Best Sports Book to Watch March Madness
by Trevor Whenham - 02/22/2008
March Madness is the best time of the year, and a sports book in Las Vegas is the best place (outside of a host arena) to watch it. On tournament days the books fill up early, and they are absolutely buzzing with passion, tension, and raw excitement. Just think of everything that the tournament makes you feel and then multiply it by the hundreds of people who are there and you have the ingredients for a perfect day. I don't get to Vegas as often as I wish I did, but when I do I definitely have some favorite sports books that I have to visit. This, in no particular order, is my list of the best sports books to watch March Madness, or anything else for that matter:
Caesars Palace - This is what a sports book should be like. It's not the fanciest book, and its not always the place to find the best odds. It just feels like a sports book should feel. It's usually busy, and there is a ton of energy in the room. There are six huge overhead screens, and they have added plasma screens everywhere you look. That's not all - there are also TVs at every table. The board is large and easy to read, and odds are available on pretty much everything you could want. Caesars doesn't do anything perfectly, yet somehow when you put it together it is almost perfect. If you had to ask me what one thing I would want to do in Vegas, it would probably be watch a major sporting event in the sports book at Caesars.
Wynn - If you are looking for the Wynn, you'll find it right in the lap of luxury. Everything about the Wynn was designed with the ultimate in comfort and extravagance as the goal, and that certainly extends to the sports book. The best thing about the place is the chairs - they are big and leather and so comfortable you want to steal one. There are all the Tvs you could ever need - 37 plasmas and three big screens along with small monitors in the individual booths. The drinks are free, and as long as you are playing they'll keep coming until you can't stand any more. The place is heaven for horse players, too - there are private terminals at the seats so you can place your bets without having to get up. Combine not having to move and free drinks delivered to you and you end up with one heck of a day.
MGM - As much as I have raved about the first two, the MGM book is probably my favorite. Unlike the other books, the seats are in a theater type setup that is more intimate and interactive. It's not that intimate, though - the place is huge. If you're an aspiring VIP this is the place to see what you have to look forward to - there are four skyboxes for VIPs overlooking the action of the book. Though you don't get your own TV at the MGM there is no shortage of places to catch the games - three big screens and 47 plasmas. Because of the layout, watching a game at the MGM feels like you are actually at a game. Last time I was there I watched Wyoming play basketball. I know very little about the team and really don't care about them, but the place was full of Wyoming fans (what are the chances of that?). It was, without a doubt, one of the most fun game watching experiences I have ever had. The book at the MGM is definitely worth a trip.
Mandalay Bay - The Mandalay Bay is way down at the far end of the Strip. Some would argue that it is too far out of the way, but that is part of the pleasure of it, in my mind. The hotel is gigantic and airy, and the sports book is spacious and often fairly quiet. When the chaos of Vegas is getting to be too much, jumping the train down to the Mandalay Bay might be just what you need. There are over 80 screens in the place ranging from the nine-inch individual monitors at tables to a massive 28 foot-by-30 foot monster. The hotel hosts lots of fights, so it is an excellent book for fight action. It is also a great place to get a tasty, greasy meal - the snack bar in the book is good and cheap, too, so you can eat even if the winners haven't been plentiful. The Mandalay Bay isn't that old, but the book has a pleasingly old school feel that works for me.
Bally's - Speaking of old school. Every time I walk into this place I feel like I have stepped back a decade or two. I also feel like I have walked into a stadium. The seating is arranged in a steep stadium style, and the giant scoreboards and ceiling painted like the open sky make me feel like I should have bought a ticket to sit there. There are 11 big screens and more than 200 individual TVs, so if you get a seat you can watch whatever you want. I seem to find myself sitting in this book for a long time whenever I go there. In large part that's probably due to where it is - it's very long way from the front of the hotel, so by the time you have walked there you feel like you need a rest.