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The Madness of March: Bonding and Betting with the Boys in Las Vegas Paperback – March 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The seasonal madness of the NCAA basketball tournament played against the ongoing folly that is Las Vegas: it’s hard to find a more combustible admixture in sports, but Zaremba, a communications professor at Northeastern University, conveys it all with cool wit. His idea: travel to Vegas two days before the 2007 tournament and write a six-day diary of what he observes among the various casinos and their “sports books,” those auditoriums where gamblers (fans, really) can watch dozens of games while placing a range of bets. Zaremba can’t resist laying down bets himself—his “research” confirms for him yet again, for instance, that he can lose a lot of money quickly at the blackjack table—yet he is detached enough to explain how the system works and to record the events and singular characters as they reveal themselves. Although the action takes place in Las Vegas, the book makes it easy to extrapolate this subtext of March Madness playing itself out nationwide. A sleeper of a book.

Review

"The seasonal madness of the NCAA basketball tournament played against the ongoing folly that is Las Vegas: it's hard to find a more combustible admixture in sports, but Zaremba . . . conveys it all with cool wit. . . . Although the action takes place in Las Vegas, the book makes it easy to extrapolate this subtext of March Madness playing itself out nationwide. A sleeper of a book." --Alan Moores, Booklist

"Alan Jay Zaremba . . . has captured the excitement, the color, the flavor and craziness of college basketball betting in Las Vegas in his new book, The Madness of March. . . . This book itself is like a travelogue of places, people, concepts, conspiracy theories and if Hunter Thompson were alive today, he'd embrace the author, who captures the moments and rides the roller coaster of emotions with the bettors." --Howard Schwartz, gamblersbook.com

"If you've ever wondered why scads of post-college guys spend the better part of a week living on beer and hot wings while feverishly analyzing their next wager, you'll get an answer in Zaremba's book. . . . I'm not being ironic when I say that The Madness of March is a lock. It's an essential read for anyone who wants to get a better window on one of the more interesting gambling and sports subcultures." David G. Schwartz, dieiscast.com

"Professor Alan Zaremba chronicles the scene in Las Vegas during the opening weekend of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. . . . The result is a fascinating, often humorous, look into the lives of the (mostly) men who converge on the desert every March with their "locks" and "sure thing" picks. . . . One of the best books I've read this year." --Jeff Fox, hoopsmanifesto.blogspot.com

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Product Details

  • Series: Bison Original
  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Nebraska Pr (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803213832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803213838
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,574,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwartz VINE VOICE on April 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
Alan Jay Zaremba's The Madness of March is a welcome corrective to sports betting's analytical oversight. Part participant observer-based ethnography, part academic study, The Madness of March gives a rare insight into sports betting by focusing on one week in one place: the opening round of the NCAA college basketball tournament on the Las Vegas Strip.

Setting his book here, Zaremba is at the epicenter of the year's most frenzied burst of casual betting. Essentially, Zaremba spends six days in Las Vegas and writes about what he experiences. He correctly reaches the conclusion that most bettors are doing for the fun, not for profit, as nearly everyone he encounters is a 20-50 year old male who's been coming to Vegas for years during the tournament to place bets, drink beer, watch games, and have fun-though the first three often make the last an elusive goal.

Zaremba is an excellent observer and a good writer; he knows enough to capture the inherent absurdity around him, but usually has a light enough hand to let the reader draw his own conclusions rather than explicitly making the point that most bettors who insist they have a sure thing are delusional. Part of what makes the book fun is the interaction between bettors: each wants to know what the other is betting, and many share their picks and their methodologies, which run from intricate to nonsensical. On almost every page, a bettor fatuously declares that his latest pick is a "lock," a guaranteed sure thing. It gets monotonous, but it's true. Towards the end of the book, one of Zaremba's subjects declares, "Everyone here has a lock, and no one here has a lock." As the author says, it's probably the most accurate thing anyone's said in days.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TomSheahan on May 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a terrifically insightful, and well-researched book about sports betting in general, the betting culture that has built up around college sports specifically, and the social-cultural phenomenon that is Las Vegas. For those who have been to Vegas, it will explain a lot about the sports book section of the casinos that you may have simply walked by on your way to the slots. Many of the characters that the author describes will also seem strangely familiar - they are Vegas prototypes for sure. For those who have never been to Vegas, it's a well-written window on this amazing (for good and bad reasons) place. This is a fun read, but it is also intelligently written with terrific sidebars on cultural issues that Alan is expert in.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Craig Ingraham on March 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The author of "The Madness of March" is a professor at a university in the northeast, but this account of the annual rites accompanying March Madness in Las Vegas is a far cry from the college textbook writing you might expect from a professional academic. Its sort of an anthropological look at the behavioral excesses and wierdness exhibited by the denizens of the sports books in several Vegas casinos on the Strip during this yearly Spring rite, but couched in terms reminiscent of Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who also famously wrote a drug-fueled account of an excursion to Vegas (Zaremba, however, shows no sign of ingesting anything more exotic than the many beers he imbibed along the way in order to assimilate with his subjects in their un-natural habitat). I guess you could say Prof. Zaremba is a sort of Gonzo sociologist, if there is such a thing. Aside from being an often affectionate, yet incisive, reflection on the habits and behavioral excesses of some, ahhh, unusual specimens of the tribe Homo Sapiens, this book is also a valuable guide to the rules and jargon associated with this strange nether world of legal gambling on sporting events that exists in the bowels of the many casinos in Vegas, and which is thus never ordinarily exposed to the light of day. This reviewer, formerly one of the uninitiated in this realm with its unique, tortured logic and language, was pleased to have the curtain of mystery pulled back, with the customs and mores of this curious culture explicated in a clear but humorous way. Whether you're thoroughly familiar with the event, or considering taking your first trip to partake of it, or simply wondering what your friends or spouses are up to when they head out for this annual pilgrimmage, I think you'll enjoy the book as much as I did.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been in Vegas for March Madness more often than not the last 25 years. This book is great at outlining the experience. I found myself often laughing and bringing back found memories. With that said, several times the author is just not correct with what he is describing, especially when explaining certain gambling terms. Even in his glossary he doesn't properly explain what a Teaser is and also misses in the body of the book. There are other mistakes which take away a little bit as well and leaves the reader wondering a bit about what else which can't be confirmed might also lack accuracy. This is a fun book however and I will be giving it to many friends to read.
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Having long thought about, talked about and even planned a trip to Vegas for the first four days of "March Madness", the book's subject matter interested me.

Having never actually made that particular trip to Vegas, after reading the book, I feel as though I've been there. Lots of great insights into the mindsets of men in general, sports fans and sports bettors in particular. Well-crafted and deeply researched, the book is a must for any pseudo-college basketball expert.
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