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.”