Madness is here

The Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year in Las Vegas sportsbooks, but it’s not the biggest event. The biggest event is the March Madness basketball tournament, which kicks off its three-week run this weekend.

If you haven’t experienced being in a sportsbook during the tournament, give it a try, especially on Thursday and Friday, when the games begin early and run all day. The books air every one in real time, and it’s an amazing scene. Of course, that’s to be expected when almost everyone in the room has money riding on something.

Are there deals to be had? You bet there are. For gamblers, any of three contests being offered at Riviera, Station Casinos or Lucky’s sportsbooks are enticing. The reason is each returns 100 percent of the collected entry fees in prize money, which you don’t often find in a casino tournament. If you have any basketball-handicapping chops whatsoever and can sign up for one of these contests before the games start early on Thursday, you’ll have lots of low-cost action and a bona fide good play from an intelligent-gambling perspective.

If you’re like most who get into March Madness, your main gambling concern is probably the bracket you’ve filled out. With that in mind, finding a hopping bar or sportsbook with good drinking and dining deals is a priority for sweating your selections. The “hopping” part won’t be a problem—if TVs are on, it’ll be happening—so let’s look at some of the deals that go with the games.

Station and Fiesta sportsbooks are selling $1 hot dogs and $1 Buds. The Gold Coast is hosting a viewing party with $1.50 dogs and $2 drafts. Another low-cost play is “Hoops Central” at LVH, with $2 beers, $2 dogs, and a free “Madness” T-shirt when you make a $25 wager on a first-round parlay card. South Point is hosting its usual big gathering, with dollar dogs, $3 beers and $4 shots. The Stratosphere has $3-$6 food specials and $5 Bud and Bud Light pitchers. And Minus5 Ice Bar at Mandalay Bay has $3 PBR and house wines.

On the high end, parties with all-day buffets are being held in the Deuce Lounge at Aria ($50) and at the Hard Rock ($69), while the Brera Ballroom at Cosmopolitan has an unlimited-cocktails option for $50.

As for the Rebels, Born and Raised at Warm Springs Road and Buffalo Drive should be packed when they play Colorado on March 15—and they do $5 pizzas and $2 beers.