Vega just right for Vegas

Vega just right for Vegas

September 12, 2018 3:01 AM
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Only one contestant in GamingToday’s Bookies Battle has been more consistent than Shannon Vega over the last two years.

Vega, a supervisor/ticket writer at Fiesta Henderson, was 285-225 (55.9 percent) while picking every NFL regular-season game and, what’s more, having to make those selections with a Monday morning deadline each week.

Boulder Station’s Jackson Meeker was one game better than Vega over that two-year period.

“I go up against guys who have been doing this for years and years,” Vega said. “I’m pretty proud.”

She should be.

All that’s missing for her is a season championship and the $1,000 check for winning a contest that this year includes 74 bookies from Nevada to Mississippi to New Jersey.

Vega, 42, finished in second place in 2016, her first year in the Bookies Battle, and was tied for fourth last season.

Is this the year she finally breaks through?

“Absolutely,” said Vega, who was 10-6 on her Week 1 picks. “I am very competitive.”

It’s been more than 12 years now since Vega made her bold escape to Vegas. She was single at the time, about to turn 30, making minimum wage at a discount retail store while living with her parents in a small town, L’Anse, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

After visiting Las Vegas for the first time to attend her sister’s wedding, Vega made a life-altering move that she unquestionably doesn’t regret.

“I was in the middle of nowhere, making next-to-no money, I couldn’t afford to live on my own,” Vega recalled. “I decided, ‘What the heck. Give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, I’ve got a fallback. I can always go back home.’”

Vega assumed she would be able to find some type of job out here because she had previously worked as a dealer at an Indian casino, Ojibwa, in Baraga, Mich.

After saving as much money as she could for over a year, Vega decided it was finally time. In May, 2006, she loaded up her 10-year-old Pontiac Grand Am with clothes, dishes, pots and pans, an air mattress, a folding camp chair, a table with removable legs and a foot stool.

Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” became Vega’s theme song. The lyrics – “I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway” – helped sum up her own journey.

“Breakaway … that’s pretty much what I was doing,” Vega said. “Sometimes you have to put yourself out there in order to actually start the life you want to go to.”

Vega made the move all by herself. Her car had no air conditioning. She got a flat tire.

“It was an adventure,” she said, laughing. “It was fun, but by the time I got out here, I was ready to lay on the floor and cry.”

She didn’t cry for long. She quickly found a job working at Jerry’s Nugget and became an assistant pit supervisor before eventually settling into the race and sports scene.

Her entry into the Bookies Battle was mostly by “default,” Vega said, because her co-workers didn’t want to make the picks Monday morning.

Vega is trying to become only the second woman, joining Arizona Charlie’s K.H. Langvad (2014), to win the Bookies Battle, now in its 39th year of competition.

If it’s going to happen for her, this might have to be the year. She recently became a certified paralegal and is considering a career change following the football season.

“I might be moving on,” Vega said. “It would be nice to have weekends off.”

Her husband, Tony, is a casino host at Boulder Station. They met while working in the sportsbook.

Both like to bet, but have different strengths and interests.

“He’s the horse, baseball and basketball guy,” Vega said. “I’m the football and hockey girl.”

A girl, that is, who has proven she can pick better than many of the guys.