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Tips for Doing March Madness in Las Vegas

Key Points:

  • It can be an expensive weekend – Book a *refundable* hotel room early and check back for price drops frequently.
  • Download 2-3 betting apps, and sign up in person the day before, so that you can line shop while skipping the line.
  • Guarantee yourself a seat, food, and drink by reserving a seat at a watch party before they fill.

Avid sports bettors crave the action of March Madness and the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the premier sports betting event of the year.

Wall-to-wall action, upsets, and money to be made… or lost.

I make the annual pilgrimage to Vegas for the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament with a close group of friends and thought it would be helpful to jot down some tips.  

Tips For March Madness in Las Vegas

Where to watch NCAA basketball Games

Back in the day, you could get to the book early and snag a free seat. Today, a hefty fee is typically required to stake claim to real estate in the book.

Our plan typically involves spending day one of the tourney “casino hopping”, standing in the back of the sportsbook and watching games from afar.

The sportsbooks at Caesars Palace and Venetian are good spots to take in the action due to their large screens and amazing atmosphere. Even though standing all day is a downer, nothing beats the roar of the crowd when a game is down to the wire.

An alternative option to sportsbook hopping is buying a ticket to one of the many March Madness watch parties offered by bars and restaurants.

While free watch party options exist (TI, The D, and South Point), you usually need to arrive so early that paying for a seat makes more sense (to me at least).

Paid watch parties span the spectrum, but commonly include unlimited drinks and/or food in addition to a better view of the games with a guaranteed place to sit.

For those of you that aren’t big drinkers, there are a number of watch parties that require a relatively inexpensive food and beverage minimum spend agreement.

Historically, two of my favorite watch parties have been those held in Westgate’s theater and at Ellis Island. Both were a tremendous value.

I’d recommend checking out my annual list of paid and free March Madness events across Las Vegas. It’s usually the most comprehensive compilation of party options on the internet.

Sportsbook at Caesars Palace with bar in the foreground
With plenty of standing room in the rear of the massive book, Caesars is a good spot to catch major events.

Pick the RIGHT Watch Party

Start researching party options months in advance as most March Madness parties (that are worth a darn) in Vegas sell out quickly.

Call ahead and ask all the right questions, such as:

  • Will there be guaranteed seating?
  • How many TVs will be available?
  • Will there be food and beverages included in the price?
  • If not, what price points are food and beverage?
  • What types of food and beverages will be available?
  • How many betting stations will be open?  

Not all parties are created equal. When comparing and contrasting your options, I can’t recommend the March Madness in Las Vegas Facebook group enough. Once there, use the search function to view images and reviews of the party in question.

Where to Stay in Vegas during March Madness 

The opening weekend of March Madness is one of the most expensive times to visit Las Vegas.

In the past, I’ve stayed off the Strip at Palace Station, taking an Uber to the Strip daily, but now prefer lower-end Strip resorts in the Caesars and MGM chains that can commonly be had for cheap based on my gambling activity within their loyalty programs.

If not booking through a loyalty program though you can expect to pay $250 and up per night for a room on the Strip… and that’s for lower-end properties.  

I suggest booking your March Madness getaway early and checking back for better rates as your trip approaches. ALWAYS book a room with free cancelation so you can take advantage of price fluctuations! 

Circa Las Vegas Sportsbook
Circa’s Sportsbook – Overpowering, in the best way.

How to drink cheap in Vegas during March Madness

If you’re betting on the games, you should be getting drink tickets.

Generally speaking, the “higher class” the casino, the stingier they become with drink tickets.

At Caesars and LINQ, I was getting 1-2 drink tickets per $100 bet on basketball. At the Fremont casino on Fremont Street, I received 4 drink tickets for a single $100 wager; at the Palace Station, they handed over a stack of 20 when I placed my first couple bets.  

The rough formula dictates that the further you get from the strip, the more free drinks you get. 

I’ll note that throwing your ticket writer a few bucks never hurts your chances.

A quick story that makes me chuckle – My friend Sean went up to place his bets, only to come back complaining that he didn’t get a single drink ticket.

I headed up to the counter, tipped $10, and got handed a stack of about 15 drink tickets by the same employee.

In addition to tipping, don’t be afraid to ask for drink tickets if it isn’t looking like they’ll be offered up. What’s the worst that can happen? 

As previously mentioned, you can receive unlimited drinks as part of the cost of admission at most watch parties.

Best Way to Place a Bet

By far, the easiest way to place bets during the NCAA opening weekend in Vegas is to sign up for one or more sportsbook betting apps. I utilize both the Caesars, MGM, and Will Hill apps which were a 5-minute sign-up process and extremely convenient.

Annoyingly, first-time users need to visit a physical sportsbook to activate the account, but you’ll then have the ability to place bets anywhere at any time (as long as you are in Nevada of course).  

My buddies were consistently waiting in 30-40 minute long lines at LINQ and Caesars during the opening weekend of March Madness while I was getting my gambling fix instantaneously.

At this point, every major book in Vegas has a decent app. Get there a day early and sign up for a few so that you can line shop.

If you are planning to take in the opening weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas, ensure you are planning ahead for flights, accommodations, watch parties, signing up for sportsbook applications, etc. It’s an expensive weekend in Vegas so be creative about cutting costs – Check out my piece on Doing Vegas on a Budget.

Spend at least a day winging it “sportsbook hopping” and a day at a watch party. Above all, enjoy your weekend in the gambling Mecca of the world profiting off the NCAA Basketball Tournament – The premier sporting event of the year.

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Sunday 25th of March 2018

Have a good time and do not worry about money

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