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Dorau the [Sports] Explorer: March Madness in Las Vegas

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

Hi, I’m the guy who won two dollars and ten cents. For my first ever foray into true sports gambling, I barely won enough to cover the McDonald’s Crispy Snack Wrap I ate while I watched the game. Spending Spring Break in Las Vegas to me meant one thing. Make some money on my clearly superior sports expertise.

I may have some semblance of sports knowledge, but gambling, not so much. Choosing to get my feet wet by placing a mere five dollar bet earned me a less than encouraging response from the cashier at the MGM Grand. “You do realize that you’ll only win 2 bucks, right?”

With so many bets on the board, it was tough to decide which to select.  Horseracing was less than appealing, because I don’t know anything about it, and if I wanted to, I could drive over to the Off Track Betting locations all around this state.  It had to be a legitimate sporting event.

Being a rabid hockey fan, I had considered betting on my beloved Boston Bruins to defeat the New Jersey Devils. Then I remembered the Devils have this guy named Martin Brodeur in the net, and quickly reconsidered. Not only that, but to me, there’s something just inherently wrong about betting on your favorite team. I don’t know how Pete Rose did it all those years. (Can we just get him in the Hall of Fame already?)

It felt natural to bet on college basketball since it was the rare opportunity to be in Vegas during March Madness. I wanted to bet on a game I had minimal rooting interest in, but knowing I didn’t want to spend my entire afternoon watching for potentially a two-buck payoff, it had to be a specific proposition, and I’m not talking about the ones they were advertising on business cards outside the less-upscale hotels.

Opting to place a prop bet on which team would score 20 points first, the next task was to choose the game. None interested me, until I saw the second-round tilt between Louisville and Siena. CCSU hockey fans will be happy to know I bet on Louisville simply due to my hatred of the Saints, who the Blue Devils brawled with earlier this season.

When Reginald Delk made a layup to give Louisville a 20-14 lead, some people in the sports book hooted and hollered. I walked over to one of the cashiers, sheepishly handed them my ticket, and collected my money.  Mission accomplished. I have bet on sports in Las Vegas.

For those who have never been out there, it really is a heck of an experience. For someone like me who is not the drinking or partying type, even I had an incredible time and was amazed by all that the city had to offer. It is definitely something every one should do at least once in their life.

Speaking of hype, the game of poker has been crammed down our throats on television to the point of overexposure this decade. As someone who’s always been interested in playing, my experience is limited to games with friends, online poker before President Bush (in his infinite wisdom) outlawed it, and the occasional five-dollar buy-in tournament in the Vance dorm basement.

I felt compelled to at least try a shot at a real Vegas tournament. I went downstairs at the Monte Carlo, where I was staying, and put down 50 bucks to enter a sit-and-go tournament. Being the last person to arrive at the table, I felt like I immediately had a target on my back. Maybe it was paranoia, but it’s amazing how much pressure the money puts on you.

I’ve always made fun of poker being televised, primarily on ESPN. Citing the physical shape of most players, the half-baked intimidation tactics and the corny announcers, I dismissed it as a sport and considered the broadcasts a joke.

The epiphany occurred when I pushed all my chips into the middle of the table. The nerves that players have to display is mpressive. Heading into the tournament, the initial goal was just to not finish in dead last. By the time I got eliminated in fifth place, I thought to myself, “Wow, I could have won this thing.”

That’s why I went back the next day. Maybe it was a sense of wanting redemption, or maybe just a budding gambling addiction, but I had to go after it again. It did not go well. I’m a tight, conservative player by nature. The first hand, I tried to bluff like I had a whopper. It did not go well. I lost maybe about half my chip stack on that hand alone.

Tumbling along and getting blinded to death, I was down to my final two chips. I managed to get pocket Jacks, and it was all uphill from there. Several double-ups allowed me to get right back into contention, and each time I went all-in, putting all my chips at risk, my heart beat more furiously. I thought it was going to rip right out of my chest. Somehow, I kept winning and winning until I reached the final two. Severely short-stacked against my Aussie adversary, I managed to double up. We then were dealt the exact same hands twice in a row, and we both took it as a sign that we were equally matched. We split the pot and I achieved a major goal on the trip of finishing in the money at a poker tournament.

Several lessons were learned over the course of the weekend. First, I will now always bet against Siena. Secondly, never use your cell phone at table games. Rookie mistake.

Apparently pit bosses frown upon that.  Finally, Poker, as cheesy as it can be at times, is a sport.  The adrenaline I felt playing the game was more than some instances in which I’ve played a traditional sport. And I was just playing a low level sit and go.  Imagine the pressure in the World Series of Poker. A sport based on luck? Maybe. A sport based on nerves, instinct, and practice? Yes.