An Asian baccarat ritual sits at the heart of a $43 million lawsuit by Star Gold Coast against a Singaporean high roller. Wong Yew Choy, also known as Andy Choy, claims he stopped payment on a check to Star Gold Coast because they would not let him “squeeze” the baccarat cards.
Mr. Choy claims the Star’s dealers often dealt the cards face-up. Baccarat players in Singapore and Macau prefer cards dealt face-down, so they can squeeze the cards before they’re revealed.
Squeezing baccarat cards is more about ritual and superstition than strategy. No strategy exists in the Punto Banco form of baccarat, which is the most popular game in Macau. Call it OCD behavior or superstition, it’s a common practice at Macau baccarat tables.
The Daily Telegraph described the ritual: “They rub the card and peek around its edges — often bending the cards so out of shape they can never be used again. It’s not a quick reveal, but rather a deliberate process whereby the first card is bent up along one side, then rotated 90 degrees and bent up along the adjoining side.”
“They see the cards suit, but not it’s value. It’s done with the first card [and] then the second.”
Bill Zender, a Las Vegas consultant, who advises casinos on risk, describes baccarat strategy: “There is no strategy. You just figure out how much you’re going to bet.”
Zender explained why Asian high rollers love baccarat. In fact, it’s the same reason Las Vegas casinos kept baccarat tables in the roped-off section for people in tuxedos and evening gowns for decades. Of all casino games with no strategy, baccarat has the lowest house edge.
Thus, casual gamblers and first-time players get the best game if they don’t want to learn strategy. Mr. Zender said, “The house advantage is quite low and with the Chinese and southeast Asians the game is perfect for them in their beliefs, because once the cards are shuffled and put in the shoe, their fate is sealed in that shoe. Everything is predestined.”
Casinos don’t allow everyday players to bend their playing cards out of shape. When high rollers play, it’s a small price for acquiring the customer. Australian casinos depend on Asian high rollers for the growth of their revenue stream. They comply with all kinds of demands to assure a visit.
In the case of the 55-year old Wong Yew Choy, Star Entertainment spent over a year enticing him to visit their Gold Coast casino. Choy visited Star Sydney last year, enjoying its newly renovated high roller gaming space.
For a year, Teazel Yaw, Star Gold Coast’s glamorous VIP marketing executive, talked with Wong Yew Choy about a visit. When he agreed, it was a huge coup for the Queensland casino. Speaking of Andy Wong’s high roller status, an industry insider said, “He is one of the biggest around.”
So on July 26 2018, Star Entertainment sent its private jet to escort Andy Wong to Gold Coast. The casino settled Wong in a complementary penthouse big enough for him and his entourage. As a bonus gift, Star Gold Coast handed $100,000 in “lucky” money for Wong and friends — house money for the start of play.
Thus, when Andy Wong reached the VIP baccarat table, he naturally expected the Star’s dealers to see to his every whim. Like many Asian high rollers, Wong wanted to squeeze the cards on every hand. The fact that dealers didn’t accede to the request each time angered him.
To an outside observer, stopping payment on a $43 million check because dealers dealt a few hands face-up sounds absurd. Ultimately, the Singapore high court ruling on the case might find it equally absurd. If the judge plays baccarat, though, he might sympathize with the argument.
The chances of Wong Yew Choy winning the case are small. Though Singapore traditionally doesn’t sympathize with gaming operators, its courts in recent years gave the nod to casinos. Marina Bay Sands, the most lucrative casino in the world, won a couple of million-dollar cases in Singapore’s courts.