Brian Hastings is a 23 year old American poker pro and a promoter of DraftDay.com. He currently plays as $tinger 88 on PokerStars but many will remember him from when he played an epic session on Full Tilt against Isildur1. He still holds the record for the most amount won in a single session and that was for more than $4.1 million. Many people still question this session as being controversial but Hastings recently clarified the situation in a Card Player interview. We had the opportunity of speaking with the young pro about life since Black Friday, who he finds tough to play at the tables, and his plans for the future.
Interview with Brian Hastings
Please could you explain how you started playing poker and how you have risen through the ranks to become where you are today?
I started playing PLO freshman year of college (2006). I was a HSNL regular by then and noticed some of the big action shifting to PLO and had a desire to learn the game, so I started playing and trying to learn. I definitely played too big right off the bat not realizing how difficult the transition would be. I ran a bit hot at first, but after an inevitable downswing I hunkered down and took a much more studious approach to the game, playing $5/$10 - $25/$50 PLO and doing lots of analysis of my play. From there I just started improving and running it up.
Did you start playing cash games or sit-n-goes, and on what sites?
Cash games on Ultimate Bet. The first thing I ever played was $0.05/$0.10 full ring NLHE, and I mostly built my bankroll playing SSNL, although I did play some SNGs and MTTs too.
When and why did you decide to focus on PLO?
I decided to learn PLO because I saw lots of the regulars I played with at HSNL playing HSPLO and it seemed like a fun new challenge and potential profit opportunity.
How have you fared in the mixed games online and do you think that more people will be transitioning to those in the future?
I'm probably still a net loser in them because I dumped a bunch when I first started playing and thought I was way better than I was. I am confident in my edge nowadays though and look forward to playing plenty in Vegas this summer. Yes I think mixed games' popularity will continue to rise, it solves a lot of the problems of bumhunting because people incorrectly estimate their win-rate far more often.
What do you think of the bumhunting situation and what should be done in future to solve the problem?
It is obviously not good for the game. I think no screen names online could be interesting, or a Rush/Zoom poker HU format (or 6-max at high stakes). Some kind of King of the Hill lobby is probably better than unlimited tables too.
Do you prefer heads-up or 6-max, and will you play anyone at PLO?
Heads up; I think I'm better at game-flow and adjustments than most (and probably a bit less technically sound then some top regs haha). I will play anyone at the right stakes ($50/$100 or less probably), but I'm not trying to play $500/$1k with Phil Ivey for rolls. I also wouldn't play some guys who I'm good friends with (i.e. Phil Galfond, David Benefield) so I guess technically I will not play anyone.
Who are the toughest opponents that you've faced?
HU PLO: Phil Ivey, !P0krparty¡, Niki Jedlicka, Rui Cao
6-max PLO: Phil Galfond, Jens Kyllönen, Andreas Torbergsen
I haven’t played much NL in last few years so don't think my answers would be that interesting. I've played a couple short sessions with Ivey HU though and he's very good of course.
How about Isildur1 - would you play him in the Showdown and what do you think of his PLO game?
I will play Isildur1 any time he wants to play. I think he is a talented player and his PLO game has improved a ton but as I said above I'm happy to play anyone.
Do you enjoy playing live cash games and if so, where do you play and what stakes/games?
I enjoy it quite a bit as long as the stakes are big enough. I am almost for sure a losing live $5/$10 and lower player because I get bored and spew, but at high stakes you meet interesting people from all kinds of professions and the games usually play loose and ‘gambly’. I just bought a condo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and will be playing down there a bunch more in the future. I've spent about seven weeks there this year and played at Seminole Hard Rock, Palm Beach Kennel Club, Daytona Beach Kennel Club, and Jacksonville BestBet, everything from $25/$25 with straddles to $100/$200, both NLHE and PLO.
I also played a real fun game on my way out of Florida - Crazy Pineapple Stud8, in which you get 3 downcards and 1 upcard and discard a card after the 3rd street betting round is completed. That game played $600/$1200 and I am hoping to get it going in Vegas. I am in Vegas at the moment for the WSOP and have been playing a 4 game mix here recently - $200/$300/$100 NL, $200/$300 PLO, and $1k/$2k 2-7 TD and 2-7 Razz. I'm running like crap so far but it's a fun game and I hope it runs all summer.
Have you considered playing more live tournaments or the cash games such in Macau?
I've been enjoying playing WPTs recently and think I'll be playing more in the future. The structures are the best in the industry (thanks Matt Savage) and I've become friends with a lot of the WPT crew and regulars and they are good people. I do not have much interest in Macau. I'll probably visit briefly at some point as part of a broader Asia trip but I would hate the lifestyle there.
How was it playing in the PLO game on Poker After Dark?
It was a great experience and I hope to have similar future opportunities. If the producers of any shows that are currently still in production/airing are reading:
I've been working on my NL game and over-betting a lot and many friends can vouch that I'm fun to play with live :D
Why did you stay at Cornell to complete your degree - did you not consider dropping out considering the amount of money you were making from poker?
I wanted to have options down the road. Sure, I could always just go to college at 28 if I so chose, but I think in practice that decision is way harder to make and few end up doing
What was your parents’ reaction when you decided to play poker?
Initially they didn't like it but after I demonstrated consistent success and paid for my college tuition they started to understand.
Have you had any major downswings during your career which you wouldn't mind discussing?
One year right before Christmas I lost $700k in a day playing $200/$400 6-max PLO on FTP and busted my account. I had never done anything like that before and felt pretty sad at the time but after I had a day or two to regroup and I reviewed the hands and realized I was playing fine, I wasn't as sad.
Do you intend on getting a “normal” profession in the near future as you have a degree from one of the top universities?
I plan on getting more involved with DraftDay soon. DraftDay is a startup company founded by my good friends and CardRunners co-founders Taylor Caby and Andrew Wiggins. It's a website that offers real money daily fantasy sports games. The lobby is very similar to an online poker MTT/SNG lobby, with both guaranteed tournaments that run no matter what and SNG-like games that only run if they fill before the day's sports games start. I play on the site regularly and really enjoy it, as do several other poker pros. I believe in the team and the idea and I'm excited to increase my level of involvement post-WSOP.
Do you have a lot of money stuck on Full Tilt and what do you think of the scandal?
I don't have that much. It's obviously really disappointing and hard to say how much certain people are outright crooks versus being merely bad businessmen, but I think things are moving along in a better direction and I'm optimistic that players will be repaid, although I'm less sure of the timetable. I'm actually reading "The Smartest Guys in the Room" now, which tells the story of the Enron scandal. That was obviously a way bigger deal in the grand scheme of things but I think there are some parallels. (I am still early in the book though).
What are your plans for the rest of the year and the future?
Vegas for the WSOP, Chicago for most of the fall (working on DraftDay), some time in Fort Lauderdale enjoying my new condo and playing live poker (probably most of the winter), and some other random poker travelling.
Brian Hastings is an investor and endorser of Draft Day (http://www.draftday.com) which is “an electrifying and challenging way to test their fantasy sports skills”
Read more of our chats with high stakes poker regulars in HighstakesDB's player interviews.