Michael James shares his “Big Game” Party experience at South Point.
Back in 2006, one of my best friends invited me and another to watch the Super Bowl with him, as he had scored tickets to the VIP viewing party at the Stardust. They had the party in the large ballroom with five sections; the large aisle down the center with the buffet of stadium food, then four separate rooms for viewing the game. Each room catered to a different group… Seahawks fans w/ smoking, Seahawks fans in non-smoking, and the same with the Steelers. It was a great time, and at a time in my life when Las Vegas wasn’t yet “routine,” the party – and the buzz throughout the city – helped create the Vegas Obsessed condition that I currently am afflicted with.
But for as many times as I had gone back to Las Vegas, I didn’t get back there for the Super Bowl until 2015. Even that trip was a bit of a larf… I was reading a message board about Las Vegas about two weeks before the Super Bowl when someone posted that Frontier had $29 fares on sale that day only. I took a look, and there was a flight from Chicago to Las Vegas for $19 (though for work reasons we had to leave on the redeye after the game, so my return ticket was about $139). However, that meant that my wife and I could get round trip tickets for $158 each. I basically bought those tickets without even consulting her. We watched the game from the Downtown Events Center.
For that party, they had erected a tent that offered both free general admission and paid VIP seating and offered a la carte food and drinks for the GA attendees. That was a phenomenal Super Bowl, capped off with Malcolm Butler intercepting a Russell Wilson pass on the goal line with mere seconds on the clock for the Patriots win.
And it was that party that got me itching to go back.
It wasn’t in the cards last year, but in mid-November of 2016, both Frontier and Southwest had sales which included flights to/from Milwaukee. Outbound on Southwest was about $98, and the return on Frontier was $139. Not as cheap as a couple of years earlier, but I was bound and determined to go, so I booked it.
There was a cute anecdote to our 2015 Super Bowl trip. We would only be in town for about 25 hours as we landed just before midnight on Saturday and scheduled the redeye on Sunday. But due to a blizzard that shut down O’Hare (only 19″ of snow… pansies) on Sunday, our return flight was canceled, and we were instead sent to Washington DC and then had to wait there for a return flight to Chicago. My wife was not impressed. So when I tried to get her to come with me this year, she balked hard. I sent a text to my son, and he jumped at it.
I joined the Facebook group Vegas Big Game, and a member of that group keeps a spreadsheet of all Las Vegas Super Bowl parties. Numerous casinos and restaurants offer complete packages, ranging anywhere from $100 to $200 per person. I am sure that for many attendees, the price is well worth it for the open bar and (in some cases) upper-level food offerings. But my weight loss journey isn’t complete, so gorging myself wasn’t in my plans this year.
A friend who now lives in Las Vegas had told me about South Point’s party. There is no charge, and there are actually four separate parties; in the Showroom, the Exhibit Hall, the Grand Ballroom, and the sports book. Each offered standard stadium food and beer/alcohol for purchase. This was right up my alley, as I could have as much (or as little) as I wanted and not feel like I was giving money away.
My son and I actually started the day with a 10:00 AM poker tournament at South Point, and when I made a foolish move with K9 suited against JJ (with another J on the flop) it was time for Aaron and me to find our seating. We went first to the Grand Ballroom, which was full of 8-tops… with only one or two people at each table. Reserving tables is kind of an expectation with a free party, but the problem was that unless you went to every table to ask if there were available seats, you just didn’t know. We did manage to find a table in the middle back of the ballroom.
I left Aaron to hold our seats, then I walked to the Exhibit Hall and Showroom to scope out the scene, but it was pretty much the same… every table had someone holding seats, and it would require asking at every table if there was still room. The Showroom is where I’ll first check next time, however, as it is a very nice venue with a TV screen the size of the entire stage.
After studying my prop bets and making them on my phone using South Point’s Mobile app (BTW, not impressed with the functionality), I decided that it was dinner time.
In addition to the two $1 dogs, I had a $3 slice of warming tray pizza, two $5 Bud Light Limes and a $2 bottle of water.
Not that anyone cares, but most of my bets were tied to New England and the “under” and in the second quarter it looked like only one of those two would be good. (Side note; either you saw the game and know the story, or you don’t care. Either way, I won’t recap the game here.) But it was very frustrating to listen to the bandwagon Falcons fans because you knew damn well that they were only Falcons fans because (a) that’s who they bet on, or (b) they were actually cheering against New England. Either way, as the second quarter progressed, it got more frustrating. At about the two-minute warning, I got up and left for awhile.
While the game was going in, the casino was pretty empty, save for a lot of little old ladies who very likely didn’t care about football. It was surprising to see some men in the casino, too, as the game was not broadcast on the main floor. I instinctively headed towards the poker room (in part because I knew that I could plug my phone into a vacant poker table and juice it up). Along the way, I spotted Brent Musberger’s new home. I knew that his start-up was based at South Point, but I didn’t know that they built a studio right on the casino floor.
The game was on every TV in the poker room, but with the sound off. It was a bit surreal, as about half of the poker tables were not in use, and each one had two or three people sitting there, watching the game in silence. There was some whooping and hollering, though, when a guy at the table in the center of the room flopped four-Aces and won a high hand jackpot. Once Lady Gaga started her halftime show, I left my phone on a charger and played some video poker. It cost me $60 to not watch Lady Gaga, and I feel that was a great value. Once I saw the game about to resume, I grabbed my juicy phone and headed back up to see Aaron.
The game ended spectacularly, and we headed out of the ballroom to decide on dinner. While I was waiting for Aaron to collect his winning tickets, I realized that I had left my jacket in the ballroom. When he came back, we walked up to the ballroom to find it already torn down. A security guard pointed us to the Lost and Found, and as the guy was handing it to me, he told me to check the pocket. It was zipped (which I never do) and I was kind of concerned. That was unfounded as I saw this note.
Originally, Aaron and I had planned to go out for pizza before catching the flight home, but the delay in cashing the winning tickets plus the time looking for the jacket cost us, so we headed up to Baja Miguel’s, the Mexican restaurant at South Point. While we were up there, the sports book was robbed. We never knew anything as Baja Miguel’s is nowhere near the sports book, and even as we left, the restaurant is right near the parking garage exit, so we didn’t get back into the casino. Aaron theorized that if I didn’t forget my jacket and he waited to cash in his tickets, that if we went out for pizza then came back to cash the tickets, we’d have been right in the middle of it. It is easy to say now, but that might have been kind of cool.
So in the end, South Point’s Super Bowl party only cost me $67.50… $17 on food and $60 to not watch Lady Gaga less the $9.50 I won in bets. I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth, and Aaron is all ready to book next year’s trip. I wonder where he’ll want to watch the Big Game.
[Photos: Michael James, Aaron James]