Short-sellers and hedge funds may be shadowy, but sometimes they are the smartest guys in the room. They've done their homework, and they're willing to bet their capital against the crowd -- an investing strategy that can be as lucrative as it is contrarian.

On Motley Fool CAPS, we've also got leading analysts who find the chinks in a company's armor and correctly call its fall. Our "Underdogs" have earned 100 or more CAPS points by correctly predicting that one or more stocks would underperform the market. However, we're going to focus on the stocks these top members expect will outperform the market. If these CAPS investors have scored big by correctly predicting which stocks will fail, it may be worth our while to see which others they think will succeed.

Underdog

Member Rating

Company

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

noirblood

98.76

Altria (NYSE: MO)

****

gyrodynasty

98.71

Boyd Gaming (NYSE: BYD)

***

Plumbroke200

99.14

Visa (NYSE: V)

****

Not every short sale goes as planned, making shorting a risky proposition. Stock prices can be irrational longer than you have money to stay in the game. So don't use this as a list of stocks to sell or buy -- just the launching pad for further research.

Underdogs still wag their tails
The bounce back to luxury that has helped Coach, Tiffany, and other high-end goods companies could be the key to a surprising quarter for cigarette maker Altria. Throughout the recession it has faced tough competition from the cheaper brands of Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI) and Lorillard (NYSE: LO).

But even as they rail against the evils of smoking, state and local governments use consumer loyalty to raise revenue through tax hikes on tobacco products. They know consumers will continue to pay, regardless. Yet the confiscatory rates are reducing the overall tobacco industry size, but Altria's premium Marlboro brand still has been able to increase its share of the market.

Altria has resisted cutting prices on its brand, and in fact has raised prices on some brands. With earnings scheduled for release tomorrow, we'll get to see whether consumers' willingness to pay up for luxury goods includes premium brand cigarettes.

CAPS member bobSaysRelax says if the do-gooders in Congress carry through on their threat to ban menthol cigarettes, Altria will be better positioned than Lorillard.

Strongest tobacco maker who sells necessities. Regardless of the taxes, their loyal and addicted customers will continue to buy. May benefit strongly if govt bans menthol cigarettes, much safer play than [Lorillard].

Let us know on the Altria CAPS page whether the cigarette maker will smoke analyst estimates.

Doubling down
While the Chinese gambling mecca of Macau is booming again, the stateside destinations of Las Vegas and Atlantic City are still in the dumps. The Vegas strip saw gambling revenue fall 4% in November, while Atlantic City was down 13% in December. For Boyd Gaming, New Jersey's takeover of some Atlantic City operations can't come quick enough.

New Jersey's governor is poised to take over the policing, land use, and development around Atlantic City's gambling houses, both on the Boardwalk and elsewhere. Looking to create a city-within-a-city, Chris Christie wants to turn these erstwhile municipal functions over to an independent authority to create a family friendly zone. While the city's crime rate is well below the national averages, visitors still don't want to venture too far away from the casinos.

The plan reminds me of when New York City altered what was once a seedy 42d St., filled with peep shows, sex shops, and other gritty denizens, into a bright, fun strip with tourist destinations. A Disneyfication, if you will (the company led the way in redeveloping the area), but that's still a long way off for Atlantic City. In the meantime, Boyd, which is a 50% owner of the Borgata in Atlantic City, is facing the departure of its co-owner, MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM).

That could be why CAPS member Senescent thinks there's more hope in Vegas bolstering Boyd's business.

General cheapness and Vegas recovery. Two ways takeover potential-attractive to someone like Icahn who might need Boyd management to help with Fontainebleau-also might be able to pick up some Station assets cheaply

Add the stock to your watchlist and have all the Foolish news and analysis about it gathered in one place.

A well-dressed opportunity
We all know that paying with credit is like a time bomb waiting to go off in our wallets. Better for you to use cash, or your local bank's debit card. The Federal Reserve, however, dropped a bunker buster on Visa and Mastercard (NYSE: MA) last month when it proposed limiting debit-card interchange fees to some 80% below what's currently charged.

Interchange fees are the small amounts Visa and MasterCard charge merchants each time you swipe a card. The Fed's move is not a direct assault on their business, rather it's going to make big banks less willing to issue the branded debit cards that now litter our purses. While that is a risk, I'm find myself agreeing with X4GG who calls the worries overblown: "Great business model with large moat. Spits out free cashflow like crazy. Currently cheap as concerns over debit card ruling are overblown."

There's no need to fear ...
Underdogs often shine brightest with their backs against the wall. Still, it takes more than a few All-Star picks and a quick paragraph to make buy or sell decisions. Start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS where your opinion can still save the day. While there, you can read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made, all from a stock's CAPS page.

Coach is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Altria Group and Coach. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a stress-free disclosure policy.