If congress is really serious about banning betting on college sports in Nevada, it'll mean war with Chili. Now going on his 30th hour without sleep, Chili, 27, is wedged against a rail at the Mirage Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas on the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament. He's got the latest in a milelong line of cold beers in his right hand, a fistful of $100-bet slips in his left, 25 big screens in front of him, nine buddies giving him hell, and 12 hours and 16 games dead ahead.
It's 8 a.m.
"If they try to take bettin' on college hoops out of Vegas," says Chili, "they might as well kill me."
Him and the other unrepentant hoopheads who've turned the opening four days of March Madness into Las Vegas's biggest sports-betting spree: 96 hours of undering, overing, betting, regretting, wailing and wallowing through 48 games—wall-to-wall ball. "We've been coming here every year for 21 years," says one unshaven heathen at the Luxor. "One of these years we're going to go see a show, too."
For your average lugs, it's the closest thing to paradise this side of Salma Hayek's underwear drawer. Petite cocktail waitresses, wearing 39 cents worth of dress, bring them free beer while four games vibrate on the big screens, everybody cursing and behaving in ways not approved by Martha Stewart, a stogie in every piehole, with no thoughts of their lawn mowers, colons or minimum servings of fruits and vegetables. "Whaddya mean?" Chili says between glugs. "I get a lime with every beer!" This is a weekend when you can hear anything and usually do, like this actual conversation at the Mirage.
Man No. 1 (distracted by game on TV): "You wanna go eat?"
Man No. 2 (distracted by game on TV): "Yeah. I'm starved."
Man No. 1: "So. O.K. Let's go."