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March Madness in Vegas can only be described as one thing; a circus. Having called Sin City home for 8+ years, I’ve learned a few things about approaching the chaos associated with the opening weekend of the tournament like a seasoned veteran. Only OKTC will give you everything you need to know in this 2 part article from bets and books to the booze, bites, and babes that make these 4 days in March a must on every fan’s bucket list.
Vegas is known for a few things…not all of them are known as reputable pursuits. However, I’m a man of high moral fiber (insert jokes here) so we’re going to class things up a bit when it comes to approaching your March Madness trip.
I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money…that’s your wife’s job. I can’t give you tips on picking the perfect bracket and retiring a billionaire by early April. However, what I can do is prevent you from looking like a complete idiot in the sportsbook in front of friends, family, and total strangers this week. As for actual betting analysis tune in all week long to Fox Sports Live (Directv channel 219, Comcast channel 1620, the rest of you do your own research) because that’s where Clay and I will be talking all things gambling nightly from the LVH superbook.
Please do me a favor while in Vegas: don’t wait to bet a game until 30 seconds before it tips. You’ve known the match-up and point spread for a while now, theoretically being prepared as a bettor isn’t an unreasonable request. There’s no benefit waiting until the absolute last second when long lines coupled with violating the ancient man law of handicapping at the window will get you crucified by your peers. Before you even get to the betting window, know the 3 or 4 digit rotation number attached to the teams you’re interested in betting. Ticket writers don’t have the schools listed on their keyboard instead they identify each team by their rotation number when punching up your ticket. Once you’ve done this correctly, please check your betting ticket before leaving the window. Ticket writers are human, they can and will make mistakes. That’s where you come in as the consumer to protect your investment because there’s no worse feeling than spending 2 hours sweating a bet on a game only to find out later that you have Kansas St instead of Kansas. Also remember to tip your ticket writers since they make their money off the generosity of bettors. No one expects you to hand out Ben Franklins like you’re making it rain but a few bucks here and there goes a long way to show gratitude for folks working their tails off to provide you with a great experience.
When it comes to the act of actually making your bets, practice strong money management. Keep bet sizes reasonable to avoid falling into a depressed state when a backdoor cover doesn’t fall your way. Over the course of a 96 hour betting binge the emotional roller coaster takes a toll on even the most seasoned Vegas veterans. Remember there will be opportunities to bet 1st halves, 2nd halves, full games, totals, etc so missing tip off isn’t a calamity. Bide your time and identify those best bets Wednesday night allowing you have a bigger stake on the games you like instead of getting caught in the moment with your biggest bet on UVA laying 20+ points to Coastal Carolina “just because it’s the last game of the night.” For the record, Coastal’s nickname is the Chanticleers, that might be worth a beer or two from drunken friends if the nickname game gets started. Be smart, remember you’re paying for the cost of entertainment, not the dream of becoming the next Billy Walters with one hot streak.
Along with bets comes the obvious question, “Where are the best sports books to watch games?” Every book will have a raucous atmosphere during the tournament. People crowd into the cathedrals of sports betting as early as 3 am to grab seats. Don’t think for a second you can roll out of bed around 7:30 and still find yourself with premium seating unless you’ve already made provisions with your casino host. I remember coming into Caesars at 6am when I worked behind the counter seeing guys in the exact same spot they were 12 hours earlier albeit with a few more empty cans of Bud Light to secure their location. This is the kind of diehard mentality you have to approach the dance with as a fan if standing all day at the back of a book isn’t your idea of fun. As far as actual books are concerned, here’s my list of can’t miss venues (in no particular order) for a variety of reasons that will give you the true taste of Vegas.
Caesars Palace – The technology in the room feels like it’s straight out of ancient Rome but there’s no better atmosphere to watch a game on the strip. You’ll feel like it’s a college football tailgate when fans flood the spacious book from Mesa Grill all the way to the Pussycat Dolls pit. Seats are hard to come by and the TV’s can be tricky to view from a distance but the loud cheers and boisterous atmosphere make scoreboard watching a non issue. If you stop by the Palace, make sure to ask for Mark or Cindy, tell them I sent you by to grab a drink on the house.
Lagasse Stadium – Think of your neighborhood sports bar…now add in betting terminals a few feet from where you’re sitting. That’s exactly what your experience will feel like, complete with Stadium seating and solid eats, when you head to the underbelly of the Palazzo to take in the action. The one major drawback is seats fill up fast and every table comes with a food and beverage minimum given the high demand. It never hurts to call and check on the availability for the larger party rooms either but that’s something to keep on the list for 2015 and beyond knowing they’re probably already booked for this year’s dance.
Aria – There’s the ultimate man cave we all dream about in our houses and then there’s the stunning visual display at the Aria. Two of the biggest LED screens you’ll ever come across over power the entire room, creating an surpassed viewing experience. Seating is scarce but when you’re able to grab a couch (by an outlet for those of us that travel with laptops and 6 cell phones) a day in the book is transformed into an experience unlike any other. There are two separate sides to the book layout as well giving horse players their own area to watch the ponies to avoid being over run by the college hoops know it all crowd. The other nice feature when at the Aria book is the convenience of a great pizzeria joint Five50 offering outstanding small plates, pizza, and craft beers into the wee hours of the morning. Everyone needs something to soak up the alcohol…you’ll find very few spots any better.
Wynn – Everything Steve Wynn seems to put his fingers on when it comes to the Las Vegas strip turns to gold. The sportsbook at Wynn Las Vegas is no different and despite it’s size, the venue provides a great space to take in the action if you can find a way to secure a seat. There’s also a nice elevated bar at the back of the room overlooking the book however capacity is limited so prepare accordingly.
LVH – The king of sportsbooks in Las Vegas is the LVH. Not just because of it’s sheer size but the betting options available across all sports are second to none. Forget the fact Clay and I will be there all week working which makes a visit a must anyways, it’s the kind if iconic venue worth a stop while you’re mixing up viewing locations in Vegas. The Fan Caves provide an additional viewing option along with the LVH theatre (smoke free) for basketball enthusiasts looking to do something a bit different. While the benefits of watching games at the LVH far outweigh the negatives there is one minor problem: the property requires a short cab ride away from the center of the strip but the Las Vegas monorail is a nice option but I’d discourage everyone, especially those 30 drinks deep, walking from Vegas Boulevard late at night.
Mirage – In all the talks of great sportsbooks to watch games the Mirage rarely seems to make lists and I can’t quite figure out why. Last year they made a major design change swapping out the horse racing boards in favor of a massive digital set-up that makes for outstanding viewing. I’m not quite sure I love the change in seating capacity as it feels like going from race carrels to couches/love seats eliminated space. As far as food is concerned, California Pizza and BLT Burger are both within walking distance and depending on wait times can get you in and out quickly. If you do happen to hit up BLT, be sure to order a KegsNEggs approved alcoholic milkshake because you won’t be disappointed.
Other books worth visiting: Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, & Venetian
If you happen to be looking for a slightly different viewing experience, check out the Cosmopolitan’s Hoops and Hops event in the Chelsea ball room or explore Planet Hollywood’s kick ass set up called Hoops on the Mezz which offers all inclusive food and drink packages
For the conscientious line shopper looking to know which properties offer the same point spreads, here’s your list.
MGM-Mirage: Mirage, MGM, Aria, Circus Circus, Luxor, Excalibur, Bellagio, New York New York, Monte Carlo
Caesars Entertainment: Caesars Palace, Harrahs Las Vegas, Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Bally’s, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Rio. **Cashing tickets between properties is allowed
Cantor Gaming: Venetian, Legasse Stadium, Tropicana, Cosmopolitan, Hard Rock, and Palms
Stand alone books: Wynn/Encore, LVH, Treasure Island, Stratosphere
Be sure to check out Part 2 of our article when we explore the best spots to eat, drink, and party while hanging with us in Vegas.