Reel Lives: Establish The Run’s Adam Levitan On Balancing Business And Content, Regulated Markets, And Pregnancy Pillows

Brett Smiley

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Every gambler has a story to tell. And so does every person who chooses to make a living in this unique industry.

In our “Reel Lives” series, Casino Reports shines a spotlight on people working in the gaming business, from executives, to analysts, to media members and communications pros, and all points in between.

The subject in this interview: Adam Levitan, co-founder of Establish The Run (ETR), an analytics website that began in 2019 with a focus on DFS and season-long contests centered on the NFL, and today offers products including custom projections for the NBA, MMA, golf, player props and best ball tools, and much more. 

Casino Reports (CR): Of the totality of your time spent working on stuff explicitly related to ETR, what percent is devoted to items for ETR the business (subscriptions, pricing, personnel) — all the non-content stuff?

Adam Levitan (AL): So, we have Taylor Caby, he used to work in the sportsbook industry and also launched CardRunners back in the day, the poker training site. He handles most of the business side of stuff I would say, but there’s still a lot of stuff that I need to be in on and, yeah, that’s probably been the biggest change for me. I probably spend about 30 to 40 percent of my time on that kind of stuff. But I like it. I’ve learned a ton and it’s way different than just doing podcasts or researching for fantasy football.

CR: You were at RotoWorld for a while, DraftKings for a period, ETR going on six years now. At what point did you feel like your career was effectively part of the gambling industry or, say, entertaining people in furtherance of helping them win or earn money?

AL: I would say, once DFS started to hit the mainstream in 2015, that’s when everything changed in so many ways for everything. Before that, the industry and analysis was not as sophisticated, and I think that was just a function of people not playing for a lot of money. But then around 2014-2015, when DFS contests grew and there was some real money at stake, things started to get more serious.

CR: Question about work-life balance. I’ll preface with a word about my own situation, so neither of us gets into trouble. My understanding with the wife is that barring unique circumstances, we don’t make plans involving me on Sundays in the fall. I will be watching football all day. I don’t have an active role watching the kids on Sundays in season. So during football season, when you’re grinding all week, what is your work-life balance? Do you ever make dinner?

AL: I think football is one sport where you can set things up so that you have a few hours at night during the week and stuff like that. You know, that’s not really the case with the NHL or MLB. And so I think that’s one reason that people are drawn to football, not just people who work in the industry, but also fans, there’s only games on these days and we have a whole week to think about it and get ready, build up to it and everything. Yeah, the season is very busy and stressful, but I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older about trying to still be present for life on Saturdays and at night during the week.

CR: What’s your take on the wave of negative headlines involving sports betting — between Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, Jontay Porter, the MLB umpire, that SNL skit, to name several. Do you think this is just growing pains, or a function of the legal market working the way it should?

AL: Well, clearly the legal market is working the way that it should. One of the reasons that legalization is a positive is clearly you can catch this stuff really easily when people are betting on regulated books. When people are doing shady stuff on regulated books, it’s gonna get flagged and caught. If they were doing it with some street bookie, it probably wouldn’t, or if it was offshore, maybe it wouldn’t either. So I think the market is working as intended that way. 

That said, I do think that the flood of advertising and marketing is not great and I hope actually that there’s some regulation around it. I mean, I don’t want to sit down and watch a game with my kids and every commercial is FanDuel or DraftKings or MGM or Caesars, just telling them how much they can win, when we know that you can’t actually win because they’re just gonna limit you if you show a pulse. So yeah, I’m for regulation for all the advertising.

CR: Speaking of having a pulse or a bit of an edge, your and ETR’s edge is obviously much bigger in player props. Any given Sunday, are you betting any sides or totals, an occasional SGP, anything other than player props?

AL: I don’t really bet sides and totals at all. I don’t really look at the SGP stuff too much either, even though maybe I should, but I think the actual edge for us is in props and in things like awards markets, things like weekly leaders — who will lead this game in receiving, who will lead this week in passing, and stuff like that. The main markets are so, so liquid. I think for anyone that thinks they’re beating those markets, I would encourage them to keep very detailed records because it’s really unlikely that they are. Ever since I was 21 years old, I’ve just been trying to find the best spots because I don’t think I’m some genius that can beat the actual toughest spots.

CR: Speaking of detailed records, do you use any apps to track your bets, like a Juice Reel or something?

AL: No, I don’t really bet enough for that. I just keep an old-school Excel sheet for any bets I make.

CR: Other than getting the colonoscopy before the recommended age for an adult male, and paying for it out of pocket, what’s the most EV+ basic life adjustment you’ve made since turning 40?

AL: You know, I was having a bunch of back and neck and elbow and wrist pain and I started just focusing on my neck, exclusively. So I bought these crazy pillows. I have a pregnancy pillow now and another kind of weird cervical or neck pillow. And then I make it a point to try to sleep on my back instead of my side or my stomach, which has made a huge difference, and it’s hard, but I’ve been able to do it with the help of these pillows. And then also every morning now I wake up and I go outside and I do all these neck exercises for like 10 minutes. And it’s made a huge difference for my whole body.

CR: What’s something surprising or ridiculous that you’ve done in the course of coaching youth athletics? Any interesting or crazy stories? Do you carry a clipboard and a whistle?

AL: No, no, not that far. For basketball, I think you have to have a whistle and a clipboard. But to just keep them under control at that age, you know, it’s tough because when they’re 4, 5, and 6, it’s more babysitting than coaching. Then there’s a small window there before they have real coaches. My older kid is 9 now and I want to coach his teams, but now he has real coaches for soccer and basketball and stuff like that. I guess I didn’t realize how quickly it would go away from babysitting to professional coaches.

Reel Fast

Your most memorable Twitter beef was with whom?

I really try never to use the reply button because arguing on Twitter is just the worst.

Which odds screen do you use most frequently when you go price or line shopping?

Unabated.

Close your eyes and picture the inside of a casino. Which one is it?

Borgata in A.C.

Give me your best prediction for Evan Silva’s most frequently used buzzword in Matchups this year. For example, I think in ’21 or ’22 it was “ether” or “ethered.”

He has such a good vocabulary. There’s so many. I’ll go with penetrating, like “penetrated the defense.”

What percentage of reader mail questions that you get actually make it to the solo pod?

If I ask for questions, I usually get anywhere from 60 to 80, and I’ll probably end up using maybe 20 of those over the course of three shows.

Worst job you ever had? 

I started an internship and the company went out of business like two weeks later. So I was trying to find a job and some bike store paid me to go hand out flyers. I lasted maybe three days. It was pretty terrible. But I never really had a bad professional job. Even the places where I started at and made no money, or got fired, all the actual work was fine.

Have you spent any amount of time playing online casino games? Do you think you might, if that were to come to Colorado?

I’ve never played casino games, period. So I definitely wouldn’t play online.

Favorite TV show that is currently still in production?

Man, I really don’t watch any new TV. I just keep rewatching old Curb Your Enthusiasm and Silicon Valley episodes, and that’s pretty much it.

You can find Levitan on X (not hitting reply) or on his solo podcast giving out EV+ life tips once the NFL season begins on ETR’s YouTube or Spotify channels.

Previous installments of Reel Lives:

Las Vegas Advisor’s Anthony Curtis On Counting Cards, Loving His Job, And Finding The Quintessential Vegas Deal

Sporttrade COO David Huffman On An Operator’s Challenges, A CEO Who Leads By Example, And Betting On Birth Weights

Strive Gaming CMO Jamie Shea On Soaking Up Knowledge, LTVs, And Stray Cats

Fanatics Betting & Gaming’s Scot McClintic On Building Products, Quantitative Thinking, And Hockey Fights