If Kelly Stewart doesn’t have you won over by her looks, she will add to your sports betting bank account.
“I hear that a lot, that I could be a good sideline reporter,” Stewart said last week in between appointments. “I joke that I know more about football than Erin Andrews and am better looking than Rachel Nichols.”
Stewart talks fast and lives life the same way. She’s a walking bottle of 5 Hour Energy in a profession dominated by males. Roz Juarbe has been successful picking games as part of the Jim Feist team, but unknown to Kelly who thought she was breaking ground in Vegas as a female.
Well not quite, but close.
“I cocktail waitress at Bellagio to supplement my sports betting,” she said. “I moved to Vegas in 2007 after graduating college. I am passionate about sports especially college football and college basketball. I am the biggest Kansas State fan on the planet.”
Stewart said she wasn’t thrilled with Vegas at first, favoring the friendliness of her Kansas upbringing. Not surprising because Dorothy may make it in Oz, but this Land of Odds is a whole different world.
In fact, K-State helped launch Stewart’s ever-expanding career as a successful handicapper as part of a winning 3-team money line football parlay with Rutgers and Oregon State earlier this season that paid over $8,300 on a $100 wager.
“I don’t sell my picks right now, but it’s in the plans,” she said. “I am kind of an entrepreneur. I don’t like betting pros. I feel when players get to the pro level, the heart is gone. When the heart is gone, you have less to play for.”
An arguable point, but Stewart’s success in college sports handicapping has produced invitations from Don Best, ESPN, the Linemakers and the Review-Journal for her expertise. Even Cantor Gaming has expressed an interest.
“I’m not a math girl, kind of a gut player,” said Stewart, who grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (home of K-State) and turns 29 next month. “I don’t mind having a five month break between college basketball and college football. Maybe I’ll move to Hawaii during that time.
“I try to post 5 to 10 games on my website (hottiehandicappers.com) that I like,” she continued. “Now that I’m kind of in this Vegas spotlight, I’m getting the criticism about the bets I lose. I can go 7-1, but it’s the one loss that I hear about. I’m having to get used to that.”
That is something all of us in the business have to deal with and it can be a sensitive issue to those who don’t charge for their picks.
“There is so much I still have to learn about the business,” Stewart said. “But as a woman, I do have a niche others don’t. I only spend about three hours handicapping, but I put in 10 hours reading and watching pre-game shows.”
Stewart says she was 19-21 in the NFL competing in a local contest and admits the pros are something she has to learn.
“I like picking underdogs,” she said. “But it’s all so new to me. I don’t have 30 years experience like Marco (D’Angelo) and I never realized just how big Jimmy Vaccaro is in Vegas history. My worst week in colleges was 6-4 and that’s where I am most comfortable.”
Vaccaro is one of Kelly’s supporters, feeling she’s a breath of fresh air to an industry that can use an influx of younger bettors. And it doesn’t hurt to have an attractive woman as the face of an industry incorrectly perceived to be shady.
“I would absolutely rather bet on my app than go into a sports book,” she said. “I’ll go watch games all day on a Saturday, but I need to be in a VIP area or somewhere I can have eight TV’s around me.
And yes, to answer the unasked question, she has a boyfriend. But he’s not allowed in a sports book since he’s a strength and conditioning coach at UNLV.
“I go with friends,” she said. “I want to have fun, I want to be controversial. I don’t mind getting into it on Twitter or at a bar with a customer. I like being colorful.”
Mark Mayer had over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].