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Sports Saturday

Vegas barber’s hockey picks create buzz

South Point hotel staple John Taddio dispenses sharp haircuts and winning hockey tips to gamblers

John Taddio
A Chicago fan gave John Taddio some gear after the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup triumph in 2015.
Provided

LAS VEGAS — The facial mist is an aloe-lavender mixture, the collagen-cream concoction a blend of organic oils, including Kalahari melon and prickly pear, with jasmine, geranium and bergamot extracts.

John Taddio applies only the finest anti-aging compounds to customers’ mugs.

His facility with the scissors, in the far right cubicle of the South Point barbershop, leaves every client model-worthy.

And the straight razor he wields is so close, well, he best describes it.

“A baby’s ass would be jealous,” says Taddio.

What’s unique about his cubicle, however, is how a visit can pay for itself, and then some. Patrons stroll away feeling younger and livelier.

Richer, too, if they adhere to his NHL tips.

The Tonsorial Tout of Vegas.

“Well, not every day presents a good game,” he laughs. “But I can usually find one.”

REVENGE GAMES

Taddio’s voice rises a few decibels on the phone.

“Funny you should ask about the Blackhawks . . . I gave their game today as an Over to a guy in Cincinnati who bets a lot, along with Tampa Bay to win.”

Three minutes earlier, the Hawks’ 4-3 defeat to Carolina had become final. An enviable 5.5 total came with an Over price of -125 (risk $125 to win $100). The Lightning also defeated Columbus 3-2. The Ohio pal made $10,000.

The previous day, Taddio had recommended Colorado (which beat Phoenix 9-3) and Over in Minnesota-San Jose, with the same favorable 5.5 total and -125 price. The Sharks won 4-2.

When the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) started at the South Point, Taddio, as John the Barber, became a semi-regular NHL Insider on the first all-sports-betting satellite radio outlet. Listeners enjoyed his sound reasoning.

The next morning, we discuss his betting strategies as Taddio gives 35-year-old Brandon Fanning — an Eau Claire, Wisconsin, resident visiting his father, Robert — the full facial treatment.

A Chicago transplant, Robert Fanning is one of the South Point’s high rollers.

Earlier in the week, Taddio had recommended — to select clientele who contact him daily — the Blackhawks over Carolina. Chicago won 2-1. That factored into his selection of the Carolina-Chicago Over.

“The Blackhawks had beaten them, but now Carolina came back and won. Teams are playing a lot of back-to-backs, so there are a lot of revenge games, guys getting pissed off. The Blackhawks have been good, but the Hurricanes are close to being in the playoffs.

“When Chicago won, I knew they wouldn’t keep it up. They’re not as aggressive as the Hurricanes.”

The Blackhawks are battling for a winning record.

“They’re small,” he adds. “They can’t keep up with very good teams.”

ENTERTAINING CAREER

A Buffalo native, Taddio quit high school at 16 to attend barber training, certain the vocation would provide him with an entertaining life meeting interesting people. He has not been disappointed.

He had cut the coconuts of Bills football players during training camp. Former Sabres defenseman Mike Robitaille, whose signed and framed 8-by-10 hangs nearby, is a hockey favorite.

Taddio and wife, Connie, raised three daughters, moved to Las Vegas in 2004, and he has been at the South Point for 15 years.

Another client, associated with the Wirtz Corporation that owns the Blackhawks and is involved with a beverage distributorship in Vegas, presented him with souvenirs after Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2015.

(He’d rather not divulge his age, but Taddio eventually says he was 16 in the early 1960s. He doesn’t catch his self-indictment.)

South Point owner Michael Gaughan, son of the late Vegas legend Jackie Gaughan, has had a standing weekly appointment for years. Taddio infuses Michael’s hot-water towels with a dash of his favorite cologne.

Cold-water compresses spring Gaughan awake after a 40-minute slumber, induced by Enya on Taddio’s Bose audio system.

THE HUMAN FACTOR

Taddio likes the zigzag theory. Since NHL teams are playing each other so frequently, Team A wins the first, Team B often gets the next one.

He tracks hot players, knows who is injured. He possesses an innate puck feel, honed when he played recreational hockey in Buffalo. “The human factor,” Taddio says, “that’s built into hockey, too.”

When a team scores early in the first period, he taps in-game mobile-app options for a first-period tie whose typical odds are +230 (wager $100 to win $230). Two or three hundred dollars is his typical unit.

He only deals with games today or tomorrow. When pressed, though, he favors Colorado (+500 at William Hill) or Vegas (+800) to lift the Stanley Cup, with Florida (+2000) as his long shot.

He agonizes over picks that go south. But his Cincinnati pal mollifies him, crowing that his success rate is about 75%. He remunerates Taddio well.

Some inquire why he does not contribute to, or run, an actual tout service, but Taddio is leery about such operations.

He also likes soccer. He gave up gambling for Lent, which ends the following day, when he will play the Over in Atalanta-Udinese in Italy.

He points to his phone.

“There it is,” says Taddio. “A 2½ total. Usually, it’s three [goals]. That’s a given to go Over. Minus-135. That’s a good one.”

Atalanta wins 3-2. The Tonsorial Tout strikes again.

See him for an exceptional cut and shave, profit on his sports suggestions. The hints of jasmine, geranium and bergamot in the air? Just the sweet smell of success.