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In the Month of Madness

For sports book directors, oddsmakers and many gamblers, nothing rivals the sheer betting mayhem of March Madness.
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

(continued from page 3)

By 7 o'clock, after the last game tips off, the Mirage sports book resembles one of those New Year's Eve parties when at 5 in the morning only the diehards are still at it. The air reeks of booze and smoke. The carpet is littered with discarded betting slips. Still, however, the most ardent gamblers linger—seats are still difficult to come by—and the signs of dissipation, enhanced by a long afternoon of drinking, gambling and screaming for teams to rise above their natural-born limits and cover the damned point spread, are etched across their faces. Many are red-eyed and spent and using final reserves of energy to valiantly root on their picks.

Robert Walker has told me that the night games always take on added significance. "People are either trying to win back the money they lost or else they're parlaying the money they've won," he says. By all appearances, he's right. Feelings of hope and desperation ripple through the Mirage sports book and across the casino where gaming tables are crowded with sports fans who might be sick of watching (for today at least), but are not nearly sick of gambling. The guy with the plastic toilet has a new mascot getting a swirly. The father-and-son team admit to being exhausted, but they're still puffing away on fine cigars (as the second half nears, a Fuente Fuente OpusX is clipped). And, no doubt, behind the scenes, Walker is scrambling to put together the next batch of lines.

He knows his customers and he knows, for them, March Madness is synonymous with mad gambling. Like any smart merchant, he aims to give his people what they want, what they need, what compels them to crowd the betting window at the Mirage.

Michael Kaplan is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.

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