In Las Vegas NCAA Tournament Really is March Madness

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Last year, for the first time in six years, I did the responsible thing.

I stayed home.

Every year since 2003, I had religiously made my pilgrimage to Las Vegas - including once BY MYSELF when everyone bailed on me - to watch the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament at various sportsbooks along The Strip.

But last year, I purchased a house with my wife, so I did what any sane, married 30-something who had just bought a house would do.

I broke the streak.

What a mistake!

(Just kidding, honey! I know it was the right thing to do...can I come in now?)

I did all the things that were supposed to make me feel like I wasn't missing out: I took the first two days off from work. I ordered the DirecTV package of all the games to watch at home and even went to the bar to watch some games with friends.

I tallied up all the results on a piece of paper and looked for trends - much like I might do before heading up to the betting window to lay down my kingly sum (OK, more knave than king).

In short, I was pathetic. I was trying to recreate an experience at home that could never be replicated there.

When Northern Iowa hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to all but ensure they'd cover the 8.5-point spread to Purdue, no one leaped across my coffee table or threw their beer on my floor. Listen, it's still the tournament; sure it was fun...but it wasn't electric.

And in Vegas, the tournament is electric.

Consider the numbers: There are 48 games of basketball played over about 80 hours in the course of four days. For the first two days, there are often four games on at once and at the sportsbooks there are hundreds of TVs in rooms the size of airplane hangers.

Apparently, though, a lot has changed since my last trek out there in March 2008. Let me tell you a little story first. A few years back, my friend PT extolled for us his idea of the future of gaming. He said there should be a little machine where you could bet on individual plays. This was all brought about by his insistence that if you looked at the statistics for NFL games, a person could make a fortune solely betting that on 2nd down and long yardage a team would run - not pass, as logic would dictate. So he wanted to invent his magic betting machine where a person could wager on that.

Fast forward to the other day. I get an email from PT with a link to something that sounds awfully familiar. I look it up and find this snippet from an October article in the Las Vegas Review Journal:

"In-Running Wagering, dubbed 'PocketCasino' at Palazzo and The Venetian, allows gamblers to bet on whether a team will make the next first down or make a field goal as well as the point spreads and money lines on selected games."

Great. Another brilliant PT scheme that someone else will make money on. What a shame.

While this new technology has us both amped and petrified of the possibilities awaiting us at the new fancy-pants Legasse's Stadium sportsbook at the Palazzo, I will still have a pang of nostalgic remorse when I gaze northward on The Strip and don't see the Stardust - the venerable sportsbook that we called home for years. Alas, the old girl was imploded in 2007 to make way for the new Echelon project, which is still not finished and is on hold for a few more years amid our dour economy. Brilliant. Ah, well - progress, as they say.

There are only three certain things about my trip this year. One: I will be having brunch at the Paris buffet. Two: PT will come up with the next great idea in gaming. Three: I'll feel like I'm home again when I hear the CBS college basketball theme song on Thursday as the first game tips off. Enjoy the madness.

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