How to Celebrate a Winning Bet or Grieve a Losing One in Vegas

How to Celebrate a Winning Bet or Grieve a Losing One in Vegas article feature image

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LAS VEGAS – You’re in Vegas — say, for the NCAA Tournament — and you’ve just cashed a winning bet. How do you celebrate in the hours or days before your trip ends?

Or, alternatively, how do you respond to a devastating (and costly) loss on a bet that seemed so sound when you placed it?

This year’s tournament has certainly delivered some amazing wins (such as the massive return a group of UMBC bettors reaped when they backed the Retrievers against Virginia), and some excruciating losses.

If you’re in Vegas for the tournament and find yourself in one of those situations, what do you do next? What should you do with an influx of cash, and how should you grieve a stinging loss? As your resident Vegas local, here are some tips to make the most of the good and the bad of sports betting in the Sin City.

How To Handle A Big Win

I’m not going to get into the tax implications of a large win here in Vegas. If you hit big, you will fill out a tax form and have to pay the IRS its cut. But that’s boring and not what I care to discuss in this space.

Instead, I’ll start by sharing a quick story. The first time I sat down to play in a live poker event, I won it. It was in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the late 2000s, and the tournament was a qualifier for a World Series of Poker seat in Vegas. There were 200 players, and I took them all down. The seat was worth $10,000, but I had no desire to go to the WSOP in Vegas (because I have pretty much sucked at poker every other day of my life but that one). So I sold the seat to the second-place finisher for $5,000, which he won as the runner-up.


As I walked out of the poker room that day with $5,000, the first thing I saw was a blackjack table. I sat down and played five hands at $100 per and won them all. To this day, I’ve never bet more on single hands of blackjack, but I was so hot that I had to play.

I tell that story because the UMBC bettors who cashed when a No. 16 seed finally beat a No. 1 pretty much did the same thing after their win. The group won a combined $16,800 from that bet, then added another $1,900 when they hit the roulette table. The group then went to the golf course, where, naturally, one had a round of his life.

That’s called a hot streak, boys and girls, and you ride that baby as hard and for as long as you can.

Here’s what else I’d do after a big win in Vegas to keep the adrenaline flowing:

-Go to Speed Vegas and race the car of your dreams. This place has Lambos, Porsches, Ferraris and more exotic race cars that you can take out on a track. Who has the nerve? You will find out quickly. It’s not cheap, but it’s so worth it.

-Ever want to jump off the top of the Stratosphere and survive to tell about it? Well, you can. You can bungee jump from over 850 feet above the ground and see a panoramic view of the entire valley. This is one of the things that you do as a dare, but if you have the guts, it’s a wild experience.

-If you are so inclined, get a cabana at Bare at the Mirage. This is one of the best topless optional pools on the Strip, and you just won a ton of money. There is a food and beverage minimum with the cabana, but you can split the payment among your group. You also get a home base during the party and a fun memory for you and your friends.

-Get the dinner of your dreams. I’m talking about a private room, great drinks, great steaks, with wine older than you are and a bill that will cause the restaurant to remember your name the next time you are in town.

How To Handle A Big Loss

When you are cold, you have to know when to pull back. You have to be careful not to chase a losing rabbit around all weekend long and drop way more money than you intended. It can happen fast if you aren’t paying attention, so you should have a shut-off number before you hit the casino floor. Leave your ATM card in the room or bet with a sports betting app that you can’t reload on the fly.

In short, use your head. But when you do lose, there are ways to shake off the sting.

-One activity that I like to do when I’m not seeing the board clearly is to go to the spa for a massage or sauna. Escape for some kind of treatment that gets you back close to sober. Your cold streak could be occurring because you are too drunk to realize that you are placing stupid bets. That’s why alcohol and gambling are such a dangerous mix. You don’t think clearly, and you start betting with your ego rather than your mind. The spa will clear your head and bring you back to reality.


-If you are like me, you welcome distractions when something is troubling you. The Foundation Room is located on top of Mandalay Bay, and the view is simply breathtaking at night. It’s hard to worry about anything when you are looking at all those lights below.

-Las Vegas was built by the mob, and there is a museum dedicated to the city’s dark history. The Mob Museum is located in downtown Vegas and is a really interesting way to keep your money in your pocket and your mind engaged.

-Need an epic reminder of the trip and the experience together? Go get a tattoo. I’m not talking about a Ben Affleck back tattoo, but something neat that will remind you and your friends of the fun and the less costly parts of your vacation. I like Blue Buddha, which is where I got mine, but there are many tattoo parlors in the area.

-Finally, if you do lose a really big play, DON’T BE THAT GUY. Be careful how you react to bad news. Nobody likes to see the really angry guy screaming at the TV. Remind yourself about the bets you have won and keep your head up. This is hopefully all for entertainment, and your losses are part of the experience. (Also, don’t be rude to the sportsbook staff. It’s not their fault that Nevada came back on Cincy or North Carolina got rolled.)

Ultimately, there are so many other ways to spend your time in Las Vegas if the sportsbooks aren’t working out for you. Don’t let losing a few bets ruin your trip. Have a plan in case things go south and activate it if you have to get away.

It’s all about moderation in this town. Those who can take the downs with the ups are the ones who keep coming back year after year for the fun.