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Monday, March 30, 2009
Updated: April 1, 5:25 PM ET
Your wildest fantasy (draft) come true

By Dan Peterson
ESPN.com

Vegas Moon
Maximize the fun factor for your fantasy baseball league draft in Sin City.
• Photo gallery: Sports books of Las Vegas

Note: All times Pacific below.

The best part of participating in a fantasy baseball league is the draft.

Any number of in-season occurrences can kill your fantasy enthusiasm: a devastating injury to your star player, watching your team fall out of contention faster than Dennis Kucinich did for president, the mind-numbing tedium of updating your lineup on a daily basis.

But draft day is a glorious moment of preseason optimism. It's a chance to stir up excitement for the upcoming major league baseball season, a prime opportunity to trash-talk with your fantasy-league frenemies and set the tone for a successful -- and competitive -- fantasy baseball season.

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Moreover, your fantasy draft is the first and quite possibly only time of the season when all league members will be on the same (Web) page, gathered together in the same (cyber)space, interacting at the same time to fill out fantasy rosters.

With that in mind, ESPN SportsTravel wants to help you maximize the fun factor for your fantasy baseball league draft. We're taking you to Las Vegas for a four-day power weekend highlighted by your very own live draft and filled with fantastic sporting events like the NCAA Final Four and MLB Opening Day and all the customary splendor and entertainment of Sin City.

Matthew Berry, ESPN.com's senior director of Fantasy Sports, is a veteran of Vegas fantasy drafts.

"The great thing about doing the draft in Vegas is that it's similar to a bachelor party," Berry said. "It's an excuse to get all the guys together, and you have one event that's the centerpiece of the weekend, but there's so much else going on around the weekend.

"You're with all your best buddies in the league, and you do the draft and it's great."

The first order of business, even before booking your flight for a Friday arrival? Collection of league dues. Nobody wants to be the guy who blows his entry fee on blackjack. Fantasy sports fanatic and Vegas resident Kyle Weurding has some solid financial advice for those looking to conduct a live fantasy baseball draft in Las Vegas, as his fantasy league does each spring.

"Whatever you're playing for, just add a draft surcharge."

Weurding said in addition to league dues that cover administrative expenses and a prize pool, he and his fellow owners each contribute an additional fee that pays for food, beverages and a Caesars Palace suite where they gather to conduct their draft.

But don't let the prospect of scraping together enough cash in this economic downturn get you down. Whether you're scrimping on a rookie baller's budget or pimping with a big league bankroll, we've got you covered for all the action in your wildest fantasy baseball weekend. Just book a hotel to host your party of fantasy leaguers and leave the rest to us.

Opening gambit

Friday, April 3

Cashman Field
In Vegas, it's always a big league weekend, even at Triple-A Cashman Field.

First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. at Cashman Field, the home of the Las Vegas 51s, the Toronto Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate. But on this night, the action is strictly major league, as the Colorado Rockies and the Seattle Mariners are in town for Big League Weekend, which features their final two spring training games Friday and Saturday before Opening Day on Monday.

Have the hotel concierge arrange for limousine service to the game for you and your fellow fantasy leaguers, and then take advantage of the chance to get a first-hand scouting report on some prospective players. While you're making a mental note of that unheralded rookie who could be a sleeper in your draft, don't think for a second that this minor league diamond is rough around the edges. In addition to the 10,000-seat stadium, Cashman Center includes an adjacent exhibition hall of 98,100 square feet, a 1,922-seat state-of-the-art theater and 12 meeting rooms, which can be configured any way you like and outfitted with Internet service, cable TV and a sound system complete with microphones. Hmmm … just add a podium and it sounds like a great spot for a fantasy draft.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The draft isn't until Sunday, and we've got a lot to do before then. After the game, arrange for a party bus to pick up the gang for a night of club-hopping. (If you want to stick with the minor league theme, there's always Yellow Cab.) A party bus tour is more than a fun way to travel. It's a great way to streamline the process of getting past bouncers and minimizing the hassle of waiting in line, which can otherwise be both time-consuming and costly.

"Guys always have to pay," said Mike Cardella, a host who runs the doors at all four of the Palms Casino Resort's clubs.

And even a willingness to pay a cover charge doesn't guarantee you'll get in.

"Only way to ensure entry," Cardella said, "is through table reservations, which usually run one bottle for every four people and priced at roughly $400 with tax per bottle. So about $100 a guy."

Renting a party bus with Nite Tours International costs about $50 to $60 per person for the night, which can include stops at three clubs of your choosing. And that's not even the best part.

"The big advantage is there is no line or cover," said Lindsey Leeming, a tour coordinator and a VIP host for Nite Tours. "If you're a non-local, coming from California or New York or Miami, you're gonna pay and wait in line everywhere you go.

Bus Tour
You're either on the bus ... or off your rocker.

"The good thing about Nite Tours is, we'll get you right in. Walk up to the front of the line, check the IDs, everybody gets in. No cover."

The bus practically pays for itself. Not to mention the fact you're cruising the Strip with your buddies in a party bus fully stocked with champagne and your choice of beer. Nite Tours owner Darren Feth said simply, "It's a nightclub on wheels."

The first party bus stop is VooDoo Lounge, located on top of the Rio Hotel and Casino. Don't be put off by the Rio's off-the-Strip location. It's a blessing in disguise: The VooDoo Lounge's outdoor terrace boasts the city's best views of the Strip, especially at night. Order a round of drinks and toast the start of the fantasy baseball season. The beverage of choice here is the Witch Doctor, a concoction of fruit juice and four types of rum served in a 64-ounce glass replete with multiple straws for communal sipping. If you want to go the extra mile -- here or at any other nightspot -- arrange for VIP bottle service. You'll get several bottles of booze, a variety of mixers and an attentive server to keep your glass full, as well as a roped-off private table for your posse.

After the VooDoo Lounge, feel free to make several stops along the way -- perhaps including a gentlemen's club -- but be sure the party bus' final destination is back at your hotel. Not that the night has to be over -- there's probably another club within these walls as well. Some of the hottest spots include Pure at Caesars Palace; Rain, Ghost Bar and Moon at the Palms; Tao at the Venetian; Tryst at the Wynn; and LAX at the Luxor.

Entertainment extravaganza

Saturday, April 4

Die-hard fans can catch Game 2 of Rockies-Mariners. But if the 1:05 p.m. start seems a little early, don't worry. There's plenty of time to sleep in, order room service and flip on the TV before the Final Four tips off with Michigan State-Connecticut at 3:07 p.m. Then again, this is fantasy power weekend. You can do better than that. Rip open the curtains and let the desert sun rouse you. Get ready.

If you're an early riser -- or willing to deal with a sunrise wake-up call -- it's a beautiful day to play golf. Vegas is home to some of the finest courses in the country, and you don't even have to leave the Strip to get in a round at the famed Bali Hai Golf Club. There are too many courses in and around Vegas to list here, but suffice it to say there are lots of options to fit any budget. Contact your concierge to get your group set up with a tee time.

There's so much that Vegas has to offer. Try to plan your weekend around stuff that fits the temperament of the group.

-- The Talented Mr. Roto, Matthew Berry

After your round, don't linger too long in the clubhouse. You'll want to head back to the Strip and get situated in a sports book in time to catch the Final Four action … and potentially place a bet or two. Fred Crespi, the race and sports director for the Palms, said Final Four weekend attracts a lot of attention from college hoops fans.

"While the atmosphere doesn't rival opening Thursday/Friday of the tournament," Crespi said via e-mail, "it's still very electric, especially if there happens to be four very high-profile teams -- much like last year with four No. 1 seeds."

And with big-time programs like UConn, North Carolina, Michigan State and Villanova in the mix this year, Saturday's semifinals are certain to live up to the hoopla. Hit on a winning parlay by successfully predicting the winners of both MSU-UConn and Nova-UNC (at 5:47 p.m.), and you just might be able to pop for the group's dinner with your winnings.

And there's no reason to waste precious time traveling to dinner. Without question, there's at least one fantastic restaurant in whichever casino you find yourself in. If you're at the Palms, walk over to N9NE Steakhouse. It's the favorite restaurant of many sports stars, not to mention ESPN personalities like Matthew Berry, who said of N9NE, "I always see athletes there -- every time I've been." Executive chef Barry Dakake is a huge sports fan, and the door to his kitchen is filled with autographs of various superstars and celebrities. His dinner guests have included the likes of Paul Pierce, Andre Agassi, Joe Montana, Reggie Jackson and Muhammad Ali.

After you and your fellow fantasy leaguers have had your fill of filet mignon … or veal parmigiana … or sushi … or Alaskan king crab … or all of the above, if you've decided to partake of one of Vegas' world-famous all-you-can-eat buffets (in this humble writer's opinion, the Wynn's spread is second to none), it's time to experience some of Sin City's unparalleled entertainment.

It's not a true Vegas weekend if you don't see a show. Check out Blue Man Group (Venetian) or one of the Cirque du Soleil acts: KA (MGM Grand), The Beatles: Love (Mirage), O (Bellagio), Mystere (Treasure Island), Zumanity (New York New York). Or a comedy show: David Spade (Venetian) and Andrew Dice Clay (Palazzo) are in town this weekend for special performances, in addition to regular Vegas stand-up standouts like Rita Rudner (Harrah's Showroom), Danny Gans (Wynn -- Encore Theatre) and Vinny Favorito (Flamingo Hotel -- Bugsy's Cabaret). Or a magic show: David Copperfield (MGM Grand -- Hollywood Theater), Lance Burton (Monte Carlo), Steve Wyrick (Planet Hollywood). Or something of a more … ah … adult variety. The possibilities are endless.

Hugh Hefner
Bridget, Holly and Kendra probably won't be by Hef's side this year, but you could be.

"There's a wide -- and I mean wide -- variety of things to do in Las Vegas," Matthew Berry said, "and some are more extreme than others. Certain groups of guys will find some activities really, really fun, and other guys might find it uncomfortable.

"There's so much that Vegas has to offer. Try to plan your weekend around stuff that fits the temperament of the group."

After all, it is your fantasy weekend. So skip the theater if you want to, and head to the casino floor to hit the slot machines or whichever sundry gaming options you fancy.

If you're taking a beating at the tables, lower the stakes and head for Casino Royale. With low limits on everything from craps to roulette to Blackjack Switch (you play two hands and get the option to flip your up cards to create better combinations), you get a lot of bang for your buck.

If you're just about flat broke or simply need a break from the tables, head over to O'Sheas Casino, buy a pitcher of brew and play beer pong, which is just about the only game in Vegas that you can lose and still be winning … i.e., drinking.

If you're down to your last $20, it's time to head to Circus Circus. You can play all kinds of carnival games for $1 apiece in the Midway, which surrounds a center stage that features free circus performances every half-hour: jugglers, clowns, trapeze artists et al.

But no matter what happens, make sure you and the gang finish off the night at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club at the Palms. Jon Gray, who is the right-hand man of Palms president George Maloof Jr. and knows everything about VIP service, explains why.

"Saturday night is when it's Hef's birthday, so we'll do a table at the Playboy Club, and you get to be right there in the mix with Hefner and the Playmates and everything that's going on with that craziness."

With that, rest content in calling it a night. Sweet dreams … You'll need some shut-eye so you'll be fresh for the draft tomorrow.

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