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Las Vegas Sports Books have never seen the type of Madness that just passed through town over the four day weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament.

For each and every employee of sports books around town, they were put to a grind like never before with the combination of never ending lines of bettors that began early and ended late.

Supervisors and Directors were put to the task of ensuring everything went smooth from their end with the ultimate goal of giving the guest their best experience possible, while also hoping to grind out a win with all the cash that came through.

There is no official stat that the state keeps immediately after these fours days of games like they do for the Super Bowl, but all indications are that the handle will be up considerably.

“Our handle over the weekend was relatively flat to last year,” said Las Vegas Hilton Executive Director Jay Kornegay, “But last year’s figures were inflated considerably for us due to us having big house players playing large money on the games that we didn’t see this year. The great indicator for us this year was ticket counts which were up about 10%.”

The volume and handle for most books were up, and every book worked harder than ever, most doing so with less labor thanks to the economic climate the city is still in. By the time Saturday’s games rolled around, many ticket writers found themselves looking for the sign from the bullpen that relief was coming to close out the game, but the sign never came; they had to just keep on plugging away, punching tickets like they never had before.

“I really felt sorry for the writers, said Kornegay. “The crowds were overwhelming and was so much work for the tellers, with much of the extra efforts coming due to the new staggered schedule.”

The staggered schedule spread out the games giving bettors ample time to make their wagers which created more business than what has been seen on the same weekend over the years. However, the high volume of didn’t necessarily equate to more win.

College basketball betting isn’t as one sided with favorites like the NFL or college football is. Still, they generate the most curiosity and intrigue with the betting public.

Thursday’s opening day saw the favorites go 7-5-1, which equated to a small win for most, but had the risk from those games heading into Friday’s where the books were helped by quite a few upsets as the favorites went 5-11.

The action was massive, but the hold wasn’t.

When Saturday’s results started getting posted there was all kinds of mounting liability with big parlays shaping up as the favorites went 7-1. One of the biggest turnarounds that went the bettors’ way was when San Diego State found themselves in a battle with Temple.

The Aztecs were 5½-point favorites and forced to double overtime where they ended up winning by 7. Due to overtime, the total of 125½ was also affected as it took the second OT to push the total over the number, a side the majority of parlays around the city had.

“The San Diego State game was by far the worst game for our books,” said Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro, “That game helped a lot of players keep their parlays alive, but when everything was tallied after Sunday’s games, we had a good week.”

With all of that risk carrying over to Sunday’s games ready to pay out at a rate of 10 and 20-1, the sports books would need a miracle to get out of the day unscathed somewhat, and they got it. Almost all the favorites fell, going 2-6 on the day with only Ohio State and Kansas taking care of business for the bettors. Their popular choices of Syracuse, Purdue, Notre Dame and Arizona all were beat straight up.

After everything was tallied, the overall win results were mixed around Las Vegas, but the one constant was that the action was non-stop like never seen before. After talking with a few sports book directors in town, I could hear the exhausted tone in their voices as if they had just run a marathon. And in many ways, they had just run one, a four-day mental marathon.

Every one who worked in the sports book last weekend, from the top, all the way down to the bottom, deserves a round of applause for putting on arguably one of the most entertaining shows Las Vegas visitors could witness over the weekend.

The money was flowing freely from the bettors and the results from that cash flow are going to be quite apparent in all other aspects of casino operations as well.

Value in KU Futures

The Sweet 16 offers all kinds of variety we all crave for March Madness giving us a nice mix of favorites with three No. 1 seeds still alive along with some Cinderella’s in the making with five teams seeded eighth or higher. Because of all the upsets, you can see the math in the possible matchups changing the future odds drastically at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The team that stands out the most is Kansas in their region where they’ll face at least two Cinderella stories if they hope to make the Final Four. Kansas came into the tournament as the third choice at 5-1, but are now co-favorites to win it all with Duke and Ohio State at 5-2, both of whom have a much more difficult road ahead of them than the Jayhawks.

The Buckeyes have to beat Kentucky and then possibly North Carolina to make it, while Duke has to face Arizona and then either No. 2 seed San Diego State or No. 3 seed Connecticut. Kansas, meanwhile, has the luxury of playing a No. 12 seed and then either a No. 11 or No. 10 seed to make the Final Four, a much easier road to navigate than their two co-favorites.

Kansas will be huge favorites in their next two games and then a considerable favorite in the Final Four semifinal match. Should the Jayhawks reach the final, they would be favored over everyone but Ohio State, which makes the four-game money-line parlay tough to match what the Hilton is offering now.

Usually with favorites at this stage, it’s tough to get value on the futures. The best method is to bet each game on the money-line and roll over the winnings. In this case, Kansas does have upside value, especially if Ohio State or Duke don’t make the Championship game.

Colonial rule!

One of the greatest stories of the tournament thus far has been the path paved by Virginia Commonwealth, becoming the first team ever to win three games in the first week of play.

It was only a week ago everyone in the nation with any opinion on college basketball felt VCU didn’t belong as one of the top 68 teams in the nation, but they have gone on to prove them all wrong with their play on the big stage. Perhaps all the talk and attention they were getting nationally – for not belonging – inspired them to play at their best.

The Colonial conference gave a great showing for themselves with George Mason taking out Villanova before losing to top seeded Ohio State and then Old Dominion took Butler, a team in the Sweet 16, to the final seconds of their first round game. It’s kind of ironic that a conference like Big East, which had 11 teams make the tournament, now has as many teams alive in the tournament as the city of Richmond, Va., has.

Rebel Yell

Having watched UNLV play in almost every game since the early 80’s, I can’t remember many losses – maybe only Duke in the Final Four – I was more disappointed than their 73-62 loss to Illinois, a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggests.

The Illini shot almost 60% from the field, but committed 15 turnovers and still made the Rebels look like they were a team that didn’t belong in the final 68. Once Illinois got out to a hefty lead early on, it was as if the big stage lights had the Rebels forgetting everything they did to get them there, mainly their defense.

Once their confidence was shattered, they continually made poor decisions and couldn’t make a basket.



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