Tournament contests, parties are a week away

Mar 6, 2001 7:07 AM

March madness betting is here.

Conference tournaments heat up this week. It’s time to start thinking about the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament and who to play.

Bettors looking for the best deal in town might try a tournament contest where there’s no commission.

At Park Place sports books, a tournament pool, now in its fourth year, keeps no commission. Last year, it had 463 entries. Caesars Palace sports book manager Chuck Esposito expects more this year.

"The contest is getting bigger and better each year," he said. "It’s a lot more fun than your average office pool."

This is how it works: Before the tournament, a contestant signs up and pays $50 at a Park Place sports book. Throughout the three weeks, contestants pick all 63 games against the spread on cards.

You can pick all games when lines are posted, until that round’s tip-off throughout the tournament, so there’s driving back and forth to the book.

For example, you’d pick the 32 first-round games from late next Tuesday night through March 15 (next Thursday) 9 a.m., tip-off time for first-round games. Pick the second-round games from Friday night to Saturday 9 a.m., and so on and so on.

"This is not your standard bracket format," Esposito said.

As for the point system, first-round games count as one point each; second round games as two — all the way to the championship game, the sixth round, worth six points.

The first-place finisher at the end of the contest wins half the pot. Second place gets 25 percent; third, 10; fourth, gets 5; fifth, 4; sixth, 2; seventh through 10th, 1.

There are nine Park Place books in Nevada, six in Las Vegas. A contestant will compete against other contestants at those nine properties, so if you filled it out at, let’s say, Bally’s, you could be going against entries from Flamingo Laughlin. Entire standings will be kept in each book.

A contestant can play up to five entries at each Park Place property. If you sign up at one particular book, you make all picks throughout the tournament at the same book.

There’s a bonus. If you sign up before next Monday’s 6 p.m. deadline, you can predict who will win the national championship. If you finish in first place and have the national champion right, you win an extra $1,000.

A contestant has to fill out picks before the first tip-off of each round, or the entire round will be counted as zero. The play-in game early next week won’t be counted for the contest, so there’s no rush to make first-round picks.

"We anticipate over 500 entries," Esposito said. "The public likes it a lot. We’re giving back 100 percent of what we take in."

Contestants can play at other Park Place properties, which include Paris Las Vegas, Flamingo Las Vegas, Las Vegas Hilton, Caesars Tahoe, Reno Hilton and Flamingo Reno.

Imperial Palace to have get-together

The Imperial Palace will open its 400-seat Royal Hall for the NCAA Tournament’s first and second round games (March 15-18). All games will be televised on eight giant screen TVs. Food and cocktails will be served.

"The hotel is booked that weekend, so we know there will be people there," IP race and sports book manager Jay Kornegay said. "We only have 400 seats for about 500 people who (usually) come."

During the Final Four (March 31 and April 2), the IP will have its "Hoop Madness" in the Royal Hall. Basketballs autographed by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal will be given away.

The events in Royal Hall are free. This will be the seventh year the events have run.

Barley’s Casino contest

In Henderson, Nev., Barley’s Casino & Brewing Company will have an NCAA Tournament contest as well. There is a $20 entry fee to get you in throughout the tournament.

The best record for the first two rounds wins 25 percent of prize money. Best record for rounds three and four, another 25. The best overall record wins 50 percent.

First round picks must be submitted by March 15 at 9 a.m. Final round picks must be placed by March 22 at 9 a.m.