Tips for going to Las Vegas for the NCAA Tournament
I meet my father in Las Vegas every year for the first week of the NCAA Tournament. It’s sensory overload at the highest level, with games going nonstop Thursday and Friday (plus plenty Saturday and Sunday, too) in an environment where fiscal irresponsibility is allowed and encouraged.
This will be the seventh year in a row we’ve done it, and over the course of that time, I’ve gleaned enough knowledge to be able to impart some wisdom about such a trip.
Here now are some tips for those of you heading to the desert later this month.
DO: Wake up early, especially Thursday and Friday. If you think you can get bets in on a 9 a.m. game by strolling into a sportsbook at 8:45, you’re wrong. Get to your book of choice at 7:30 to beat most of the foot traffic, put your bets in, and drink enough caffeine to keep you wired until opening tip. If you’re lucky, you may even get a seat before the crowd pours in.
DON’T: Get to the window without knowing what you want to bet. In addition to the people around you being annoyed by your hemming and hawing, the tellers will get cranky fast. They’re working long days because of people like us. The least we can do is be considerate.
DO: Be diligent about the games you’re betting on. Just because there are a zillion games doesn’t mean you have to bet all of them. Figure out a battle plan (ideally the night before) and focus your bankroll where you are most confident.
DON’T: Fall asleep in a sportsbook. You will be kicked out.
REALLY DON’T: Snore/drool while sleeping in a sportsbook. Ask me sometime about when my dad almost got into a fistfight with a stubborn, noisy, messy sleeper. It’s a good story.
DO: Take a quick walk from time to time. If you’re staying in one sportsbook, you can’t be gone too long, but if you’re traveling with a group of friends, take turns going outside to get some air. My personal favorite walk is from the Flamingo to In-N-Out Burger or the pizza-by-the-slice joint outside The Linq. The 1-2 punch of a quick stretch of the legs and comfort food is tough to beat.
DON’T: Bring smelly food to a sportsbook. Sportsbooks are messy enough. There’s sweat, cigarette smoke, and body odor to consider before adding any wild cards to the equation. Bringing a tuna sandwich into a contained space should be grounds for immediate expulsion from the state of Nevada.
DO: Enjoy the groups of people who do fun things every year. My personal favorite bunch is the group of unathletic, middle-aged dudes who dress up as the DeVry University basketball team and wander around sportsbooks all over the city. Give me 10 more years, and I’ll be eligible to suit up!
DON’T: Be mean to drink servers. They’re working long, busy shifts. It costs nothing to be nice, and servers will remember. My dad and I know this, because we’ve built a rapport with several staff members at the Flamingo over the years.
DO: Find other things to do at night, after the games are over. You’re in Vegas, for crying out loud. Go to a buffet (your fearless scribe recommends Bacchanal at Caesars or The Buffet at Wynn). Play poker or blackjack, or craps if you’re into that sort of thing. Head to Fremont Street. If you’re coming to Vegas, your trip is a vacation. Treat it like one.
DON’T: Inflict a bad attitude on others. It’s natural to be annoyed if you’re having a bad day gambling. What isn’t OK is being a jerk to others because of it. That kills the vibe of the area around you, and in the process makes the Vegas experience worse for everyone in the vicinity.
DO: Your research, and not just about bets. Know where you want to go ahead of time. Make reservations. Stick to some sort of a schedule, even if it’s a loose one. The more effectively you manage your time in Las Vegas, the better your experience will be.
DON’T: Forget to see the fountain show at Bellagio. It’s a must, no matter how many times you've seen it before.