Like everything else, sportsbooks have a natural ebb and flow. Sometimes, they’re packed and full of manic energy, with a million different sports going on at the same time. Other times, sportsbooks are slower and filled only by hardcore bettors.
If you go to a sportsbook when it’s hectic, you will definitely get a different vibe and betting experience than if you went during a slower time. Really, whichever one is “best” depends on you and your personal preferences.
The good news, though, is that you can easily judge when a book is going to be more or less active and pick your times to go. Even better, the faster and slower times are fairly logical, so it’s not hard to remember when you should go and when you should stay away.
With that said, we’ll look at the lifecycle of a sportsbook and when the crowds will be at their biggest.
Busiest Times of Year
It’s pretty easy to tell when the busiest times of the year are at a sportsbook. Just check your television. If there are a bunch of games on TV, there will be a lot of activity at your local bookie.
The truth is that it’s a little harder to tell exactly when the very busiest times at the sportsbook might be because, frankly, sports are an international business and not every sport attracts as much gambling as others.
For instance, the most popular sport to bet on is soccer, followed by American football. Unless you’re a fan of soccer, you probably don’t know when the season is (August through May) or when the hot times to bet are (around the time Cup games and near the end of the season).
With that said, if there’s NFL football on, the sportsbook will be busy. If it’s playoff time for any of the major American sports, expect the sportsbook to be hectic then, too.
The real exception to this are family-oriented holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day). Sports bettors have to spend some time with their families and tend to stay away from the books during this time.
Busiest Events of the Year: The NFL Championship Game
Even within already busy sports seasons, there are going to be events that attract people to the sportsbooks.
Two of these are major no-brainers—the NFL’s Championship Game and March Madness. During the Super Bowl, gamblers and partiers alike descend on Las Vegas like sharks to an injured swimmer. Some of them don’t even have rooms. They just fly in, bet, watch the game, and fly home. It’s that kind of party.
It’s possible that some of these gamblers are there to do things other than bet on sports, but there are fewer people who want to throw craps during the game than want to bet on odds.
Therefore, if you want to bet the Big Game with a bunch of your closest friends, head to Vegas. Just make reservations in advance or don’t plan on sleeping much.
Busiest Events of the Year: March Madness
March Madness is also a frenetic time in the sports betting industry, but whereas the NFL’s Championship clash is a single 60-minute affair, March Madness literally goes on for weeks.
Like the tournament itself, things are going to be a lot more energetic on the first day, followed by the second day and that first weekend. After that, the games die down, as fewer and fewer teams end up with a legitimate chance at making the Final Four.
The excitement cools off even more during the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds. One would think that the Final Four and Championship games would attract a fair crowd, but when I was last at a Las Vegas sportsbook for the Final Four, the excitement was fairly tepid and there weren’t more than a dozen or so people in the sportsbook.
(This didn’t prevent me from losing money by betting on Kansas to win, but that’s a whole different story.)
Therefore, at the end of the day, the first four days of March Madness are high volume times for sportsbooks. After that, the excitement seems to be no more or no less than a normal March weekend.
Busiest Events of the Year: High-Profile Boxing
Las Vegas still generates a lot of excitement around the sport of boxing and still attracts a lot of high-profile matches. Therefore, when big names in boxing meet in the ring, this is also a time of higher-than-usual sportsbook activity.
Busiest Days of the Week
Like many of the businesses in Las Vegas, activity in the sportsbook ebbs and flows throughout the week. However, it doesn’t necessarily follow the same pattern as a restaurant.
That’s because the draw of a sportsbook isn’t a special or a family night on the town, but rather, a big game or sporting event.
With that said, more people vacation in Vegas during the weekends, so there will normally be more people at the sportsbook during those days than at an equivalent event during the week.
In other words, if Duke plays North Carolina on a Wednesday, expect a smaller crowd than on Saturday.
Slowest Times at the Sportsbook
As noted before, if you want a sportsbook all to yourself, plan to visit on certain holidays. It’s kind of frowned upon to fritter off to Vegas on Christmas. Therefore, the sportsbook is likely to be slow. This is not true of Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve, when the partiers are out in full force.
Also, the weeks between the end of the NFL’s final game and opening day of baseball tend to be very, very slow. (Seriously, watch ESPN during those weeks, and you’re likely to find a whole lot of filler.)
The dog days of summer after hockey and basketball have ended, while baseball is in the middle of the season, can also be pretty slow as well.
Finally, if you just want to pull a night out of the hat, not many major sports leagues have regular events on Tuesdays. Some soccer games are played on Tuesdays, but those tend to be over by the afternoon, making Tuesday a good night if you want the books all to yourself.
Does the Action Change During Busy Periods?
Still, at the end of the day, one has to wonder if a slow versus a fast time really matters that much in sports betting. Does the action really change that much?
The answer, quite frankly, is no. Unless you can find one with a loyalty program or get some kind of first deposit bonus, a sportsbook is not likely to cut you any kind of deal to place a bet except for a few small cases.
The odds themselves are designed to increase the likelihood that you will bet for one side or the other. Other than the previously mentioned initial deposit fees, a slow day or a fast day isn’t going to matter much to a sportsbook.
However, like I said, there are a few cases where you might get the sportsbook to give you a betting bonus. Strangely enough, a lot these happen around some of the major events like the NFL Championship game. It’s possible that some books will give you bonuses to your deposit so that you make larger or more bets.
To find these types of bonuses, look to events that have lots of prop bets. Having prop bets gives you more things to bet on and, eventually, more ways for the sportsbook to potentially earn some of your money.
So, in the end, there are a few cases when paying attention to the activity of a sportsbook could earn you some cash. Still, in the end, these cases work in reverse of how a lot of incentives normally operate.
Still, at the end of the day, what matters more than when you might get a bonus is what you want from the sportsbook environment. You can’t control whether the sportsbook offers a bonus or not, but you can control whether you prefer to bet alone or in a mass of fellow sports fans.
Personally, I prefer the crowd. Even if I’m not feeling particularly social, most sportsbooks are large enough where I can find a seat away from most of the noise if I want. Still, putting cold, hard cash on a game adds an extra dimension to the fun and brings out a little wildness in people that can be entertaining.
The choice is yours, but the good news is that there’s a sportsbook and a perfect time for you.