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The Best Time to be in Las Vegas

This coming Thursday and Friday (March 16 and 17) are the two best days of the year to travel to Las Vegas. No, it's not for perfect weather conditions; average highs in mid March are still below 70 degrees. And it's not my favorite 48 hours because of some whacky or risqué convention; though the International UFO, Roller Skating Association, and Gay Rodeo Association weekends do pique my curiosity.

Despite Sin City throwing a whale of a bash during SuperBowl weekend, it's the first two days of the NCAA's March Madness Basketball Tournament that you really MUST experience. Forget about your local "office pool," the Sports Book scene at Vegas' major hotels on Thursday and Friday will make the Chicago Board of Trade Options Pit look like a solemn place for a nap.

The excitement is more, much more, than simply rooting and betting on one or two of your favorite teams. That's child's play, and something you can do with a family member or friend any day of the week. 16 games are played on Thursday and another 16 on Friday. What can you bet on? The winner of a game, the loser of a game, the team leading at halftime, over/under the total points scored in the game, over/under the total points scored at halftime, the winner of the entire Tournament, etc. etc.

Then, after placing your multiple bets, you sit in the Casino sports book (all hotels have them) and watch the drama unfold overhead on wide-screen televisions, with hundreds of your new-found friends. The rooting and cheering begins immediately because most people will have placed an over/under bet (which means each time up and down the court, one group of the crowd will be rooting for every shot to go in, while the other half will be cheering for every missed shot and turnover). It's difficult to describe the intensity and the sensory overload; but remember, the crowd isn't just watching one game. Four contests are being played and televised at once; one right next to the other! And the cycle repeats itself four times each day, usually around 10am, 2pm, 6pm, and 9pm. Whew, what a rush.

My favorite sports book for watching the games is at Mandalay Bay. High ceilings, huge tv's, and a ton of seating really give this place an awesome vibe.

I'm not a sports fanatic by any means. Despite graduating from one of college basketball's hotbeds, I can't tell you the last time I watched a regular season Hoosier basketball contest. And I'm definitely not an avid gambler. Nevertheless, I'm always envious of those fortunate travelers who make it to opening night of Lady Luck's annual round ball blast.

This year, I'll be watching from my living room.

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