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Sports Cheetah and His Beard Are Sure Bets for Daily Wager

ESPN.com's hair-raising story on sports' mustaches got us thinking of one man: betting expert Preston Johnson

Preston Johnson, the “Sports Cheetah,” on the set of Daily Wager, said he started growing his beard on a whim six years ago. “I was just being lazy.”
(Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)

Who’s that bearded man giving us sports betting analysis? And what’s the story on that beard?

ESPN sports betting analyst Preston Johnson is a fixture on Daily Wager with Doug Kezirian (6 p.m. ET weekdays, ESPN2, and Sunday, 9 a.m., ESPN2) as well as on other ESPN platforms. Known as the “Sports Cheetah,” Johnson specializes in using analytics and game theory as a sports bettor.

He has been betting since 2005 and in his words, “betting with an edge” since 2009.

Johnson also has a full beard, one of the largest among any ESPN personalities.

“It was purely an accident,” said Johnson, who does segments on Daily Wager from ESPN’s Caesars studio in Las Vegas. “About six years ago, I just didn’t shave for a few weeks. I used to always shave and never even considered doing a beard. I was just being lazy.”

Johnson said that after about 18 days, some of his friends remarked that he should keep going because his beard was coming in full, and not patchy.

“I just let it go after that point and basically have had it ever since,” he said.

“My wife jokes about it,” he said. “She says ‘what do you even look like under there? I don’t know if I even remember.’ And my two kids are four and three, they’ve never actually seen me without a beard. They’ve just seen pictures. It would be interesting if I ever shaved it, I’m not sure if I will or won’t but it would definitely throw people off.”

Johnson enjoys his work for ESPN, especially since he had never done television before.

“My background is in psychology,” he said. “I told myself, ‘You know what, you’ve talked sports your whole life, you’ve been doing it as your job for seven years,’ and I’ve just tried to approach it that way. It helps me come across as not too nervous or anything right from the get-go and it’s been pretty good.

“I think we’re in a groove now with Daily Wager,” he said. “Doug and the whole crew are great to work with. The switch over to ESPN2 has been strong and the Sunday morning show that we do has been really fun, even though I’m up at 4:15 a.m. for that. Everything’s been really positive. It’s growing, and so is our presence on social media. We get a lot of interaction during the week about different games we’re betting, ones we win and ones we lose – losing’s bad too, but it goes both ways. It’s been a lot of fun to just jump into it and see where it’s going.”

Winning by a Whisker

Studio F (L-R): Doug Kezirian, Preston Johnson, Stanford Steve and Chris Fallica on the set of Daily Wager. (Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)

In a fun piece published today, ESPN.com ranked the most influential mustaches in sports for 2019.

Front Row asked the editor of the feature, Joe DeMartino, for his thoughts and ranking on Preston Johnson’s beard:

“As a bearded man myself, I can only marvel at the clear care and consideration Preston has put into the development of his extremely fine beard,” said DeMartino. “Its architecture is solid, its length is in the Goldilocks zone of ‘just right,’ and it even complements his attire.

“I rate this beard a 5 out of 5 and recommend it be preserved in a museum to serve as an inspiration to future generations.”

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