Brian "Stinger88" Hastings has joined the Great American Poker Exodus, packing up shop and shipping himself to Vancouver in order to get back in high-stakes online cash games.
This marks a departure for us since, being from Vancouver ourselves, we're used to traveling all over the world to run down poker stories. This time the story came to us.
I met Hastings three blocks from my apartment in Gastown for a few late-summer patio drinks and we talked about American pros like himself who have left the US to pursue their careers in online poker.
The is the full interview transcript. Click here to check out the feature news article.
PokerListings.com: So, why Vancouver?
Brian Hastings: Well, I’m from the East Coast so it wasn’t exactly close for me, but the proximity to Vegas and LA are good things. I can see myself heading down there a lot to play poker or just hang out with friends.
I knew I wanted to live somewhere that was fairly normal to me, something similar to the US. I lived in Rome for the spring and I wasn’t trying to do somewhere that has a foreign language again.
I was seriously thinking about Montreal even though it is bilingual. It sounded really cool but Vancouver just seemed more like a city I’d want to live in. It has the reputation of being really laid back, with lots of outdoor stuff to do. I’ve always heard that the people here are really nice.
PL: You’ve only been here a week but how is it meeting those expectations so far?
BH: I like it a lot. My place is really nice and it’s in walking distance from everything downtown which is amazing. A few days ago I walked to Stanley Park in about 25 minutes. All the main areas for going out are walkable. I’m just a few blocks from the harbor and I went for a run there the other day.
PL: How smooth was the set-up as far as getting up here and getting your online poker accounts up and running?
BH: PokerStars wanted a landline phone number, a non-US bank account statement, a copy of the apartment lease and a utility bill.
It honestly wasn’t that bad. 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 (in the WCOOP high roller event). (laughs)
PL: Is there something special going on right now that got you to make the move up here or were you planning it for a while?
BH: I knew I wanted to play online from somewhere just because it’s so much more profitable than playing live. Online you get so many hands in and there are games to play. Since I’ve been here I’ve been playing over 2,000 hands a day which would be impossible 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.
PL: You have history online with Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and he’s been playing a lot on Stars. Was that part of the reason to get back in the games right now?
BH: Yeah I’ve played with him a little bit since I’ve been here but it doesn’t seem like he has all that much money on Stars. He seems to be taking shots in games and I actually saw him in a $3/$6 PLO game trying to run it up.
When he does have money though he’s super fun to play with and he brings a lot of action to the games.
BH: Are the games changing with people like you starting to relocate?
PL: I think the games are getting tougher as more players relocate but they will be running more which is good. The higher games are fun to play in but it’s definitely a challenge.
BH: Do you feel like it’s kind of backward that you’ve had to leave the United States in order to pursue your chosen profession?
PL: Yeah, I mean, 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.
BH: What’s your line on when that’s going to change?
PL: I don’t have any inside information on the situation or anything but I would take the under on two and a half years for some sort of bill to be passed that regulates online poker.
I don’t know if that means online poker will be available immediately at that point but I definitely see this as a short term thing. It’s a billion dollar industry and with all the budget problems the government is facing I can’t see them ignoring this for very long.
BH: You mentioned a Facebook page for uprooted poker pros here in Vancouver so tell us a bit about who you’ve been hanging out with since you got here.
PL: I’m good friends with Phil Galfond and I met up with him and his roommate Mikey Stotz and went out for dinner and some drinks on Saturday.
I’ve been chatting with Phil pretty regularly. We play in the same games so it’s great to have someone here to talk to and bounce ideas off.
Yesterday it was NFL opening day and I went out with a group of mostly poker refugees.
BH: Do you think this sort of relocation is viable for a lot of poker players or is it only an option for high-stakes players that can afford all the expenses?
PL: 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.
I feel like the rents aren’t terrible in Vancouver. I’m paying $3k a month for mine but if I had the same place in New York it would be double or more.
PL: If the lockout continues in the US do you see yourself moving somewhere else, and using online poker as a way of living and working all over the world?
BH: Yeah that’s exactly what I’m leaning towards now, moving around and living in a lot of different places. I like it here now but that might change when winter really gets going.
I have a buddy who’s moving to Panama to play which sounds amazing. Costa Rica is pretty popular. I’m thinking somewhere like that for the winter.