Written by Brad Newberg, our special SB Nation correspondent who is in Vegas for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
I think I need a basketball reality check. Or a support group. Somewhere I can go, and say, "Hi. I'm Brad." [Group in unison: Hi Brad] "It's been six years since I've had a profitable sports gambling session, and I'm here because I recognize that I know nothing about college basketball." [Everyone applauds and I sit back down]
Yesterday involved just one basketball bet, but it was a big one, the biggest of my trip. I listened to the Sirens' call and floated my ship over to the disastrous rocks known as Kentucky basketball. I looked at the line: Kentucky was only favored by four points. How could that be? I blinked, looked again. I wasn't imagining it. So, I took Kentucky to cover. I asked around. I couldn't find anyone who took West Virginia. My buddy asked around. Same story. No one could understand that line, so we all took Kentucky.
Well, somebody knew something because that was a disaster. I watched the first half at the Caesar's Palace sports book—which I recommend as one of the nicest sports books and the best set-up on the strip. It was extremely quiet. Kentucky couldn't score and no one was cheering because of it. I watched the second half back at the Bellagio as my bitter mind raced through conspiracy theories. No, I don't believe that anything actually was fishy, but, even in hindsight, having watched West Virginia destroy Kentucky in that second half, I still keep thinking, "how could that have happened?" I guess when a team can't hit a free throw, can't hit a three-pointer and can't defend the three in one half and the two in the other, losses do happen. By the way, I'm assuming that West Virginia is the only team in tournament history to have a halftime lead without hitting a single two-point field goal, although I haven't heard that for sure.
The only good thing about the game—if I try to take something good from it—is that it was at least nice to have a team of college "veterans" beat Calipari's one and done-ers. I thought it was amusing when Wall fouled out and they said, "a lot of people are wondering whether this is the last time they'll see this young fellow in a Kentucky uniform." Really? I'm half-surprised he didn't just put on a Nets cap when he sat down.
Before the basketball, I once again played a bunch of poker. First, I got dragged into a tournament by one of my buddies despite my tepid objections and my vow not to play another tournament. My reasoning was solid and justified when I quickly bombed out in an hour. That, however, ended up being a very profitable event, as I moved over to a "1-3 No Limit" cash game, where I cleaned up. People were actually pretty surprised when I got up given how hot I was, but the Kentucky game had just started, and I'm a horrible multi-tasker. I will say that it was perhaps the nicest poker table I've ever been at in terms of people. No jerks, no one got mad when they lost a big hand, lots of friendly chatter, just a really good atmosphere. We even got a good laugh from the floor manager after our table asked him to turn down the air conditioner because it was pretty cold. He offered one of the guys his jacket in jest, and when the guy took it to the next level and said, "how about a hug?", sure enough the manager came over and gave him a genuine hug. Not sure it ever did get warmer, but at least we had fun.
Fleur de Lys was once again wonderful. It may not have matched the sheer fantasticness of last year, but that is more due to how good last year was and how high our expectations were. However, it was still so good that Fleur de Lys has been cemented as my favorite restaurant in Vegas. And having the whole restaurant looking up at us through the glass and wondering "who are those guys" really does stroke the ego and makes that much more of a great dining experience.
My flight leaves in just a couple of hours, so I'm off to grab some breakfast and maybe squeeze in a little more gambling. It was a good trip and I'll be back for our tenth annual trip next year. Until then, and for anyone else in Vegas or about to go to Vegas, I wish you safe travels and safe betting.