Vegas Pool Parties: SEC Style
You've seen them featured on reality TV. They're advertised on countless billboards across this fine desert oasis throughout the year. Friends, family, and colleagues come back from their weekend benders rambling on and on about the kick ass EDM DJ they saw and how much money they needed to pay for a floating lily pad. The pool party is as important to the Vegas party scene as the SEC is to college football. (Although I'll contend a network dedicated to just pool parties could gross more revenues, albeit rated NC-17 on PPV).
Filled with steroid injected professional spring breakers, enough silicon to suffocate small children, and fake tans that make you think Oompa Loompa, pool parties have become such the rage in Vegas that every reputable hotel has jumped into the aquatic arms race. It only made sense to compare the pool scene in Vegas to SEC football with the start of the season right around the corner.
(All odds listed to Win the SEC courtesy of LVH Superbook, Win Totals courtesy of Betonline. Prices current as of 8/18)
Alabama. Odds to Win SEC: 7-5, Win Total 10.5 (Over -140)
Encore Beach Club - Wynn Las Vegas
The gold standard of the Vegas pool party in 2014, Encore Beach Club blends the perfect mix of alcohol, talent, and class to create the quintessential Vegas experience. EBC's place among the day club pantheon is akin to Alabama's place within the SEC; entrenched at the top. When you bring in top tier talent year after year coupled with elite level coaching (or marketing), dynastic aspirations are realistic. Of course neither entity is immune to the shady element that has a way of taking it's toll on established commodities, but thankfully for both Alabama and EBC, they've withstood jealous accusations from their biggest rivals in the space.
Arkansas. Odds to win SEC: 200-1, Win Total 4.5 (Over -120)
Moorea - Mandalay Bay
All topless day clubs are not created equally...nor are SEC football programs. Moorea never really had a hey day in Vegas and come to think of it Arkansas hasn't had a true run of dominance within the conference either. The women that frequent Moorea look nothing like the billboards you'll see up and down the Vegas strip advertising a "Toptional" experience. The disappointment on the faces of male patrons when they set foot inside the club is akin to the faces on most Arkansas alums as they look at this season's upcoming schedule. At least there's plenty of alcohol in both locations to help prevent every Saturday from becoming a total disappointment. I've also heard some of the women at Moorea find it offensive if you call the Hogs poolside yelling Woo Pig Sooie.
Auburn. Odds to win SEC: 4-1, Win Total 9.5 (Under -170)
Wet Republic - MGM Grand
Wet Republic is the "it" day club filled with star studded DJ's spinning EDM every weekend of the summer. Whether it's Calvin Harris, Avicii, or Afrojack, the price you'll pay for top shelf industry talent creates an experience unlike most others on the strip. Gus Malzahn has effectively filled that role at Auburn in just one short season; turning the mess left by Gene Chizik into the it offense turning heads throughout the conference and across the country. The biggest question facing both is in regards to the heightened expectations: when the pressure's on can you still perform at the top of your game? MGM has spent a small fortune to put Wet Republic on the map...but I'll spare the bagman references in regards to the Cam Newton national championship of 3 years ago.
Florida. Odds to win SEC: 12-1, Win Total 7.5 (Over -120)
Tao Beach - Venetian
Seriously, it's amazing what a year can do to a day club in Vegas or a proud football program in the SEC. Tao Beach was trendy and able to charge a king's ransom a few summers back just to get in the door - never mind the price required to live like royalty in a cozy cabana on a sweltering summer day. Speaking of sweltering, that's most likely the temperature of Will Muschamp's hot seat in Gainesville after last year's pathetic showing if things don't improve. Fortunately for Florida they may have a chance to restore their reputation with a bounce back season under new OC Kurt Roper and an elite defense but much like the obstructed rays at Tao Beach, the sun may be setting on the pool party and Will's tenure at just about the same time.
Georgia. Odds to win SEC: 4-1, Win Total 9.5 (Over -115)
Daylight - Mandalay Bay
The newest day club at Mandalay that opened this summer is eerily similar to the current state of affairs in Athens. To the hotel's credit, they took otherwise dead real estate in the parking lot close to Mandalay Beach and plunked down a revenue generating day club. However that's not why it's the UGA equivalent to the pool scene. The problem is the actual vibe and failed expectations being experienced. Given the premium location and access to talent, both Daylight and UGA should have a better track record of success. Daylight has underwhelmed this year: will Georgia do the same this season given the lofty expectations heaped on their shoulders by fans, media, and bettors alike? When all else fails just throw money at the problem and import the talent you need to be considered among the elite.
Kentucky. Odds to win SEC: 200-1, Win Total 3.5 (Over -175)
Beach Life - SLS (Opening Labor Day)
SLS won't open until Labor day but big things are expected from the new kid on the block as soon as doors open. Now I'm not sure any of us expect Coach Stoops to unleash a sleeping giant in Lexington but if he can recruit away from Big Ten schools he might be able to start building a brand. SLS will face a similar dilemma with new facilities ripe for luring talent but an unproven track record. I'm not sure which will become relevant first, Kentucky football or Beach Life, but by rebranding and positioning yourself accordingly, some success may be possible. Just not on the same level as Wet Republic or Encore Beach Club.
LSU. Odds to win SEC: 6-1, Win Total 9 (Over -110)
Surrender Night Swim - Encore
I'll admit this was one of the tougher comparisons to make. I came back to the heart pounding vibe created at this unusual party because it's the closest Vegas equivalent of a night game at Death Valley. The electric atmospheres at both venues distinguish them from their competition. Fortunately for LSU the tradition behind their football program is significantly more established than Surrender. Unfortunately for the two top tier venues they still struggle a bit to match the pedigree of their closest competition: Encore Beach Club for Surrender and Alabama for LSU. Besides, if there was a spot that we'd be most likely to spot Les Miles with his shirt off I really think he'd chose to do it after the sun went down at one of the most prestigious properties on the Vegas strip.
Mississippi State. Odds to win SEC: 50-1, Win Total 7.5 (Under -140)
Sapphire Pool & Day Club -Sapphire Gentlemen's Club
I know what a lot of you had no idea the world famous strip club even offered daytime entertainment outdoors. Well much like Starkville, Sapphire's inconvenient location off the beaten path requires gimmicks to compete with the big boys. Sapphire will always attract a certain kind of clientele much like Mississippi St will always look to cater to a different kind of recruit. The pool party at Sapphire won't bring in 5* talent, and more often than not Dan Mullen is hard pressed to pry elite level prospects away from the big boys in the SEC. Instead the success of both boils down to 1 key element: good management that can coach up the current talent mix. Word of mouth (and cash) goes a long way in both business models to bring in game changers in an increasingly competitive market.
Missouri. Odds to win SEC: 30-1, Win Total 7.5 (Over -140)
Liquid - Aria
There's not really a tradition of relevance for Liquid or Missouri football. The day club and football program are rarely mentioned in the same breath as their industry counterparts. Sure Mizzou had it's moment in the sun last year but can the success of one improbable season be sustained or will Gary Pinkel's squad fade back into irrelevance? Liquid's time to shine lasted about a week (that might be generous) when Aria opened as part of City Centre a few years back. Aria is known more for its gaming and restaurants, while sports fans recognize Tiger athletics for its triumphs on the hardwoods, not the gridiron.
Ole Miss. Odds to win SEC: 12-1, Win Total 7.5 (Over -175)
Drais Beach Club - Cromwell
The new kid on the block...well not really but both have had a pretty face lift recently. Ole Miss's scenery in the Grove is well known across the country, and Drais' pool deck view over looking the strip is one of a kind as well. The most significant similarity between these two is the backroom dealings required by Victor Drais to position the next generation of his club at the Cromwell and Hugh Freeze's sudden ability to land elite level defensive talent at an otherwise mediocre program. Big things are expected at both Drais' Pool Club and Ole Miss, but I'll contend that both have a ceiling they won't burst through no matter how hard they try. Yes, Ole Miss will have it's occasional 10-2 season but I don't see it becoming a regular national championship contender any more than I see Drais able to charge the premiums for its VIP amenities that other day clubs command. At the end of the day both will have fleeting moments of success without becoming a fixture atop their respective competitive set.
South Carolina. Odds to win SEC: 6-1, Win Total 9.5 (Under -130)
Marquee Day Club - Cosmopolitan
I toyed with using the LSU to Marquee comparison but felt like Steve Spurrier should forever be connected to anything Cosmopolitan. Cosmo is a stand alone property that's had it's fair share of problems generating gaming revenues, much like South Carolina trying to generate wins before the Ole Ball Coach arrived. The crowd at Marquee skews younger but that's its allure for older dudes trying to relive their glory days... hey Spurrier ya hearing me over there? The potential is there to be a fixture in the SEC landscape for South Carolina despite not being blessed with a fertile recruiting ground. Marquee struggles with something similar: not having ultra high end gaming clientele right under its roof like EBC or Wet Republic. South Carolina has had its fair share of superstars the last few years yet the program has really emerged as a sum total of its parts rather than individual brilliance. Marquee benefits the same way, promoted under the same umbrella as the trendy Cosmopolitan - meaning there's not really an end in sight to upward mobility if the program's momentum remains strong.
Tennessee. Odds to win SEC 100-1, Win Total 5.5 (Over -130)
Rehab - Hard Rock
Rehab used to be home to the gold standard in Vegas pool parties. However, over time they haven't been able to keep up with the Joneses (see what we did there) and while it's still a good time, it's no longer bowl eligible annually. Tennessee fans can understand where I'm coming from considering their program has fallen off considerably in the years since Phillip Fulmer's departure. New faces calling the shots with a modified marketing/recruiting pitch allows for promise on the horizon but eventually all those expectations need to turn into wins and trips to high profile bowl games. Let the ongoing rehabilitation commence...
Texas A&M. Odds to win SEC 60-1, Win Total 7 (Over -130)
Ditch Fridays - Palms
Figuring out a comparison for the Aggies wasn't easy. The geographic location of the school makes it the western most outlier in the conference. As a result, Kevin Sumlin can tap into Texas recruiting pipelines better than any of his SEC brethren. To hit up Ditch it's going to take you off the beaten path, a short cab ride over I-15 to the west side of the strip for a trip a lot of pool goers don't want to make. The biggest question of the offseason in College Station was answered over the weekend with the announcement of Kenny Hill as starting quarterback. I'm not sure the move was met with the same level of excitement as DJ lineups around Vegas but clearly we know the man pegged with filling the large void left by Johnny Football. Besides, if there's one former SEC quarterback who knows about the circus that is a Vegas pool party it's Johnny Freaking Football.
Vanderbilt. Odds to win SEC 200-1, Win Total 6 (Under -155)
Venus - Caesars Palace
Vanderbilt is a brand name synonymous with a great education, not football. Last time I checked Caesars was known for its long standing tradition in the casino community more than a place with raucous daylife. Sure, the Commodores' football program has come into its own the last few years under James Franklin but can they sustain that level of success under new leadership? Recent off-field drama has cast the school in a negative light but they appear to have emerged mostly unscathed. Caesars still remains a top flight casino that's withstood the test of time despite massive debt, protecting a strong brand identity more consistent with luxury than 48 hour benders. Vanderbilt will always be able to fall back on its academic reputation, but those loyal to the black and gold wouldn't mind consistent finishes in the top half of the SEC East.