First, let me preface this blog posting with a dash of history and perspective, if nothing else to add authority to my advice below. I’ve been a repeat attendee to Las Vegas during the first weekend of March Madness Las Vegas since 2000. I wholeheartedly agree that it has grown year after year in popularity AND cost. Ever more the reason to know these tips going into it.
Going back to my roots with the token post-college-guys-still-wet-behind-our-ears, pulling vacation time from that every so important first real world job, we ponied up to the “sports book” at the then Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood; “PH”). I purposely use quotes for the term because the original Aladdin sports book was very much primarily a horse racing corner of the casino near the southwest entrance with all of three rows of seating. No separate room, bar, tables, waitstaff, or anything even remotely close to the “man caves” and sports complex established today for such patrons.
As such, we could stroll downstairs for the first game tip-offs about an hour before start, confident our entire group of a dozen twenty-something dudes wouldn’t have any trouble staking claim to the few beer-fart, tobacco-fumed chairs, putting us front row (of 3 rows) before the non-oversized, non-flat screen, non-HD televisions. It was the best of times… the worst of times.
But the drinks flowed. No “drink tickets” per betting minimum. No limits. Just keep the tips going to the cocktail waitresses taking a short detour from the nickel slots and you were drinking all day in your own personalized Vegas casino floor basketball living-room. It was the original man cave in a sense.
My, how times have changed.
Ok… on with the tips for today’s March Madness Las Vegas!
PLANNING / ARRIVING
– Casino Membership Programs – If you do not mind potentially more junk mail and loss of your private information, signup for any and all casino player membership programs and present your card for all your betting, including slots, table games, sports bets, etc., and every time you eat in a casino restaurant or otherwise spend money on property. You likely will not get “points” for all types of gaming or purchases, but it never hurts to ask.
– Even the lowest membership tiers may entitle you to decent room rates for you future Las Vegas trips. Log in online to check your targeted rates.
– Bring a Mini Bluetooth Speaker for better quality tunes in your room while pregaming. Trust me, your iPhone volume maxed out ain’t that great.
– Bring a travel power strip for your hotel room and/or private viewing area! I never leave home without my travel power strip.
– Bring a portable humidifier. If you wanna get serious about staying in Vegas, this travel accessory is worth every penny. I bring my travel humidifier on every Vegas trip and wake up each morning feeling MUCH better because of it.
– May I bring my own mini alcohol bottles on the plane to save a few bucks? A: Yes, you may BRING them, but you cannot DRINK them (maybe on JetBlue). I explain further in my GUIDE: Are You Allowed To Bring Alcohol On A Plane?
– What about smoking e-cigs on a plane? It’s just vapor so it must be legal? A: The answer is more vague, but still no. Check out my GUIDE: Are You Allowed To Smoke E-Cigarettes On A Plane? before you start vaping on the plane.
– Treat yourself to a limo when you get there. If you have a group already, book ahead to have them waiting for you with a sign, help you with luggage, etc. If you’re just flying solo or a couple, think about making friends and splitting a limo on the spot (figure $20/head tip included). They have a line of them near the taxis with guys in suits and shades ready to entertain your offer.
– Avoid the airport shuttles, unless you want the slowest but cheapest route. Pros: cost, skip the long taxi line. Cons: can be very slow, especially if your hotel is not one of the first stops.
– Don’t get long-hauled, i.e. taken through the tunnel. If you do end up taking a taxi, be sure to give directions such as, “We’re going to [Casino/Hotel name]. Please take the side streets.” Or know which side street the driver should be taking, like take Koval to Aria. See more from Vegaschatter here.
– Use the $20 Trick. (Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) It’s one of the BEST deals in Vegas!
– Hit the nearest Walgreens or CVS after you check-in to purchase: water, Vitamin Water/Gatorade, energy drinks, snacks, power bars, a few beers.
– Hit the ABC Store or other convenience store for some beers for walking around or to save on using up your coveted drink tickets.
– Milk is a bad choice. Hydrate! Then… hydrate more!
PRIVATE / RESERVED GAME WATCHING
– Spend the money for the private viewing if you want to avoid multiple hassles including having a seat and getting a drink. Seating seems to become more and more difficult to come by each year. In 2000, we could walk down at 7am, grab a seat in the sports book, and drink for free the entire time (no drink tickets). Those days are long, long over and have been replaced by reserved banquet halls and man caves with everything from private betting stations, blackjack tables, open top-shelf bar, beer pong and pool tables, and more.
– Four days for full fun! If you’re under 30 and have the money, going all four days Thursday through Sunday is doable and can be a blast!
– For us other Vegas-goers who don’t frequent the bar stool as much or see the sunrise only at the start of our days rather than the end, just stick to Thursday and Friday reserved viewing. You’re only missing eight privately viewed games. Instead, sleep in, recover, eat a decent breakfast or brunch, and then find a place to watch those games with a fun crowd, even if it means sitting at a table game or standing at a casino bar.
– The games are on everywhere. Don’t want to pay for seating? You’re in luck! It’s Vegas. There are TVs everywhere. Seriously, every year it seems more HD flat-screens are popping up. The table games. The poker rooms. Even around the slots. Play the poor man’s road with a groups of friends, a bank of cheap slots, and tip the cocktail waitress well to keep the “free” drinks flowing as you cheer on the game!
– When a big upset happens, be the first guy to yell out, “DOWN GOES FRAZIER… DOWN GOES FRAZIER!”
“But I wanna drink for free… it’s Vegas, right!?” Sure, so just (1) be friendly and (2) always tip something on a free drink.
– Make friends (preferably of the big betting variety). Nowadays, sports books issue drink tickets to better control the free pours for those who haven’t paid for private, open bar access. Don’t worry if you’re not a big bettor as later in the day you’ll likely find people with extras. Making friends can pay off.
– Know the betting $:drink ticket ratio. Always ask how much you have to bet to get drink tickets. If you are a low roller, accumulate your bets to meet that amount. If they say $100 for 1, place 2 bets of $55 each (why $55? See below). Don’t bet 3 x $50 as you’ll still only get one ticket.
– Always ask for a drink ticket no matter your bet. A friendly ask to a friendly employee can’t hurt! Alternatively, you may try to slide a $5 bill over and ask nicely and you may get hooked up. Not my personal style, but may be yours.
– Hydrate! Did I mention hydrate!? 1:1 drink-to-water ratio is ideal.
– Know your bets by the number BEFORE you get to the window. DO NOT be that same person who gets out their checkbook after the cashier has rung up all your groceries (wait, you still use a checkbook!? Why!?). Anyway, same goes for the betting stations. Write out and call out your bets to make it easiest for the hard working cashiers (e.g. “$55 on 134 Over”).
– Use $11 dollar increments ($22, $33, $55, $110, etc.) for most sports betting which carries odds of 11 to win 10. For example, a wager of $11 would win $10 for a total payout of $21. This is known as “laying the juice” and the cashiers DO appreciate it (again, happy cashiers = more drink tickets!? Ha!).
– Check your bet tickets BEFORE you walk away. Step to the side for the next customer, confirm your bets and head out. Once you leave the window, it is unlikely that the cashier or sports book manager will change the ticket.
– Kentucky and Duke will be favored by +20. Yes, it’s a tempting bet and will be a head shaker when their opposing team will keep fouling when down 20 with 0:45 left so they can cover with free throws. Have another “free” drink.
– Nothing beats a big sports book when the game (or line) is close! What energy! This is what it’s all about!
– Bet favorites and overs EARLY, in general.
– Bet underdogs and unders LATE, in general.
– Beat the line… the line of PEOPLE that is! Placing bets early, even the day before, may not always be your best strategy, but it can save you standing in line dozens deep at times.
– Budget yourself. If you need to budget your gaming, there’s nothing wrong with dividing your days’ limits into separate envelopes. The house always wins at the ATM machine.
ESCAPE THE GAMES
– Get outside! Go sit by the pool for 30 minutes. Or people watch in front of the casino, always a good time. Wear sunglasses!
– Make a pit-stop in your room during the day for a refresher — brush your teeth, wash your face, apply some of that hotel body lotion to your arms and legs (yes, it’s that dry), change your socks, and drink at least one full glass of water!
– Find time for QUALITY food too. You are in one of the best foodie cities in the WORLD! Plan ahead to find a restaurant that suits your group’s taste, budget, and decor. Live it up a bit and try something unique. No chains. I have had good luck with OpenTable for reading reviews, menus, and booking reservations.
– Take in a show! Try the various 1/2 price ticket booths (arrive when they open!) or check for deals online, such as an extra 10% Off already discounted tickets at vegas.com with code SAVE10.
Please feel free to add your own tips and suggestions below in the comments!
$2 bills make for fun tips in Vegas. Here is Apple’s Steve “Woz” Wozniak showing us the best (or worst) way to tip in Las Vegas! More here from the Woz on how he drew the Secret Service’s attention in Vegas by tearing off $2 bills as tips while playing slots at Hard Rock.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.