Written by Brad Newberg, our special SB Nation correspondent who is in Vegas for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
Is there such a thing as too much poker? I ask because I literally hit a poker wall yesterday. It was almost three hours into the Friday Venetian tournament. I was chip leader as far as I knew. But the cards had gone cold, and it had been over an hour since I played a single hand, so I did what one can never do as a "good" poker player. I got bored. And much more than that, I was tired. Really tired. All the poker from the day before just hit me. So, I made an absolute bonehead move against the guy in second place a couple of hands before the break and lost a good three-quarters of my chips. Then I spent the whole break thinking, "I could crawl back, but unless I'm going to finish in the top 5, I don't really want to play for the next seven hours (the Friday tournament goes later than the Thursday one if you make the final table) and miss dinner to end up not getting paid or to barely make back my entry fee." Plus, the basketball games were about to start. Three minutes after we came back from the break, I was (almost) happily out. I may play some poker today, but I doubt I will go for more tournaments.
Regarding the basketball games, I was completely shut out yesterday on my two bets. I went with a parlay on Ohio State and the over in the first bet and took Purdue to win straight up in the second. I desperately needed overtime in the Ohio State game. The over was covered with a bunch of time left—it was really never in doubt as I only needed about 50 total second half points after a blazing first session. However, it is really hard to cover a point spread when you give up two dozen layups and slam dunks. I mean, seriously Ohio State? Play some freakin' defense. I cannot imagine that Tennessee was the most powerful interior game you have faced this season. It was literally like watching the old NBA all-star games where no defense was played at all intentionally to give the fans a show.
Getting back to my point yesterday about rooting for the strangest things when you bet on a basketball game, have you ever given the cashier $11.22 on a $6.22 bill, so you can get back a five and have her look at you like you are from Mars? And then when you explain that you did it so you could get a five back, she looks at you like you are some math savant for figuring out what is essentially a second-grade problem? That was me in the sports book yesterday at the end of the Ohio State-Tennessee game. Tennessee is up by one with only seconds remaining and Ohio State misses the shot and has to foul. So I cheer (just a little: I still thought I was going to lose). And the Ohio State fans (fans to cover) with whom I had been cheering in the sports book give me that same look. To which I responded, "That was a good thing. You can't go into overtime on a last second shot if you are down by one. You can if you are down by two or three." Blank stares. Slow realization. Massive cheering for Tennessee to hit at least one free throw. Small grin by me (and maybe somewhere, by my second-grade teacher). The funniest part was seeing the people cheering for Tennessee wonder why the Ohio State supporters were hoping for the free throws to hit, coming to the same realization, and then rooting for misses. Yeah, there's really no such thing as loyalty in a sports book.
The second game was ugly. I never got the sense that Purdue was in control in any way, but it was a little shocking how easily Duke blew them out at the end, making the final score look like it wasn't close for more than a half. At the end, I would have gotten much better returns by investing in Perdue than in Purdue. This makes me one for nine in my basketball bets and between buying dinner for everyone on Thursday, the basketball, and other assorted losses, I've wiped out my tournament winnings from Thursday. The good news is that I'm fairly even on my gambling, and if you can walk away from Vegas even (I've still got 24 hours left), that's a pretty good result.
Tapas were very good last night, although we all thought the ambiance could have been a little nicer. If you do go to Julian Serrano's, the tuna-raspberry skewers were my pick as the best of the twenty different dishes we tried. The brava potatoes, the cheese plate, and the ahi tuna tempura were quite tasty as well. For me, the rest of the night was fairly tame as I called it an evening not much after midnight, so I could gear up for today. I will say that the one guy who finally joined us this year after we had been trying to get him to come the last eight trips just walked into my room an hour ago after being up all night, and had by far the closest story to the Hangover any of us have had on these trips. Unfortunately, I have been sworn to secrecy. I will say that he personally did nothing illegal or immoral, but for the rest of the story, I suppose I'll just say . . . what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Tonight is Fleur de Lys where we attempt to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time. Last year, we went all out and did the tasting menu with wine pairings at the Captain's Table: there is a glass-encased wine cellar overlooking the restaurant, and in it, there is a single table. We had it last year, and I reserved it again. With candles and pumped in music and your own staff, it would probably be quite romantic if our group wasn't five guys. Last year, we all agreed that it ranked in the top meals of our lives, if not at the very top. We also all agreed that we were completely sauced by the end, as unlike some restaurants where a wine pairing is a couple of ounces, at Fleur de Lys, each one was a full glass, and the four guys drinking last year, including me, polished off more than six bottles of wine. I barely remember asking to speak to the chef to thank him and being surprised when they escorted us to the kitchen instead of him coming up to us. More surprised was the whole kitchen staff, who stared at us with fear as we, um, I think applauded. I'm sure they were thinking something along the lines of: "I can't believe we are letting these guys this close to fire and knives."
Anyway, we are all quite aware that we may be setting our expectations to such a point that we are disappointed, but we can hope. I'm going to grab some breakfast, doom Kentucky by placing a bet on them to cover (and maybe throw a little action on the over in Kansas State against Butler game), and then do some gambling and relaxing. I'll let you all know how that goes tomorrow.