Meet the Bettors: Ariel Epstein, Fanatics

I first got to know Ariel Epstein at the BSM Summit in New York in 2022. She was part of a panel, along with Kazeem Famuyide and John Jastremski about the value of legacy media to young content creators.

She struck me as the right kind of smart – an expert in her specialty with an obvious drive to become an expert in the best practices of the media business. It’s the right kind of profile for someone to get featured in our Meet the Bettors series presented by Point to Point Marketing.

I spoke to Ariel at the end of April. That’s only important to contextualize some of the references she makes to events and games on the horizon. Bettors may know her best as “The Prop Queen,” but our conversation touched on everything from spreadsheets to reuniting America with the power of gambling!

Demetri Ravanos: What do you make of all of the buzz around limiting or eliminating prop bets from some sports? The NCAA has talked about it. The NBA has talked about it in the wake of the Johntay Porter scandal. What has been your thought there? 

Ariel Epstein: Yeah, eliminating props would be absolutely silly. I look at props as the gateway of people from fantasy sports into sports betting. There’s just too much money to be made by these sportsbooks for them to actually decide to get rid of props. People who I speak to, especially people here in New York and New Jersey, understand betting props more than they understand betting a side or a total, especially the amateurs. So, I don’t foresee that actually happening.           

I know that they have been limiting people on props for forever because there’s such a large menu. There are so many ways to find edges in the market. That’s why I decided to zone in on it. New Jersey was the first state to come out and really focus on props. Vegas didn’t. Even today, the menu in Vegas for props is not as big as the props in New Jersey.          

I looked at that and said, “Oh my God! There’s so many options here,” down to the NBA rebounds plus assists like the combining market, right? There’s no way that the sportsbooks can keep track of all of this. You can get those edges. This is why people like to live bet tennis. Yeah, I just don’t foresee the market going anywhere. 

DR: So, because props are such an easy bridge from fantasy into sports betting, how do you see your audience divided between educated versus novice bettors? Focusing on props, I would imagine that there are plenty of novices or first-time bettors paying close attention to what you have to say.

AE: I would say a majority of people that are betting props are people that are more public bettors. The sharps that I know, a lot of them are betting the day-to-day. They will bet some markets, but they don’t make those as public. The people that I know out in Vegas who sell picks, a lot of the times those people are selling sides and total.          

The “Prop Queen” nickname happened because I started betting strikeout props in baseball. This started back in 2019 or 2020. I got really good at it. I have a whole spreadsheet that I do with my friend Matt. It’s not a computer algorithm or anything. We manually insert everything we want into our spreadsheet, which helps us differentiate all the paid props and the strikeout props. I still get people on social media asking me every day, “What’s the strikeout prop of the day?” So, people are looking for these props.           

People are looking to parlay props, which is crazy to me, but they do. Everyone I know, who doesn’t do this for a living, they do it recreationally. They love to throw a ten-leg parlay together of different props. My friends are even throwing sides and totals into their parlays. They’re throwing props in. I have friends betting ten like parlays of NBA players, and they’re taking the alternate markets, which I also think is crazy because they’re so heavily juiced. They’ll take these alternate markets of like LeBron James 20 or more points for -300 and throw it into a ten-leg parlay. That’s public betting at your service. That’s what you’re seeing. That’s why sportsbooks aren’t getting rid of it anytime soon, because they’re getting all this action that’s almost guaranteed to hit when you’re throwing out ten-leg parlays all the time.           

So yeah, I would say that it’s definitely more recreational bettors that are enjoying the prop. I do think there are some sharps out there that, of course, are finding the edges. And that’s why you’re seeing people get limited, especially betting unders.           

I could go through a whole day. I start my strikeout props in the morning I could say, for example, I like Yusei Kikuchi under six and a half strikeouts. It could be -140 when I saw it this morning but be -165 by 3:00. So, you’re seeing this action come in on a lot of these sides. There are markets out there that are sharper than others, and based on the vig you’ll see which ones those are. 

DR: When people in my generation talk about people in your generation taking advantage of the media, we usually mean that we are seeing you all over social media, and that is true for you, but I also see you all over traditional media. What value do you see in appearing on MLB Network, SiriusXM and other more traditional outlets?

AE: Every avenue is important for spreading knowledge in sports betting. The way I look at sports betting and how it really should be infiltrating, is by putting it into the mainstream media. This has been my goal since I worked at SportsGrid as my first sports betting job in 2019. My goal has been to insert betting into the conversation, not just get out picks on social media.           

I’m on MLB network. I just got off the show Off Base that I do every weekday at 4 pm. What I do is talk about the betting world from a mainstream perspective. For example, today, Jared Jones. He’s a pitcher for the Pirates. The strikeout prop is six and a half. You know why? Not only is he averaging eight strikeouts a game so far, but he needs seven strikeouts to become the fourth pitcher in baseball history to have seven or more strikeouts in each of his first five starts. That’s what I said on MLB Network today. So, it’s not that I said to go take his over. I’m telling you that his prop is six and a half because he needs seven to do something only three other pitchers have done in baseball history.           

That’s how you’re going to get more than just the young sports fans on social media in. You’re going to drive in the people who are maybe in their 60s and still watching network television. They’re going to say, “Okay, look, she’s not giving me a bet. But that’s really interesting to know that six and a half strikeout prop,” and that’s what you need.

DR: I know that you and I both are friends with Katie Mox. When I talked to Kelly Stewart, she was excited to hear that I was talking to you next. How do women in this space go about giving each other support? I mean, for so long, it seemed like this space was kind of off-limits to women, at least from the media side. Now, there are a lot of you, and it seems like you all know each other.

AE: We all do! The sports betting world is so small, especially amongst the women. There aren’t many women that do this role in sports betting and do it well and put the effort in. It’s especially when you talk about the women that see each other, who know sports, put the effort in. I know that sometimes women and men can give women this negative connotation that they’re just a talking head who’s, you know, “the sports books, trying to get a pretty girl on there”.           

The women that I speak with in the business, we all work really hard. Sports betting’s not something you could just put half an effort into and get a good result. When someone, male or female, is talking about something in the sports betting world, you know when they know their stuff and when they don’t. The women in this business are exactly the same. They know exactly who knows what they’re talking about and when you find those women, you understand where each other is coming from. It’s so nice to finally have other females in this business who understand.           

The first time Kelly and I met in real life in Vegas, we were talking and watching games, it was just so nice because, it’s fun to be with the guys, but it’s nice to finally have a girl to like, you know, be a girl with. And at the same time, we can do both. We could talk about guys the way all girls do, and we can hang with the guys and be one of them and talk sports.           

Between Katie and Kelly and some other friends of mine, we just have like a crew of us that whenever we’re on the road together, wherever we’re sitting, we can always just get together and know that we all understand where each other is coming from and how difficult this business can be, and not just from being a female in the male-dominated world. That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s just a hard business.          

There are times I go to MLB Network, and I see my coworkers who go and do a great job of what they do, but they’re not getting heat for giving out a losing bet each day.  So not only are you a female in a male-dominated business, but now you’re a female giving out bets that especially men are putting their money on. If you lose, it’s not always the nicest thing to hear about on social media. You’re mad you lost your own money, now you’re hearing it from other people! So at least the women in the sports betting world all kind of understand where we’re all coming from and how much work goes into giving out these bets each day. 

DR: That’s one of the things that I wanted to ask you about. As sports betting becomes legal in more states and it becomes more of a mainstream thing, do you find that the amount of heat or abuse on social media increases when you give out a pick that doesn’t come through, or do you find that we’ve increased the pool of more reasonable people that are doing this, and thus the amount of people that are going to take the time to send you a tweet calling you an idiot, or whatever are actually diluted by overall the amount of interaction you’re having?

AE: I think it’s the latter. At first, I would have said it could make it worse. A lot of sports leagues think that it’s going to get worse, but I don’t. I actually think that by making it more mainstream, it makes it better, because more people relate.           

I’ve said this since I started in this business. Every video I post with a bet comes with good information. The least I could do is give people good information. I’m not sitting there telling you like, “Go take this bet. It’s a lock!” That’s not my style. I’m telling you, “Here’s what I like today based on X, Y, and Z.” Even if you don’t take my bet, at least I hope I gave you good information that taught you something. I’ve had people tell me that because of the information I gave, they made a different bet that ended up hitting. But they’re thankful for the information I gave them and that’s all I could ask for.          

I’ve had a lot of support on social media when I’ve had these cold streaks. This has been probably the worst start to a baseball season in my life, but everyone on social media is so nice and says, “Hey, it’s not your fault I took your play. I trust you. It was my decision to take that action, not yours.”           

So, I think that yeah, you’ll get a few people that are looking to put blame on anyone for losing and they’ll choose to be you. Ultimately, I think that’s the regulation of betting is working. You mentioned the sports leagues that want to get rid of props. I actually think the government overseeing what’s happening in the mainstream is doing the job correctly, because we have more reliable eyes looking at where issues may lie. I actually think it’s helping that we have the government looking into everything and everyone because it’s actually making it harder for people to do that kind of shady stuff they used to, since it isn’t so much of a shady business anymore the way it once was. 

DR: So speaking of restrictions, in Europe they can bet on elections. If that restriction was lifted in the United States, is that something you think that the public would take to? 

AE: Oh my God! Absolutely!           

I know people who absolutely love election betting and monitoring it. I mean, not that I was placing any action on it, but I have a ton of friends who love doing it and we watched it. I watched those lines in Europe. I watched them for our presidential election. And I remember in 2020 watching the line completely flip overnight between Trump and Biden. The lines were flipping before the polls were flipping. That makes it so intriguing.           

I would think that people would absolutely love it. It’s just going to be very state-by-state basis the way that prop betting is, for example, or even award betting. In New Jersey, you could bet on any kind of award for any athlete to win, whether it’s MVP, Cy Young, or whatnot. You can’t bet on that in New York because subjective betting in New York is illegal. So, I could also see that certain states that are a little more lenient on rules like New Jersey or Arizona, saying, “Yeah, we’ll do election betting,” but maybe New York will be like, “no, we don’t want to do it.”           

It’s a good way of hedging your bet. Let’s say you want one candidate to win, but you have a feeling you’re on the wrong side. It’s America, and you’re going to vote for who you want to win, right? But then on the other side, you could hedge your happiness and say, but I think I’m on the losing side, so let me put money on the other side. 

DR: See, this is where I think the books would love for this to be legal. Because given where we are, I feel like we’re so divided. I don’t think people would be smart enough to hedge if they think they’re on the losing side. 

AE: Well, those people are dumb! You know what? I think you could actually make our country come together a little bit because we’re so polarized right now that everyone is so upset if one side wins and the other loses, maybe if they hedge their bets, we would have things a little more neutral and we wouldn’t have as many problems because we have people happy regardless. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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