03/21/2013 12:55PM

Dave Tuley: NCAA bracket madness in Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS – As I’m writing this early Thursday morning, the world is full of optimism.

I’m in my home office, but I know from experience that the sports books all over town are filling up and have been for several hours as March Madness fans claim their seats (or spaces on the floor) like prospectors staking a claim in the Old West. Everyone is dreaming of riches from betting the NCAA tournament games this weekend or from the brackets filled out back home or online. Everyone is undefeated and every bracket is a clean slate.

Now, by the time most of you are reading this in Saturday’s print editions (humor me if you’re reading this earlier online or grabbed an advance copy Friday), the majority of brackets have probably been busted, unless it’s been a chalkfest first two days of wall-to-wall basketball. The ironic thing is that even if the favorites have been dominating, the fact is that we’ve all come to expect upsets, so even if all the favorites win, there’s sure to be a lot of people’s brackets busted because they got cute with too many upsets.

Darned if you do, darned if you don’t, right?

But don’t feel bad if your brackets have more blacked-out areas than the Warren Commission report. There’s still plenty of betting action this weekend, though the second round of games on Saturday and Sunday (note: yes, before you send in letters to the editor, I know the NCAA officially calls the games on Thursday/Friday the second round, but I’m boycotting that since we all call those games the first round; after all, it’s the first round we all pick on our brackets, so their “first round” is just the play-in games) is actually a bit anticlimactic with just eight games a day compared to the relative frenzy with 16 games each day Thursday and Friday.

Besides, you’re not alone. We all know how hard it is to fill out a winning bracket. It always seems that the pools are won by someone’s grandma that went with her favorite color or someone’s teenage son that claims he studied all the teams on his computer but we find out later he just picked his favorites from the “Girls of the Big 10” issue of Playboy.

There’s also the math working against us. If you’ve been reading March Madness articles all week, you’ve probably come across some figures circulated by R.J. Bell of pregame.com. He says there are more than 9 quintillion (that’s a 9 with eighteen zeros) possible brackets, so that’s how many you would have to fill out to be guaranteed having a perfect bracket. The exact figure is 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, but what’s 223 quadrillion between friends?

Now, he’s not saying those are the odds against having a perfect bracket because a whole lot of those would be all the higher-numbered seeds winning almost all the games. You would have one bracket with all games like that, but then all the permutations with just one game being different along the way, then all with just two games different along the way in all those combinations, then three games and so on and so on.

Frankly, more than 8 quintillion of those combinations would be dead money and not worth your time/effort. Of course, horseplayers know that often the most regrettable mistake is when you like to play the “all” button in certain kinds of wagers like the pick three or pick four and the one time you decide to leave out that one longshot to make your ticket a little more affordable is the time the bomb comes in.

So, you would have to fill out all combinations. The problem is time. According to Bell, “if all the people on Earth filled out one bracket per second, it would take over 43 years to fill out every possible bracket.” So much for making that Thursday morning deadline at your office.

But despite all this, a perfect bracket isn’t impossible. It all depends on how well the favorites do. The funniest thing in my mind is what would happen if every lower-numbered seed won every game. There are some websites that have offered a $1 million prize for a perfect bracket. I can just imagine that happening and 20,000 people walking around thinking they’ve won a million dollars because they were so smart to get every game right only to find out they have to share the prize and get $50 each (paid out over 25 years, or $2 a year before taxes!).

Obviously it doesn’t take a perfect bracket to win, so if you’re still alive: congrats, you’ve already outrun your odds.

Hopefully, I’m right there with you.

Las Vegas radio shows

I get asked all the time about what radio show I listen to out of Vegas. This seems as good a time as any since Bell’s “First Preview” show, which currently airs at 11 p.m. Pacific Sunday through Friday on ESPN AM 1100 here in Vegas (espn1100.com for those elsewhere) is moving to 10 a.m. weekdays on the same stations/websites. When Bell isn’t running the show himself, he has the silky-smooth Scott Spreitzer in the host chair along with handicappers from his site.

◗ The long-running horse racing show, “Race Day Las Vegas” with Ralph Siraco, has had a sports-centric show in that same time spot on KSHP AM 1400 (kshp.com), but that show is going on hiatus starting April 10 until football season. Also, on April 10, “Race Day Las Vegas,” which had been on a seven-day-a-week schedule that made Siraco the James Brown of the Vegas radio market, will move to a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule with the weekday shows at 7 a.m. Pacific and the Saturday and Sunday shows at 8 a.m. Pacific.

◗ The similarly long-running “Track Talk” show continues on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 a.m. Pacific on KLAV AM 1230 with John Kelly and Patrick McQuiggan (klav1230am.com)

◗ Back on the sports side, the most gambling-intensive shows in the afternoon Mondays through Fridays are “Sportsbook Radio” with Brian Blessing at noon on FOX AM 920 (fsr920.com) and “The Las Vegas Sportsline” with Review-Journal reporters Matt Youmans and Adam Hill, along with handicapper Dave Cokin, at 2 p.m. Pacific on ESPN AM 1100 (espn1100.com). Those two stations also have local programming throughout the day that, while they’re more like talk radio in other cities, they talk often about the spreads since they’re in Vegas.

◗ In addition, I’m working on either reviving my “ViewFromVegas.com Podcast” in the fall or moving to terrestrial radio. Stay tuned.