Gambling in Thailand – The Poipet Casinos

| July 31, 2012 | 22 Comments | 28,085 views

I drove to Poipet searching for legal poker games. The internet hinted at their existence, a couple of posts on the poker forums from 2 years ago, but the casino websites were silent. If you’re a poker player looking for action, I’ll cut right to the chase. There is no poker in Poipet.

Poipet is an easy 3 hour drive from Bangkok. You leave the city on the brand new Chon buri expressway which is 6 to 8 lanes wide and free flowing. The road up to Aranyaprayet is not heavily travelled and relaxing to drive. At the border there is a protected parking lot where you can park your car under an awning for 100 baht per day. From the parking lot it is a 100 meters to Thai immigration.

I canvassed all the casinos and only the Golden Diamond had two poker tables stashed in the back of the VIP room. In a long conversation with the pit bosses, they explained the game only goes when a group of people who know each other want to spread a game. They spread any game and limit the players wish and rake 5% of the pot over 2000 THB with no cap. This is a horrendous rake that makes any game unbeatable.

To put the rake into perspective, the Los Angeles casinos, which are more expensive than the Las Vegas ones, charge each player a $26 hourly fee in a $100-$200 game. With 9 players, $254  is taken per hour. The Poipet casinos charge a rake instead of time. With a rake, money is taken out of each pot so the amount charged by the casino grows as the stakes increase and as pots get larger.

A typical game gets about 20 hands an hour and at significant stakes a single pot’s rake can exceed the hourly charge in a Los Angeles casino. What the Poipet casino takes out of a single 25 big bet $5080 pot is what a L.A. casino charges 9 players for an hour of play. Playing 20 hands per hour, the casino would rake over a thousand dollars per hour in a $100-$200 game. No player, no matter how dominant, can beat the Poipet rake which means the Poipet casinos  could never spread games for significant money that would last for any reasonable period of time. With their rake, professionals wouldn’t play and recreational players would quickly bleed their bankrolls to the house.

I can only surmise that no one in the Grand Diamond has any experience running a real poker room and no thought has been put into setting one up where the rake is reasonable and the goal is building daily action and laying down multiple games at various limits — not the short term fleecing of inexperienced uneducated rubes too naïve to understand the implications of a high rake.

The profitable long standing card rooms in the U.S. make money by relying on a pool of regular lifelong players, many of whom are long term winners, who play continuously, pay thousands of dollars in rake each year, and keep multiple tables going 24/7 365 days a year. Building this kind of action takes knowledgeable experienced management that will keep the games clean, provides amenities like free food, develops relationships with the regular players and insures that there are games spread everyday.

If you are not a poker player searching for action, here is some information on the Poipet casinos.

Legal casinos are not allowed in Thailand and the Poipet ones exist in a legal and locational no man’s land. To get to the casinos, you drive to the Aranyaprathet border crossing, pass through Thai immigration, and exit Thailand into a 200 meter wide strip of land owned by neither Thailand or  Cambodia. In this strip of land, you have exited Thailand but haven’t entered Cambodia yet. You can play and stay in the casinos without formally entering Cambodia, without getting a Cambodian visa, or being forced to go through the Cambodian immigration process.

This 200 meter wide strip of land is where the casinos are. Foreigners must have a passport and all visas and permits must be in order to cross into the casino zone from Thailand. Thais can enter the casino zone and return to Thailand with just regular ID. The police who patrol the casino zone are Cambodian.

So technically, the Poipet casinos are outside of Thailand, evade the Thai legal restrictions on gambling and are not subject to Thai laws and police. Because Cambodians have to exit their country to enter the casino zone, their access is controlled and they are effectively prevented from gambling. The casinos prevent Cambodians from entering or betting. Functionally, it is a pretty neat arrangement that end runs laws and regulations in both countries and could be a case study of how business is conducted and how money is made in Southeast Asia.

Casino gambling represents an opportunity to make a ton of money. The elites and government insiders find an extra-legal way to tap that money by devising a setup where the police, army, and other government insiders get their cut and connected individuals get a gambling monopoly which allows them to run a profitable business without having to compete with better financed, more skilled outsiders, i.e. the big American casinos like Wynn, Bellagio, MGM, etc.

The local elites have no special skills or comparative advantage and without protection from outsiders they would be competed out of business in a fair market. The elites and government insiders create a monopoly and shield themselves from the market forces of competition. This is how connected Asians get rich and stay rich and it’s the same story repeated throughout the Asian dictatorships.

The extra-legal setup means all the normal cash reporting requirements are absent. You can carry up to 500,000 THB (16,000 USD)  in cash across the border.  A Thai family with 12 people could legally cross the border with 60,000,000 THB in their pockets. The Macau casinos evade reporting large gambling related cash transfers but it is done with middlemen who bring the gamblers to the casinos, privately guarantee all player losses, and arrange payment of winnings in a manner that prevents government tracking. Shielding the gamblers from reporting requirements makes it possible for wealthy Asians whose money came from questionable sources, i.e. corruption, to gamble large sums without being exposed to the press or publicity in their home countries.

When I played in the Poipet Crown casino VIP section no questions were asked and no ID was requested. I  bought in for one  hundred thousand baht, played baccarat for a couple of hours and the only questions asked where what would I like to drink and what is my first name so a rating card for my cash back from the daily promotion could be kept.  I bought chips, played, cashed out and left with no one in the casino knowing my real name, nationality, or other personal details.

The exchange rate in the Crown VIP room cage, as opposed to the street rates, was fair (31 THB per dollar) and you could play in Thai baht or Hong Kong dollars. They had two sets of chips and separate tables for play in each currency. When you cash out they pay in whatever currency you choose even if it is not the one you cashed in with.

With this arrangement, one can only speculate on the casinos being used to launder and move around large amounts of cash from illegal businesses like drugs or money—money that doesn’t want to be recorded like the proceeds from graft and corruption. Because the casinos legally don’t exist they operate free of all the money laundering and tax collection regulations required at legal casinos and banks in Asia and the U.S.

Standard card handling procedures were followed and there was no cheating by the house or players.  New cards were brought out in a clear plastic box with an audit tag attached. The cards were pre-shuffled but were taken out and reshuffled at the table with a portable shuffling machine before being cut by a player and placed in a clear plastic shoe.  This system prevents cold decks, card substitution, and other types of cheating. It is the same procedure used in Los Angeles except the cards are hand shuffled in L.A.

The selection of games was pretty basic. Every casino had Baccarat with a 5% commission. One casino had pai gow and there was a selection of Asia only games. Most had a 5% house edge. With this size house edge, the casinos are just grind houses that will take the players money in short order. This isn’t Vegas where there is a wide selection of games many of which feature virtual even money bets even when the house edge is included. There were no skill games, such as  blackjack, where player knowledge has an effect on the odds or games featuring almost even money bets like craps.

The only interesting thing going on in the casinos was live internet gambling. These were tables, behind a rail, where attractive women dealers in low cut evening wear dealt games in front of a webcam and computer monitor. These are for the casinos web site where Asian players play online. Online the player sees the table, dealer, card shoe and the dealer keeps her hands in plain site during the hand. Webcamming a live game  and putting them out in the open where anyone can watch is way of insuring a fair game to the internet players. The girls were chosen for sexual appeal, you can stand behind them, and watch the computer monitor in front of them. The internet dealers were about the only decent whiff of girl action in Poipet. Some of the online casinos feature topless and naked female dealers but none of these were in evidence in Poipet. 🙁

The casinos themselves were dumpy and run down—not surprising given the economics. With their extra legal status, the casinos could be shut down and put out of business with a simple change of leadership in either Thailand or Cambodia. No courts or democratically elected bodies need be involved. One day, the government, in either country, changes hands and the casino zone could be shut down and the casino buildings become worthless and left to rot like the temples of Angor Wat. No investor will spend money building Las Vegas quality facilities under these conditions and their construction evidenced this.

There wasn’t any first class dining in town either. The casinos had low grade buffets mostly featuring fried rice and soup — not that much different from a 60 THB plate of Bangkok street food. The Holiday Palace had a decent Japanese Buffet but it cost 450 THB. There is an outside dining/shopping area with a food court that serves rice, somtan, etc. at Bangkok street prices. None of the casinos had any Vegas type shows or entertainment. There were no discos, in or out of the casino’s and, as far as I could tell, no girl action whatsoever.

These are some pictures of my room. This room was the most expensive featured on Agoda.com and very low quality. The furniture was banged up, the floors had water damage, the TV was from the 1980’s, and the air con was barely able to cool the room. There were a few tiny flies buzzing around the room that might have been from unidentified spores breeding in the mattress. The bathroom was the same as  you would get in a 500THB room in up country Thailand.

Executive summary — From a financial and entertainment point of view, the Poipet casinos are a waste of time

 

 

Comments (22)

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  1. Dirk says:

    Good article but some of your comments are inaccurate.
    I have been to the Poipet casinos numerous times over the past few years and often stay overnight at the Grand Diamond.
    “There were no skill games, such as  blackjack, where player knowledge has an effect on the odds or games featuring almost even money bets like craps” –
    INCORRECT –
    Almost all of the casinos have roulette( a game I personally dislike) and some are single zero tables.
    There is also blackjack but it was called Paiboon.
    But best of all – the Grand Diamond has craps tables with Double Odds with same rules as you would find in the US.
    They have tables in both of their casinos(one on each side of the main street). As far as I know, these are the only craps tables in Asia. I never saw any in Macau.
    The Grand Diamnond even has some of the older American slot machines that accept 10 Baht coins.
    One of my favorite games is the mechanical horse racing where you can bet on exactas and quinellas. I saw this Thai guy win 300,000 baht as they handed him the stacks of cash.
    The Grand Diamond used to have a Texas Hold-Em table in their main casino that was usually full especially on weekends.  But about 2 years ago they moved it across the street to the room it is in now and last time I went it was closed.
    There was also a great mini-gentelman’s club disco with hot early 20’s girls/ full bar/ slot machines/ pool table. But that shut down in 2010 or so.
    There is some girl action in Poipet but you got to deal with the shady moto drivers to find out where.

    “Legal casinos are not allowed in Thailand and the Poipet ones exist in a legal and locational no man’s land. To get to the casinos, you drive to the Aranyaprathet border crossing, pass through Thai immigration, and exit Thailand into a 200 meter wide strip of land owned by neither Thailand or  Cambodia. In this strip of land, you have exited Thailand but haven’t entered Cambodia yet. You can play and stay in the casinos without formally entering Cambodia, without getting a Cambodian visa, or being forced to go through the Cambodian immigration process”
    “This 200 meter wide strip of land is where the casinos are. Foreigners must have a passport and all visas and permits must be in order to cross into the casino zone from Thailand”
    This is also inaccurate and vague. From what I understood – only Thai Citizens do not need to go through and enter Cambodia.
    Other nationalities do need a Cambodian visa even if you are only going to the casinos and returning to Thailand.
    Thai immigration will not let you enter Thailand unless you have a Cambodia exit stamp. So as a foreigner, you need to check in to the Cambodia immigration on the right side after the Grand Diamond. And right before you leave – you must check out at the booth across the street.
    I recommend getting the e-visa for Cambodia online rather than deal with the swinder Cambodia immigration guys past the border that want to charge1000 baht instead of $20.
    Also this strip my seem like a no-mans land – but it is not – it is legally Cambodia. There is more in the area than the casinos. Down the road to the left(North) as you exit the first Cambodia offices – there are many small shops and I think even a disco.
    Yes poor Cambodians cannot enter the casinos( although many of them work in them),but they are free to go back and forth into the area from Poipet. I think the reason they placed the checkpoints after the casinos was for the benefit of Thais.

  2. BBK says:

    I visited all the casinos, but I am sure I missed a lot.

    I didn’t see the blackjack or craps tables. They might have been hidden away somewhere. One casino had a pai gow room. There might have been others. 

    Roulette even with a single zero does not meet my definition of a “virtual even money bet.” Betting the line and taking maximum odds in craps and playing basic strategy with good rules are the bets I am talking about. 

    I checked out the area of shops. There are some bars and inexpensive restaurants. The bars were straight bars without hostesses.  

  3. END OF STORY says:

    You missed it because you’re a dumb shit. As usual your posts are crap.

    END OF STORY

  4. BigMichaelBlackSmithGulliver says:

    I agree with you END but I’m sure you’ll have to concede that when it comes to making really dumb ego-driven choices, leading people into hopeless business situations and just general all-round fucking up, you would have to give first prize to me.

    I have a salesman’s eye for a good buzz, now if I could just get some decent bottom line shit happening, I’d be able put another pile together.

    How do  I keep on keeping on you ask?

    Well when you have an ego like mine the  choice is to do this or to implode and change your hairstyle or to get another tattoo.

    I’ve also found that slandering and smearing people on the internet and at their place of work delivers some momentum to my life path. 

    And I have led a fascinating life although it is not as fascinating as Steve Greene’s it’s high time I was looking for a biographer, don’t you think?

    I AM the shit. My doodie has already been rated and it’s, well, the shit. 

  5. Friend of Penfold says:

    Penner’ gambled his friends would be friends. He lost. Sure we let him crash at our apartments, but we still enable him. He needs to enter a 12 step program or lose his life. Anybody remember Amy Winehouse?

  6. BigMichaelBlackSmithGulliver says:

    Kewl !

  7. Kenny the Fucking Idiot says:

    Hey Thimblebrain, Poipet is in Cambodia so you were not Gambling in Thailand.

    Go back to reviewing whores, hookers, streetwalkers and talking about sex tours.

  8. Peter says:

    My personal opinion is Kenny consistently writes interesting stuff. The Big Mango Blog is mostly a celebration of methamphetamine, alcohol abuse, and sophomoric sexual antics with prostitutes.  Stickman is interesting if you are a sex tourist or an expat whose life revolves sex with the prostitutes working in the bars. Kenny writes about subjects that aren’t written about anywhere else. Just my personal opinion. 

  9. RealDaffyDuck says:

    Fantastic professional class photography. Kennys going to be the photographer at my wedding

    When gay marriage is legalised, of course

    This blog is just great!

    Toodles
    Harry Zink
    Highroad Entertainment

  10. Sex Fuck Whores Asia Thailand Human Under Traffic Age Teen Sex says:

    Come on Kenny! I mean Peter. Only a fuckwit can appreciate inaccurate fuckwit writings.

  11. FYI says:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-vegas-sands-investigation-20120806,0,2898540.story

    Money laundering and casinos have been bed mates forever and wherever.

     Federal investigators have begun focusing on casinos amid concerns that the industry’s lax financial systems could be used for money laundering and other illegal activities, according to Justice Department officials cited by the Journal.

  12. Deleted Comment says:

    Kenny, you weren’t gambling in Thailand ’cause Poipet is in Cambodia

  13. Sex Workers Forced Into Prostitution says:

    Were are all the customers?

  14. Bill Whore Again says:

    Sounds like fun.  I wish you had invited me!

  15. SWSM is Kenny Speak For Street Walker Super Market Whores Hookers Prostitutes for Sex Tourists says:

    Looks like a shithole, like most the places you go. Did you gamble Gangnam Style?

  16. Information Corrector says:

    “you drive to the Aranyaprathet border crossing, pass through Thai immigration, and exit Thailand into a 200 meter wide strip of land owned by neither Thailand or Cambodia. ”

    You are in Cambodia.

  17. Fucktard for Fucktards says:

    Only a DUMBASS like Kenny would think it’s unclaimed territory and that you’re not in Cambodia while in the same post mention that the police patrolling the area are Cambodian.

  18. Daniel Webster says:

    It’s quite clear he was too lazy to verify his observations prior to publishing and lacks the ability to think rationally.

  19. Robert says:

    I tried taking a friend visiting from the USA to Poipet about 5 years ago, and got lost on the small roads near the border.  Ended up on a dirt road that ended in a Poopy field and there was a man in military uniform with a gun guarding it.  Pick your roads carefully.  I don’t know if I was still in Thailand or if I had wandered into Cambodia, but it frightened both of us.

  20. Bank says:

    I were cheated on roulette (Genting roulette) online in Poipet at Sat. 27/4/2556.
    Time 9.50 a.m. Play round 1-776

    The result were as following
    20 – 26 – 28 – 1 – 4 – 4 -17 -15 (etc)

    *(the previous result are 28 – 1 – 4 )
    I bet no. 4 (again)
    Result show next result was 17 ??
    Actually it was no. 4 (repeat same number). This because I have check my second account and …
    I also check to Genting club, the club also resist the right figure was no. 4 (28 – 1 – 4 – 4 – 17

    I want to know who is responsibility?
    Roulette, the agency are able to do this cheating?

    This situation I found in the past.

  21. MICHAEL says:

    UPDATE UPDATE!!!

    TEXAS HOLEM POKER IN POIPET.

    Visit Golden Crown Casino (100 meter from Thailand border). You will find Texas Holem Poker (No limit) there. The one and only place!!

    Buy in (Cash game):
    Minimum 5000 Bath
    Maximum 25.000 Bath

    Blinds:
    Small: 50 Bath
    Big: 100 Bath

    Or you can call Poker Manager MR. MICHAEL for more information:
    Mobile: +66821736436
    Email: Syneuro@gmail.com

    If you play more than 1 day then I’ll book a room for you free and give free buffet and drinks all days.

    Poipet also has a nice nightlife with many good looking girls.

    Welcome.

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