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Top 10 March Madness in Las Vegas trip tips

6 Mar 2017

By Gary Trask
Your airfare and hotel room reservation were secured months ago. You’ve spent the last few weeks hydrating, padding your bankroll and preparing your body for the pandemonium.

The countdown is on for your trip to Las Vegas for March Madness.

Congrats. You’re almost there. All the proper advance planning is done. Now, it’s up to you to make the most of those precious first four days and nights of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Sin City.

But here’s the rub: Despite all the effort you put into getting the coveted hall pass from your spouse and taking care of all the logistics of getting there, things can easily go awry. You can’t simply jump out of that Uber ride from the airport and into the shining lights on The Strip without a plan and a purpose. If you do, you will more than likely be “that guy,” the one who couldn’t answer the bell for Day 2 of this four-day excursion.

So, take the advice below to heart. Make the most of your trip. Survive and advance, just like those team college hoop teams you'll be betting on next week will be trying to do, and then book yourself for March Madness 2018.

10. Join the March Madness in Las Vegas Facebook group
Even if you aren't big on Facebook (like me), joining this the ever-evolving March Madness in Las Vegas group is absolutely essential. Started by Barry Inciong on Yahoo with just eight members in 2008, the group is now nearly 9,000 strong as of this writing.

The group is extremely well-organized, and Inciong, who we consulted for today's list, does a superb job of keeping the inane and trivial banter out and making sure every post is informative, helpful and oftentimes humorous. There are also special discounts at certain properties available exclusively for group members.

It will not only help you plan your trip, but once the games tip off, members provide live updates from the venues they are sitting at, reporting on everything from the length of lines at the sportsbook counter to the sightlines to the quality of the food.

The week after the first two rounds, there are separate review boards for nearly every sportsbook and/or viewing party, which are excellent references for the following years.

Jump on board. It will be an invaluable tool before, during and after your trip.

9. Pace yourself
When that first game taps off on Thursday at 9 a.m., you will have enough adrenaline going through your body that you will feel like you could scale the Stratosphere tower. Your day is probably already a few hours old and it's a pretty safe bet you've already dived into the festivities and have indulged with a few drinks.

After months of anticipation, game time is finally here and you can hear the wild cheers up and down The Strip.

But before you order that round of shots and bet nearly all of your bankroll on the first action available to you, take a deep breath. This is the first of 32 games to be played in the next 48 hours, and if you're staying until Sunday, that will be just the halfway point of the trip.

So, go easy, big fella. It's fine to jump right into the fray, with betting tickets in both hands and a big old draft beer, but this is just the start, so pace yourself and ensure you'll still be somewhat coherent come the weekend.

8. Cell phone essentials
If you have a portable charger, make sure you have it with you before you leave your room, and if you don't have one, go out and buy one before you get to Las Vegas. You will need it (especially if you follow our advice and utilize the No. 1 tip on this list). Don't be one of the many poor saps who will be aimlessly searching the sportsbook for an open outlet, or bothering the busy bartender with a request to charge your phone behind the bar.

Also, download the free March Madness app to stream games on your phone or mobile device ("It works surprisingly well," says Inciong) and make sure you have an Uber or Lyft account and app opened and ready to be used. If you're still using taxis when in Las Vegas, you are way behind the times.

Finally, Inciong suggests taking screenshots of your betting slips and then putting them away in a safe place so you don't have to keep taking them out to look at them — or, even worse, lose them.

7. Plan ahead
The first two days of March Madness is one of the busiest times of the entire year in Las Vegas. For the second straight year, it coincides with St. Patrick's Day, and hotel occupancy will be in the 90%-95% range on the Strip.

Having said all of that, you need to have a plan for watching the games, especially if you are going with a large group. In fact, if you don't already know where you are going to set up camp on Thursday and Friday, it may already be too late.

Be sure to check out the Casino City Ultimate March Madness in Las Vegas Viewing Party Guide, which lists an array of different options with varied price points and amenities. It's crucial to either have a reservation for the Thursday and Friday, as those are, by far, the two busiest days of the week. On Saturday and Sunday, there are no simultaneous games until the afternoon, so it's not as crucial to be at a viewing party or sportsbook. You can just hit up a small bar, or even watch the action at the pool or in your room. That's why the prices for the viewing parties are so much cheaper on the weekend.

And if your group is planning to have dinner together in the evening when the games are at a lull, do yourself a favor and make a reservation. Everyone else is planning on doing the same thing.

6. Don't be afraid to go off-Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is a happening place, year round and pretty much around the clock. It’s where everyone wants to be. But that doesn't mean you can't find a perfect March Madness venue for your crew that doesn't have a Las Vegas Boulevard address.

Again, our March Madness in Las Vegas Viewing Party Guide has plenty of off-Strip choices, including those that are walking distance (PUB 365 at Tuscany Suites and Casino, Ellis Island Casino & Brewery and Topgolf Las Vegas, to name a few), as well as those that require a ride, like South Point Hotel Casino and Spa and The Orleans.

Downtown Las Vegas is also a great option. Places like El Cortez Hotel & Casino, The D Las Vegas and the Golden Nugget - Las Vegas are always lively and offer great F&B specials. Last year on St. Patrick's Day, Fremont Street was a blast, as the college hoop revelers and those dressed in green who weren't even aware March Madness was going on sprawled out on to the street in unison, dancing to live Irish music.

5. Get outside
This is especially for those coming from colder climates (like yours truly) who have been battling wintry conditions the last few months. The weather in Las Vegas during mid-March is perfect — high temps in the low 80s and low temps in high 50s. So, while you may need a jacket at night, the middle of the day is about as nice as it gets, so get outside and inhale some of that fresh air. Your body will thank you later.

Even if you paid for one of the viewing parties, take a break from the venue, grab an adult beverage (yes, it's true: Casino Royale has $1 bottled Michelobs) and take a walk down The Strip for an hour or so. Best time to do this would be around 3 p.m. or so on Thursday and Friday, when there is a break in between the mayhem of games.

There are plenty of outdoor bars along the way where you can keep an eye on the games that are still going on. Some fine choices include Rhumbar at The Mirage, Cabo Wabo at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and Nine Fine Irishmen at New York-New York Hotel & Casino.

Also, there are two new entertainment districts just off The Strip — The Park and The LINQ Promenade — that have multiple options to grab quick bite or drink while sitting under the sunshine.

4. Follow sportsbook etiquette
We've already previously covered many of the things you should avoid doing in a sportsbook, but in case you missed it, check it out as a refresher.

The key thing to remember here is that you aren't the only one who has been counting the days and hours to get to Las Vegas for March Madness. So be sure your actions don't ruin the vibe for the people around you. Have fun, cheer hard for the teams you bet on and drink more beer in one day than you have the previous two months. That's fine and dandy, and you certainly won't be the only one.

But don't be obnoxious with your drinking or your gambling to the point where it causes an issue with everyone else. Treat the people at the sportsbook ticket counter and the waitstaff with respect.

3. Be realistic with your bets
Last year, around 70% of the record $422.2 million bet on basketball at Nevada sportsbooks was on the NCAA men's basketball tournament, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Even more staggering is that the books won $21.5 million on those hoop bets, for a hold of 5.1%.

My point? It's hard to win, and more people go home losers rather than winners. So, our friendly advice is to be realistic, don't bet over your head and never, ever chase.

These are vital rules to follow whenever you are gambling, but never more so during those first few days of March Madness. There are so many games and so many different ways to wager that you can easily bust out in the first few hours.

I've seen more people than you can imagine at a sportsbook during March Madness that sound like they've never bet on sports in their life, but they're are there and want to give it a try. That's all well and good, but remember that even the so-called "sharps" who follow this stuff closely on a day-to-day basis and bet professionally have to work their tails off to win better than 53% of their wagers and survive the 11-to-10 advantage the sportsbooks have over you. The chances of you coming out of your 9-to-5 cubicle and into the sportsbook to win seven out of 10 wagers over the course of four days are slim.

So, have a game plan with your wagers. Look at the entire board in the morning and at least have an idea of what you want to bet that day, and place those wagers in the morning. It's best you don't make sloppy bets after you've had seven Red Bull and vodkas, but if you do, be careful. It’s March Madness, for goodness sake, so go ahead and have fun, but tread lightly.

2. Diversify your bets
Now, even if you follow the above advice and bet the games with some inkling of moderation, that doesn't mean you can't get creative.

Don't limit yourself to simply full-game wagers. Value can be found on money line parlays, first-half, second-half and prop bets. Live wagering is also a lot of fun, if you are paying attention and think you have a good feel for a game that's unfolding in front of your eyes. Just be sure to keep some sort of record of the amount of money you have floating out there.

Remember, your realistic goal should not be to go home with suitcases of cash from your sportsbook winnings. You should be there to soak up the atmosphere, let loose for a few days and bet just enough to make it worth your while, but not so much that you're going to be regretting everything you did on the flight back home.

1. Use the mobile sportsbook accounts
What if I told you that there was something you could do during your March Madness in Las Vegas trip that would save you time and aggravation, and at the same time potentially help you win more money? I'm guessing you'd be all ears.

Well, listen up.

Mobile sportsbook accounts are worth every second of effort it takes to open up and start using (Click here for an entire review of the process and the different interfaces). It's legal as long as you are within state lines, just like playing online poker. Not only can you avoid the sometimes-hour-long lines at the sportsbook counter, but if you sign-up for accounts at a few different properties, you can shop lines and get the best pointspread on the games you are betting without going from book to book. Trust me, if you are betting dozens of games over the course of four days, there will no doubt be a scenario where getting that extra half-point will be the difference between winning and losing your wager.

For instance, let's pretend one of the bigger bets you want to make is Duke -7. You get in line, stand there for 40 minutes and when you get the counter, you see the line has gone to -8. Guess what? Unless you want to pass the game, you're stuck.

Now, let's pretend you downloaded and opened up accounts at CG Technology, William Hill, The Westgate and Boyd Gaming, as I did last year. Now, as you place your bets, you're doing so sitting comfortably at the bar, sipping a beer, and you're choosing between four different outlets. This is especially helpful with halftime wagers and live betting where the lines tend to vary even more than full-game wagers.

As I sat at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino last year and watched a ton of people complain about the lines at the sportsbooks, I asked a few why they didn't utilize the mobile accounts. A few of them told me they weren't even aware they could do it. Others said they didn't want to go through the "hassle," even though they just stood in line for a half-hour to lose 50 bucks. Then there were those that said that liked having that ticket in their hands. I'm guessing these are the same people who still read print newspapers and use snail mail instead of e-mail.

Anyway, we broke down the process and gave some tips on opening mobile sportsbook accounts last year, but a few important thing to keep in mind. First and foremost, you're best bet is to try and open the accounts before the Madness ensues, ideally on Wednesday night. Second, most properties require that you have a player's card, so if you don't already have one, be sure to do so before you stand in line for the sportsbook account, or they are going to tell you to go get a player's card and come back and get in the back of the line. Third, be strategic about where you sign up for accounts and realize you are going to have to go back to that venue to (hopefully) cash out.
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