dec 11, 2012
The New Paper

Most people would break out in a cold sweat at the thought of placing a $400,000 bet on the turn of a single card.

Not cool-hand Han (not his real name).

With utmost calm, Mr Han splits the two cards and takes a peek.

He doesn’t hesitate before making his next move – he slides forward four small plastic discs on the velvety table surface.

Others gawk.

Then, just like that, the baccarat game ends: The high-roller lost.

In less than 20 seconds one night last year, he blew $400,000 at Marina Bay Sands’ (MBS) Paiza VIP area.

Paiza is MBS’ club for premium players.

$400,000 in a hand. That’s the kind of money beyond the reach of most people.

It could buy a four-room HDB flat in Choa Chu Kang, or an entry-level Porsche.

Yet the 40-year-old businessman is unfazed by his loss.

Mr Han tells The New Paper on Sunday: “It’s no big deal.”

He had started the night with $300,000 and was up $200,000 when he made his $400,000 move.

He ended the night with $100,000. Losing that amount of money was a sign that he had had enough for the night – and it only took him two hours.

But “enough” is seldom enough for most high rollers.

Casinos bank on high rollers’ appetite for big-stakes gambling to rake in the money.

In April, chairman of MBS’ parent company Las Vegas Sands, Mr Sheldon Adelson, attributed the firm’s strong first-quarter revenue to its high volume of VIP players, The Straits Times reported.

About 60 per cent of its US$701.3 million (S$890 million) gaming revenue in the first three months this year came from high rollers.

And to entice them to play on, casinos encourage these gamblers with huge credit lines.

This was the case for Macau-based high roller Kuok Sio Kun at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).

She is being sued by RWS for $2.2million.

She was first given $200,000 of credit in March 2010, court documents showed. In October, she was given another credit infusion of $2.8million over four occasions.

Minus the commission she had earned on the game and her deposit, she ended up owing RWS $2.2 million.

Mr Han, a VIP at RWS and a Diamond cardholder at MBS, says betting large is the norm in the VIP rooms.

VIP rooms are the domain of the well-heeled, with a clientele ranging from high-flying CEOs to your “average” businessmen.

These ultra-high rollers are what the gambling industry describes as “whales”. Whales, whatever they do for a living, have one thing in common: Loads of money.

To be a Diamond cardholder, Mr Han deposited $1 million with MBS.

He says: “There are bigger fishes out there. My bets appear small compared to these guys. “My heart occasionally skips a beat when I see the stakes they place on the table. It’s crazy.”

How mad? Try $1 million a hand.

Mr Han describes what he saw last year at a baccarat game. An Indonesian man in his late 50s arrived in T-shirt and jeans. On his finger was a big fat diamond ring.

“I wouldn’t have noticed him from far because he looked like a construction worker,” says Mr Han.

“But he had $40 million worth of chips on the table. I’m not sure if they were his winnings or capital.

“Every round, he threw 10 chips worth $100,000 each like they were 50-cent coins. I have never seen anybody bet the $1 million table limit.”

Such whales are prized and courted.

TNPS understands that while there are various memberships, the most coveted is the MBS’ Chairman Club, or what is dubbed by gamblers like Mr Han as the “Black card”.

Members of this exclusive group bet more than $100 million a month.

Such whales are rare. There are between 20 and 50 of them, a mix of Singaporeans and foreigners, according to recent reports.

One notch down is the Diamond card. MrHan’s Diamond card entitles him to privileges like free concert tickets, room upgrades, exclusive dining and shopping, plus free flow of drinks.

He can also ask for a private gambling room, known as the private pit, at short notice. He gets to park his BMW sports car in a special area, away from prying eyes.

For the fattest of whales, nothing is too much to ask for, says one businessman here.

The Singaporean, who declines to be named, knows what it’s like being pampered as he is a familiar face at casinos in the region and the US.


Perks for whales overseas can include a 12,000 sqft apartment with an indoor pool and three living rooms.

Butlers are at their beck and call 24 hours a day.

And their meals, he says, are out of this world – bird’s nest for breakfast, abalone with first-growth Bordeaux wine for lunch and bears’ paws for dinner.

They are also flown in on the casino’s private jet. Helicopters and limousines are at their disposal.

In Singapore, the casinos shower whales with the same kind of perks, he says.

“They make you feel like you are in heaven, but actually, you’re on your way to hell,” says the businessman.

“In the end, you will be paying for all these perks many times over through your gaming losses.”

Big gamblers like Mr Han have experienced both sweet victory and bitter defeat.

In the last two years, Mr Han says he has pocketed $13million in winnings. He has also lost close to $10 million.

Yet, he isn’t about to give up on Lady Luck and cash out.

Like others with deep pockets, they will remain regular faces at private enclosures within casinos here.

Win or lose, they will be lured back to the gaming tables by the thrill – while they can still afford to lose.

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