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July 22, 2014

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Sports book secrets: 10 tips for the NCAA Tournament

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Christopher DeVargas

The Cantor Sports Book at Silverton held its grand opening Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The 2,000 square-foot sports book features a 2.35 million LED pixel video screen that can show four feature sporting events at once.

Hang around any particular Las Vegas sports book long enough and it’s impossible not to uncover a few of its defining traits.

Some of them can be useful, like finding the best deals for nearby food; others can be a little pointless, like knowing the obnoxious regular who’s smarter than every professional coach, but each of the state’s nearly 200 sports books has its own.

Lasvegassun.com decided to do the legwork to uncover some of the most important characteristics before sports books’ biggest weekend of the year. Here are 10 secrets, a mix of the well-kept and those that are out among dedicated locals, which should come in handy during the NCAA Tournament.

Find the list below.

    • Seventeen state of the art monitors illuminate one wall of the new William Hill Race & Sports Book inside the Plaza Hotel, with dozens more mounted in seated stations that include individual reading lights as well, Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013.

      The new place

      It seems like Las Vegas averages one renovated or new sports book opening per year during the first week of the tournament.

      This year, downtown is the lucky region to score a fresh, premier betting shop. William Hill sports books unveiled a flagship location Tuesday morning at the Plaza.

      With 75 televisions and 25 tables, the new spot at the Plaza immediately becomes the largest sports book in downtown Las Vegas.

    • Where free drinks live

      Recreational bettors who haven’t visited Las Vegas in many years are always in for a rude awakening when they make their first return trip to the sports book.

      Unlike the old days, sports books don’t give away an unlimited supply of free drinks anymore. At most properties, in fact, it takes at least a $100 wager to get a voucher for a drink.

      Not at Bellagio. The crown jewel of MGM Resorts’ concentration of sports books on the Strip continues to treat customers like royalty.

      A cocktail waitress takes orders from anyone in the sports books without any requirements.

    • Stacking chips and cashing tickets

      If you’re like me, there are only two reasons you’d ever enter a casino to begin with — poker and sports betting.

      The Cantor Gaming sports book at the Palms, less than a year old, ingeniously decided to mix the two.

      There’s nothing like hitting a gutshot straight on the turn at the same moment of covering in the final minute of a game — talking from experience.

    • Race and sports book director Johnny Avello checks the screens at the sports book at Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday, May 4, 2011.

      The opening line

      The first Las Vegas numbers on individual NCAA Tournament games trickled out of one place Sunday evening — the Wynn sports book.

      It’s no new phenomenon. Wynn sports book director Johnny Avello is also the first in town to post college football spreads, attracting a crowd every Sunday afternoon in the fall.

      The limits are tight, but the Wynn provides gamblers a nice advantage by releasing lines that aren’t yet refined by the marketplace.

    • The most diverse menu

      Venture a block off of the Strip to find the most betting options in one location.

      The LVH Superbook blows the competition away when it comes to most ways to wager on a game. Renowned globally for the hundreds of prop bets it releases on the Super Bowl every year, the LVH doesn’t skimp on the rest of the year either.

      Superbook director Jay Kornegay and his staff post props on every major sporting event and offer odds on a wide range of other leagues and sports.

    • Theater viewing

      While at the Superbook to ogle the betting board during the NCAA Tournament, take about 50 steps south and discover the LVH Theater.

      Movie theater-like screens display all of the games during the first weekend of March Madness in the 1,500-seat showroom, former home of Barry Manilow’s residency. The LVH offers the same amenity every Sunday of the NFL season.

      A few other casinos have similar setups for the tournament, including South Point, which opens one of its ballrooms for the event.

    • Contest crazy

      Unlike the NFL season, betting contests aren’t widespread for the NCAA Tournament. But there are two definitely worth checking out this year.

      William Hill introduces an all-new “Three N’ Out” concept where bettors can buy $25 tickets for a chance at a guaranteed $25,000 prize pool. Gamblers must pick one winner every day for the entire tournament with three losses eliminating an entry.

      Station Casinos offers its traditional “Last Man Standing” contest where a minimum of $50,000 at Red Rock Resort is guaranteed to whoever can pick a winner for the most days in a row without a loss.

    • Hidden skyboxes

      Above the MGM Grand sports book, where many patrons would never notice, are a set of four skyboxes where a group of eight to 10 people can catch games in luxury with the best views.

      They’re typically reserved for high rollers during the biggest sporting events, but worth inquiring about for visitors staying at an MGM property during slower times of the year.

      Nowhere else in town has anything like them. The skyboxes are equipped with flat screens, surround sound and gaming systems.

    • No smoking, no problem

      One of the most negative comments about Las Vegas sports books from some people is that they are full of cigarette smoke.

      The stereotype is inaccurate, especially when it comes to the nicest sports books around. None of Cantor Gaming’s empire of cutting-edge sports books — at the Venetian, the M, Tropicana, Cosmopolitan, Hard Rock, Palms and Silverton — allow smoking.

    • A sports bettor takes down some notes at one of the booths inside the new William Hill Race & Sports Book at the Plaza Hotel after the grand opening on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013.

      Betting on a budget

      The minimum wager at betting counters around town is $5.

      There’s a way around it, though, to gamble even less than that. William Hill has widespread self-serve kiosks, including at every PTs Tavern, that are more flexible.

      While a bettor must put in at least $5 into the machine, the minimum wager amount is only $2. Let the low-risk 10-team parlays fly.

    Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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