The sportsbook is a man’s world, but that’s not stopping Kelly Stewart.
You know her best as “Kelly in Vegas,” a rare female sports handicapper in what’s arguably the most male-dominated industry in America.
“I’m the girl who’s the only girl,” Stewart said. “You can find girls that know about sports. That’s easy. It’s hard to find girls that know about sports gambling.”
Stewart said Jimmy Vaccaro, the odds-making guru, once told her she’s “good for the racket” because women are becoming a little more comfortable these days going into sportsbooks.
“They don’t understand maybe the math behind it, the trends behind it, everything that goes into it,” she said. “They’re just betting because they like their team, but that’s OK.
“I know it sounds like a degenerate comment, but when your team not only wins but they also cover to win you money, the feeling is so much better.”
Stewart knows the feeling. She won $15,000 for finishing first in the “mini-contest” version of Westgate’s famous SuperContest after going 14-1 over the final three weeks of the 2014 NFL season.
A couple years before that, she hit a three-team, college-football money-line parlay that paid more than $8,000 on a $100 bet.
Not bad for a girl? Not bad for anyone.
Stewart, 32, became a diehard Kansas State sports fan while growing up in Manhattan. Her first visit to Las Vegas was at age 19 after she won a trip in a bikini contest.
Stewart said she graduated from K-State with a degree in marketing and moved here in 2007. With a student loan to pay off, Stewart was sold on Vegas when she heard about the “ridiculous” money bartenders and cocktail waitresses could make even on an off night. She’s also done well financially as a golf caddy for bachelor parties.
It wasn’t until she went to the Dominican Republic to help open a nightclub in 2011, however, that Stewart really got serious about sports betting. She didn’t have anything to do during the day because it was the rainy season there so she hung out at a nearby Hard Rock casino.
“I sat in the sportsbook with the sportsbook manager who was also American,” Stewart said. “I would just B.S. with him all day.”
Stewart is a total product of Twitter (@kellyinvegas), which is how former Caesars Palace oddsmaker Todd Fuhrman discovered her while he was working for Don Best’s website.
Fuhrman and Pat Williams, who also worked at Don Best, “were kind of my agents,” Stewart said. They helped her put together videos with her predictions, which led to her own website (kellyinvegas.com).
Fuhrman said he liked that Stewart was “a fresh voice” in an “old boy’s network,” not to mention “she was going to put her money where her mouth was.”
Stewart realizes everything fell into place just perfectly to not only become a handicapper but also build her brand to this extent.
“I hit that 85-1 parlay in September 2012 and all of a sudden my whole world exploded,” she said. “I went from being this girl on Twitter who gave her opinion on games and no one really cared…
“Had I not hit that big ticket, I don’t necessarily know if anybody would know who I was.”
She has since made television appearances on Fox Sports 1 and ESPNU. Her picks can be found at VegasInsider.com and in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Stewart, who only sells football packages, releases a weekly three-team parlay referred to as her “Hottie3Some.”
“It’s admittedly highly sexualized and funny and perverse because that’s just me,” she said. “That’s just how my personality is.”
Her critics, which she’s still learning to try to ignore rather than fight back, will say she gets all of this publicity only because she’s a female, not because she’s one of the sharpest handicappers around.
“I get it,” Stewart said. “Overall, I’m not just crushing it (she finished 42-43 in the SuperContest last year). I have great six-week stretches. You also have cold streaks.
“If I was an ugly girl – sounding really arrogant – no one would probably care. I post photos of me and my good-looking friends out to dinner. I do crazy stuff. There’s more to the whole brand than just the gambling aspect. There’s a lot of things that make me a lot different than just your average Joe.”
None of which is bad for the racket.
Dave Dye is a former sportswriter for the Detroit News and FoxSportsDetroit.com. He has covered six Stanley Cup Finals, five Final Fours, three NBA Finals, three Rose Bowls and one World Series. Twitter: @Dyedave Email: [email protected]