Macau's Baccarat playing card abattoir


This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.

One of the unique things about squeeze baccarat is that the cards are only used once. The cards get squeezed and bent out of shape, never to be used again. A few of us here at WGM were wondering what that exactly meant for the humble playing card.

One of the big winners to come out of the Macau casino boom is the manufacturer of our playing cards. Japan’s Angel Playing Cards is the dominant manufacturer in Macau, specifically using the Angel Eye system for baccarat, and by our calculations they must be doing very well. In Asia, a large casino can use tens of thousands of decks in a single day.

This article might see a bunch of hippie “do-gooding” lefty tree huggers setting sail for Macau on their anti-whaling boats to protest about the paper wastage created by the game of baccarat. All jokes aside, we have done some basic arithmetic and frankly we were shocked by the results!

A standard baccarat shoe consists of eight decks of playing cards, so there are 416 individual cards per shoe. This fact we know for sure.

We are extremely proud of our exactness here at WGM but the rest of this article is lighthearted speculation rather than exact science. Here are some rough numbers that can’t be too far off the mark:

  • The table cap in Macau is 5,500 tables, and all the casinos combined have nearly hit the cap. Let’s say there are 5,300 gaming tables in Macau.

  • Baccarat is the dominant game, let’s conservatively say 70 percent of all tables are squeeze baccarat, that makes around 4,000 tables of the game.

  • The next figure is the trickiest to estimate. On average, what percentage of the time are those 4,000 tables open? Obviously on weekends and holidays the tables are almost always open, but at quiet times such as 9 am on a Tuesday morning most of the tables are closed. Let’s have a wild guess and say on average those 4,000 tables are open about 40 percent of the time. That’s the equivalent of around 1,500 tables open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

  • Let’s assume each of those tables goes through one shoe (8 decks, or 416 individual cards) every 75 minutes. Obviously VIP games would go through the cards faster and mass gaming floor games slower, but 75 minutes is a ballpark average that isn’t too far off the mark.

Now we can calculate the following figures:

1,500 tables x 24 hours = 36,000 table hours per day

36,000 table hours divided by 1.25 hours = 29,000 shoes per day

29,000 shoes per day x 8 decks = 230,000 decks of cards thrown away every single day!

230,000 decks x 52 cards = 12 million cards thrown away every single day!

Now let’s have a look at the annual figures:

230,000 decks per day times 365 days in the year = 84 million decks of playing cards thrown away every year!

12 million individual cards per day times 365 days in the year = 4.4 billion cards thrown away every year!

These are staggering numbers. Given the assumptions above, over 4 billion playing cards are thrown away every year in Macau. That’s one hell of a lot of playing cards!

Their fate is the abattoir of the gaming world: the card shredder. A card shredder is a back of house piece of equipment designed for fast and secure card disposal. A good shredder, like the MA-6 unit from Matsui, can mercilessly shred over 30 decks per minute.

When you are next sitting at the baccarat table, make sure you rub, bend and twist your cards as much as possible. Put them to their maximum use. And be sure to bless your cards, whether they have been bringing you luck or not. It’s their one and only chance to do what they were brought to this earth to do.

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