LAS VEGAS — From protecting and serving for more than 30 years to providing a free handicapping service in the heart of the sports-betting business, Doug “The Sheriff” Fitz has carved a unique career arc.
From cop to ’capper.
“It’s rewarding,” he says, “when it’s working.”
Fitz drew his weapon countless times, in Cleveland and North Las Vegas, but he never fired it. “Lucky,” he told me three years ago. “Been shot at, too, but never hit. Just lucky.”
When the game selections are middling, he takes solace in the gratis nature of his SystemPlays service. Follow or fade him, or monitor for entertainment purposes, it’s all the same to Fitz.
Not charging for picks eases his conscience and undoubtedly reduces social-media jabs certain to follow a string of sour results.
“I just don’t need to deal with that,” says Fitz. “I’ve dealt with crap, being a cop . . . I saw the bad side, the negative side, of people for 30 years, and that’s all I saw.”
Fitz, who recently turned 70, has witnessed magnificence, too. That includes Jim Brown. Born and raised in Cleveland, Fitz attended many Browns games in his youth since his father always had season tickets.
“Best running back ever,” Fitz said recently.
Fitz became a police officer and served in Cleveland for 10 years, transferring to rough-edged North Las Vegas in 1985.
Late pal Tom introduced him to the world of pointspreads, totals and moneylines, with which Fitz experimented further at Sam’s Town, on the Vegas periphery.
His continued interest spurred him to develop a SystemPlays website in 2001. And when he retired in 2006, the hobby became a passion project. His efforts would intrigue Matt Youmans at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Youmans wrote about his exploits and invited Fitz onto his local sports-betting radio show, leading to his regular inclusion in the paper’s pick-’em panels of pros and experts.
Fitz won the RJ’s NFL Challenge in 2011 — his second foray in the competition — and 2015 (with five runner-ups), its College Bowl Challenge in 2017 and its College March Madness Challenge in 2019.
Handicappers Paul Stone, Dana Lane and Micah Roberts, betting scribe Dave Tuley and Westgate SuperBook chief Jay Kornegay have been some of Fitz’s pick-’em opponents.
“I was up against some very well-known people,” he says. “Basically nobody had heard of me. So, yeah, that was validation to a great extent.”
At 10-6-1, he finished a notch behind March Madness Challenge champ Kelly Stewart (12-5) two months ago. ESPN recently hired Stewart, a WagerTalk mainstay, for her gambling prowess.
Youmans deigned ‘‘The Sheriff’’ moniker on the direct and deliberate Fitz, a man of few words and an ardent Ohio State fan. Youmans surmises that he might see himself as a “tough Woody Hayes type.”
But he saw Fitz more in the mold of John Wayne’s commanding and unflappable small-town sheriff John T. Chance in the 1959 Western flick “Rio Bravo.”
“His analytics-based approach to handicapping has been validated by contest wins and documented winning records in various sports, especially football,” says Youmans. “What I like is he’s mostly an underdog player; if you’re going to win in the long run, you better know how to pick the dogs.”
Youmans, now a senior broadcaster and writer on the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN), has had Fitz on VSiN shows he helms. He calls Fitz an “honest and humble” handicapper who does his own hard work.
“In a business with a few too many carnival barkers, he’s the opposite,” says Youmans. “He doesn’t jump on Twitter to brag about a big win or a hot streak.”
Chief among Fitz’s reservoir of resources is Bet Labs, a Boston-based service that offers a wealth of database information. In total, he spends more than $100 a month to keep his information fresh, his insights timely, his statistics sharp.
In recent MLB plays, Fitz went 8-11. That included an 0-5 skid, followed by a 6-2 run. He was on a 6-7 NHL stretch through early this week.
In 2020, his overall bottom line was down nearly 25 units. So far in 2021, it has dropped six units. Much of that can be attributed to the NBA, whose plays in the 2020-21 season have cost Fitz nearly 26 units.
The NHL (up 12.37 units) and MLB (ahead 2.50 units) have been profitable, as was college hoops (8.06-unit profit) and the NFL (3.45-unit profit). College football finished four units in the red.
Remove that NBA anchor from his arsenal and SystemPlays is above sea level.
With a pandemic-depleted sports menu a year ago, Fitz dabbled in European soccer but jettisoned it due to poor results. He retains the NBA in his portfolio because he believes playoff profits are imminent.
“You have to stick with it,” he says. “If a system, historically, is consistent, sometimes you have to weather the losing streaks. You have to experiment, and it takes time. Ultimately, you have to stay with what got you here.”
He avoids write-ups because they would reveal his ingredients and methods to those on the other side of the counter, which could affect the odds — which he has already seen happen.
He declines to elaborate. Like the grizzled peacekeeper of a small Old West town, The Sheriff remains mum. He gives away nothing that might affect a future edge, and success.