An Inside Out look at the gambler’s mind during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament


It’s time for DPB’s 2016 Guide to March Madness in Vegas. In previous iterations, we’ve introduced you to the (short-term) locals and taught you how to handle your shit during the biggest gambling holiday of the year.

For the third annual edition, we’re taking you deep into the mind of a gambler when the stakes are at their highest.

Written by Kyle Magin

Something weird happens during the last few minutes of a game that’s close to the spread during the opening week of March Madness in Las Vegas. The distractions that pull everyone in a million different directions–drinks, decisions about when to hit the pool, conversations with friends who’ve traveled in across the country–slide down the priority list and attentions begin to turn to the monitors hung like artworks in a too-busy gallery. Gamblers experience different emotions as a game comes down to the wire depending on how close it is to a given spread. Below, we’ll take you through the levels of panic as any of the first 48 games finish up this week.


When you’re covering by more than ten points with a minute to go, you’re actually slightly agitated. You’ve got a ticket that’s worth money in your pocket, and your whole being is concerned with cashing that ticket as soon as the clock hits 0. Late fouls–which are pointless and infuriating to an impatient man with $38.60 to collect but potentially important to the 22-year olds actually trying to stave off a future which doesn’t include playing basketball–delay the inevitable. Just give me my cash!

+6 to +9

Good times, man. You’re the human embodiment of a Jack Johnson song. You feel like you just took a long-awaited piss or slept in unexpectedly on a Saturday. These two teams put you through a ton today, but you’re covering comfortably and it’s time to order another round. This one is on you, and your waitress will compliment your dimples. Contentment.


You’re playing it cool. You’re just checking out the next round of tip-offs on your betting sheet like cool dudes do. But you’re not cool. You’re your mom when you got busted for drinking in high school. You’re on edge, staring daggers through the TV and just willing each second to run twice as fast as it’s taking its fine time ticking. If nobody talks to you, the act works and you don’t realize how hard you were sweating and grinding your teeth until you make your way to the book to collect. That was close.

Io_Fear_standard2+2 to +4

You’re openly, anxiously gripping. You are the guy whose picture makes this all seem like fun–hands clasped atop your hat with a crumpled slip of paper and a golf pencil sticking out at odd angles while you smile like the PTA president who has to listen to the crunchy mom make her organic lunch room pitch. You yell with every dribble and pass and begin to refer to the kids playing the game by their first names, even though you only learned them on Selection Sunday. This is actually the most fun position to be in while the game is still on.


Your reaction to covering by the closest of margins depends on how you got there. Did some late run propel you into this position? You’re gripping, but momentum is heading your way and things might wind up OK. Has a run sentenced you to the skin of your teeth? In that case, you’re like a stock trader on Black Tuesday, namely looking for a nice tall place from which to jump.


You’re OK until you actually push, at which point you’ll finally understand what your high school d-line coach meant when he said tying is like kissing your sister.


The worst part when you’re missing the cover by a point is that Brent Musburger knows you’re missing the cover by a point. He’ll say something about it on the telecast. “Ho, ho, ho, there are some boys in the desert who are sweatin’ right now,” he’ll giggle because he’s past the point of giving a shit about mentioning gambling on a national telecast. It’ll send you into an apoplectic rage, the sort of righteous indignant anger a six-year old displays when he knows you only have circumstantial evidence that he ate those cookies (but he totally ate those cookies.) Nobody better talk to you right now, because you’re the absolute worst fan in all of sports, and if you end up losing by a point you’re going to see if they’ll make you Jack and Coke by the yard at the kiosk bar (they will, and it’ll cost $154.)

angerI-2 to -4

This could turn, right? You’re hopeful, and essentially the same as the guy who’s +2 to +4. You’re totally living in the moment, there was nothing before this final minute, and there may be nothing after.


You’re uncomfortable. This probably isn’t going your way but it might… which is the cruelest joke Vegas can play. Every fibre of your being wants to quit… to head to dinner, the bar, the pool, anywhere but watching a probably sure thing become sure. But you can’t, ‘cause it ain’t over until it’s over. You might snap at someone.


-6 to -9

This sucks.


Ironically, you’re the coolest motherfucker in Vegas. You don’t need to hold onto any stress, any crinkled ticket, anything but that drink in your hand. Life can only get better from here. You guys wanna go outside? It’s a beautiful day.