Hastings Finds New Home for High Stakes in Vancouver

Brian Hastings in Vancouver 1
It appears Vancouver is appealing to poker pros by naming streets after them.

With online poker alive and well in the rest of the world post-Black Friday, the only thing standing in the way of American online grinders is their IP address.

Caught between the difficulty of making a living playing live poker and limited job opportunities in other industries, many players have realized it’s actually easier to switch countries than to make it work without online poker.

Young, single and financially independent pros have embraced the situation. Some even see it as a unique opportunity to use the online poker lockout as a way not only to see new places but to live and work at the same time.

Stinger88 in Vancouver and Back in Action

Brian Hastings recently joined a growing group of well-known players who have chosen Vancouver, Canada as their new office.

Known online as Stinger88, Hastings has plenty of reasons to get back online as soon as possible.

Just consider that he once earned over $4 million in a single 24-hour period playing heads-up against Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, and that he was sitting in the comfort of his own home at his computer when he did it.

I met up with Brian Hastings in Vancouver a few days ago - a meeting that took some time to coordinate since he’s been busy re-establishing himself as a force in the high-stakes games on PokerStars.

“Playing some great games, if they break I’ll get in touch,” he texted on Wednesday.

“Sorry, games were amazing today. Will try to make it work tomorrow,” on Thursday.

Moving In, Logging On

Having moved to Vancouver just a week before I interviewed him, Hastings had been busy.

He got into town the previous Thursday and thanks to opening a bank account on Friday and getting his apartment lease, a utility bill and his new home phone number to PokerStars he was up and running by the end of the weekend.

Brian Hastings in Vancouver 2
Hastings enjoys a beer in Vancouver's historical Gastown.

“It honestly wasn’t that bad,” Hastings said Friday evening, sitting on a patio in Gassy Jack Square in the center of Vancouver’s Gastown.

“I got here on Thursday night and didn’t do anything that evening, then got a bank account on Friday and had my Stars account up and running by Sunday to lose $10k,” he said, referring to the buy-in he dusted off in the WCOOP High Roller event Sunday morning.

Since then he’s been playing over 2,000 hands a day against opponents like Ilari Sahamies, Ronnie Kaiser and Rafi Amit, much of it at $100/$200 PLO six-max tables.

Hastings has earned over $120,000 in those games in the last seven days, which is precisely why he was willing to go to such lengths to get back online.

“I knew I wanted to play online from somewhere just because it’s so much more profitable than playing live.

“I do like live poker but the games are kind of sporadic, even in Las Vegas. So with the options online you’re able to set your own hours and play when you want to.”

The Exodus

Hastings isn’t the only American pro to make it to Vancouver in time for the World Championship of Online Poker.

Tom “kingsofcards” Marchese, who won the CardPlayer Player of the Year title in 2010, also had his PokerStars account reinstated in Vancouver in time for the WCOOP High Roller event. He finished ninth for $40,000.

The list goes on, with roommate combo Maria Ho and Christina Lindley also making the move.

Ho was a contestant on The Amazing Race and most recently finished second in the $5k No-Limit Hold’em event at the World Series of Poker for over $540k - the biggest score by a woman in the history of the WSOP.

It's not hard to see why Vancouver is top of the list for online poker pros.

Lindley has already made good use of her time here in Vancouver, cashing three times in the WCOOP so far including a seventh-place finish worth $34,380.

Phil Galfond, Adam “Roothlus” Levy, Chris “Genius28” Lee, Randy “nanonoko” Lew, William Reynolds, David Sands, Erika Moutinho and Shane Schleger have also all moved to Vancouver to play online poker and it looks like they’re paving the way for more to come.

Proximity to Las Vegas and LA and a relatively affordable cost of living appear to be the biggest lure. And although we’re only hearing about the big-name players showing up in Vancouver, many mid-level grinders are following suit.

While Hastings has little trouble paying $3,000 per month for his own apartment, he says moving to Vancouver to play is possible on a budget as well.

“A lot of the guys I’ve met are pretty regular tournament grinders and I think if you do it properly and split a place with a bunch of people, not trying to go for the super high end, it is possible,” said Hastings.

Looking Forward

As the United Stated continues to force its online poker pros to choose between their home and their livelihood, the disconnect between the government’s actions and its reputation continues to grow.

“The US bills itself as the land of the free and prides itself on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and they’re certainly not letting online poker players do that right now,” commented Hastings.

Although few people doubt that online poker will eventually be regulated and available to Americans, if US grinders want to play in the meantime they’ll have to travel to a new country to do it.

 “I have a buddy who’s moving to Panama to play which sounds amazing,” he said. “I’m thinking somewhere like that for the winter.”

Click through here to check out the full interview transcript from our conversation with Brian "Stinger88" Hastings.

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