March 25, 2013 at 11:05 am

Terry Foster

Las Vegas trumps any sports bar for watching Michigan, MSU games

Mitch McGary was a real monster on the big screen at The Mirage. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Las Vegas -- If you thought Mitch McGary looked menacing at The Palace on Saturday against VCU you should have seen The Monster on The Monster here at the Mirage Sports book.

The other Monster is The Mirage's $1.3 million 80-by-20-foot projection television that entertained hundreds during the opening weekend of March Madness. I got to experience an annual ritual that brings thousands to the Vegas sports books for the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The only weekends that rivals this is Super Bowl weekend and the NFL conference championship Sunday.

"You will be at home," one man told me after I told him I was from Michigan. "This will be your second home."

He was right. The sports books I popped in were peppered with Michigan and Michigan State fans that came to place bets on their team and other "sure bets" that filled giant boards in sports books across the city. I watched part of Michigan State's victory over Memphis with Ryan Valderas and Aaron Craves from Bay City. Valderas wore a green MSU shirt and Craves a block M T-shirt and cap.

They were state of Michigan men that rooted for each other's teams. They were not the typical Wolverines and Spartans that root against each other.

'This is pretty awesome'

Both are 29 and they ditched their ladies to check out the Mirage sports book. They did well in betting, too. Both Michigan and Michigan State not only won two games each to advance to the Sweet 16 but they covered their bets in all four games. See how it pays off to love your rival?

"This is pretty awesome," Valderas said while sitting on a leather sofa and sipping on a beer. "You can't get this at any sports bar in the state of Michigan or anywhere else."

He's correct. The experience is awesome no matter what sport you like. In addition to The Monster, there were dozens of television sets showing horse racing from around the country, NHL and NBA games. And a monster of a tote board showed the odds and spreads of every sporting event.

I placed a friendly wager on Michigan and Michigan State and walked out a happy man.

Most weekends you show up to the sports book, watch games and place bets. It's different this weekend. Fans paid up to $1,500 to sit in leather couches for a day. That means they had to spend that much in bets and beverages to sit there. There were minimums of $100 per game for leather chairs or $200 for the entire day.

Hundreds of others stood and cheered for free in this standing room only venue.

There was electricity in the air as McGary bulled his way through VCU. Men screamed "Go Green, Go White" as the Spartans tipped off in Memphis. And there were plenty of people representing Wisconsin, UCLA and other schools. But the loudest cheers were for the Wolverines and Spartans.

Betting may help Detroit

None of the Detroit casinos have sports books because betting on games is illegal here. It's a shame because modern technology allows people to bet games no matter where they are and having betting at the Detroit casinos won't influence Pistons or Tiger games. And it might help a cash-strapped city.

Lack of sports books in Detroit lured men to fly to Vegas. And trust me; this is a man's thing. The sports books I visited were 90 percent male.

Valderas and Craves left their ladies on each of the days they visited sports books.

They visited Planet Hollywood and The Mirage, two of the top 10 sports books in Vegas.

The Las Vegas Review Journal also ranked Caesars No. 1 four years in a row because of high betting limits and scantily clad waitresses. I wonder if The Mirage will climb up the list when reviewers take in the new Monster. The new set has been operational for about a week and the casino got the 4D clarity tweaked just right before the tournament.

By the way I checked on the odds to win "The Pro Football Championship." The Lions odds began at 30-1 and have since dipped to 35-1. Do I have any takers?

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

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