Making the most of the Big Game

This Sunday will be one of the biggest days of the year in Las Vegas, as hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the city for Super Bowl weekend. Officially labeled “the Big Game” by the casinos to avoid problems with NFL trademarks, this year’s marquee matchup between the New England Patriots and New York Giants is expected to generate more interest than any Super Bowl in recent years, and possibly the most ever, with the betting handle expected to approach the 2006 record of $94.5 million. Meanwhile, the whole city will be promoting, and locals will have a better opportunity than most to take advantage.

I’ll say up front that there’s no reason to be bummed if you weren’t invited to one of the private casino bashes. Back in the days when I qualified for such things, I was over the moon when I got my first invitation and throwing them in the trash by the time I got my third. These are boring events that you can do without.

In fact, most veterans I know don’t go to any parties, because they feel that the best place to be is in a sports book. Almost all of the books will have food and drink specials, along with the big screens and an electric vibe you can find only in a place where 99 percent of the people have a monetary stake in the outcome of the game. Be aware, though, that getting a seat in a sports book for this game is something akin to bagging front-row seats for a U2 concert. You can try to stake out a spot in the wee hours of the morning, but you’ll have to guard it if you get one.

If you’re a big fan of the Giants or Pats, you can catch the game in a team bar or restaurant. Las Vegas’ Giants bars are AP’s Grill & Tavern and Johnny Fontane’s Beach House. Establishments that support the Patriots are the Cavalier Lounge and East Coast Eats.

If you want to make a bet, look for a book that gives you something for making it. It changes every year, but invariably a local casino or two will give you a logo hat or T-shirt for making a parlay, or even a straight bet. That’s pure value added. And if you want to get a jump-start on some action, get a watch with a second hand and time the national anthem. Every year the offshore casinos put up a line on how long it will take to sing it. Two years ago, Carrie Underwood went over 1:42 and last year a lyrics-challenged Christina Aguilera went over 1:54. This year, the over/under for Kelly Clarkson is a brisk 1:34. I smell another over coming.