New Champ Wins Eight Straight Matches, Defeats Jason Mo in Finale
Las Vegas, NV (June 7, 2012) – Brian Hastings, a 23-year-old professional poker player from Hanover Township, Pennsylvania won his first WSOP gold bracelet tonight at the Rio in Las Vegas. He won the $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em World Championship, collecting $371,498 in prize money.
But this victory wasn't at all about the money.
"I've had much bigger scores than this online," Hastings confided moments after his victory. "But there's only one gold bracelet and this means more than the money to me."
Indeed, Hastings typifies an inner-circle of young superstars who have come to dominate the game in recent years. This is especially true for No-Limit Hold'em. Hastings is one of a small clique of twenty-somethings stoked with seven-figure bankrolls who typically buy into games in dollar amounts greater than the cost of an average house. The man who once won over $3 million in a single heads-up session against Viktor "Isildur1" Blom has raked in numerous six-figure pots in his young career. Hastings looks at these six-figure swings as pretty much as just another (good day) at the office.
Now, Hastings' "office" is in Vancouver, BC (Canada). The Pennsylvania native jetted to the Great White North last year in an effort to preserve his bankroll and continue his success as an online poker pro. He recently bought a home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- which is primarily to be used, he says, as a jumping off point to the Bahamas.
"I plan to go over to the Bahamas every so often and stay there for a week or two and play online," Hastings explained. "It's a convenient place to stay in the U.S. in a way, but also continue to do what I do."
So, while current federal laws prohibit online poker from taking place inside the United States, Hastings has very cleverly managed to have his cake and eat it too -- living in the U.S. and essentially "commute" to work in places like Canada and the Caribbean.
Yet, while Hastings is a near legend in the online world, his status as a live tournament player is one of near anonymity -- which suits the former college student just fine. His two previous cashes in WSOP-related events includes an eighth-place finish last year at WSOP Europe. Hastings also posted an 11th-place finish at West Palm Beach during last seasons WSOP Circuit. So, in a sense, prior to this event, Hastings wasn't simply under the radar. He wasn't even on the screen, at least in the public consciousness.
Consider the morning line posted on Hastings and his chances to win the coveted gold bracelet. Arguably one of the very best Heads-Up specialists in the world at the moment, Hastings was listed as a sizable underdog among the finalists.
"Who's the fool who made that line?" Hastings' buddies hollered from across the ESPN stage, while clutching several WIN tickets on their favorite poker horse.
"That would be me!" a suddenly interested Howard Greenbaum barked out, causing several heads to snap turn. "Yeah, we really blew that one," the Vice President of Specialty Gaming for Caesars Entertainment sheepishly added.
Hastings' ultimate victory demanded that he win seven consecutive heads-up matches that were randomly drawn in a bracket format. Given that he faced most of the world’s best short-handed players, Hastings' win was as impressive as it was well-deserved. Indeed, this was one of the most coveted of poker titles, a coronation of sorts for players who pride themselves in playing one-on-one.
The payoff came on the last day, when Hastings defeated Jason Mo -- a 24-year-old poker pro from St. Louis -- in the last heads-up match of the bracket, which was played in front of a worldwide viewing audience following the live stream at WSOP.com. As the the runner up, Ho also enjoyed a nice run as well as second place prize money amounting to $229,722.
The top 32 finishers from a starting field of 152 entrants collected prize money. That required them to advance from the first three rounds. Among the better-know in-the-money finishers were two-time gold bracelet winner Brock Parker, who made the final four. Vanessa Selbst, another bracelet holder, made the round of 16 as did Antonio “the Magician” Esfandiari. But neither player reached the elite eight.
Hastings' victory gives him his first WSOP title -- and instance publicity and fame. While this marked his first time to make the money in Las Vegas, odds are -- it won't be his last...and next time, the odds won't be so generous.
MEET NEW WSOP GOLD BRACELET CHAMPION – BRIAN HASTINGS
Name: Brian Hastings
Birthplace: State College, Pennsylvania (USA)
Childhood: Grew up in Pennsylvania
Current Residence: Vancouver, BC (Canada) / Fort Lauderdale, Florida (USA)
Marital Status: Single
Profession: Professional Poker Player (primarily online)
Previous Occupation: Student and Teacher
Number of WSOP Cashes: 2 (plus 1 WSOP Circuit cash)
Number of WSOP final-table appearances: 2
Number of WSOP gold bracelet victories (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP finish: 8th ($10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Mixed-Max at WSOP Europe 2011)
First-Place Prize Money: $371,498
Total WSOP Earnings: $448,232
WINNER QUOTES (POST-TOURNAMENT INTERVIEW)
QUESTION: You won your first WSOP gold bracelet. How does it feel?
HASTINGS: It feels great. I was amongst everyone else, when I started getting into poker in like 2003. You know, I was part of the poker boom generation watching all the WSOPs on TV. Winning a bracelet was always a goal of mine. I’m more of a cash game player now, so I think that had taken a little bit of a back seat as a goal. But, it’s still pretty darn cool.
QUESTION: Is it better to be under the radar when you play? Some people may know about your online experience, but you have relatively few live tournament results worthy of note, until now.
HASTINGS: I don’t think I’m under the radar with any of the players in this field. I don’t think I’m sneaking up on anyone here. Maybe the sportsbook linemaker in the Rio (laughing). Yeah, one of my roommates bet $1,000 on me and cashed.
QUESTION: Talk a bit about your final match. It was quicker than many were expecting.
HASTINGS: Well, for one thing, he seemed like -- from what I know about him, he’s a mid-stakes no-limit cash game player. I read a tweet by him this morning saying, ‘Is my opponent going to man-up and buy-in for all three?’ So I’m just like ‘no, I’m going to buy-in for one and he’s going to be pissed off.’ And, I just got off to kind of a quick start. I had a hand where I over bet K-4 on a king-high board on the river and got paid off by the second pair where I made a really big bet -- like 225K into 160K or something like that. He rebought like right away after that. From there, it was some back and forth, but I still had my chips and we just played a bunch of 20-30 big-blind poker and I got lucky in some good spots.
QUESTION: How does Jason Mo compare to the other guys you played on no-limit?
HASTINGS: He was tough. He was one of the toughest opponents I played, for sure. I thought he played a good game. If anything though, I’d say he’s stronger deeper than he is shorter. Although, I don’t think he did anything badly shorter, but you could just tell it’s not his thing and he doesn’t play it very much.
QUESTION: You’ve posted some huge scores online. How does this compare to one big pots you win online?
HASTINGS: My biggest days online were a bit bigger than this, but this is still no joke. It’s for sure one of the bigger winning days I’ve had in my life. I think the bracelet means more than the money, honestly. I mean, the money’s great, especially when I’ve been on a downswing playing cash games out here. $370K is a lot of money to win.
QUESTION: What are your plans for the next year? Are you going back to Canada to play online poker?
HASTINGS: I don’t really have any plans to go back there at the moment. I actually recently bought a condo in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida -- and I know one option for playing online, and I don’t actually know how much I’m going to do this, but they have cheap, quick flights to the Bahamas. So I can see myself making some few-day trips, some week-long trips going to the Bahamas and playing online. But other than that, I’m going to get more involved with DraftDay, a company I’m involved with and some of my good friends, Taylor Caby and Andrew Wiggins founded. And, I’m going to play some live poker in Florida and travel a little bit. Play some WTP’s and the rest of the WSOP, obviously.
QUESTION: Here’s your chance. What’s DraftDay?
HASTINGS: Draftday.com is a website in which you can play daily fantasy sports for money. It’s completely legal in the U.S. UIEGA permits it. You can deposit via credit card or PayPal. Basically the games are daily fantasy sports, meaning they last one day. It’s kind of structured like an online poker lobby. There are guaranteed tournaments and sit-and-go tournament that only run if they fill up the players. It’s really fun. Right now we have football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. We’re hoping to add more sports like Premier League Soccer and MMA in the future, and I’m real excited with where it’s going.
QUESTION: This is a very unique tournament in the sense that it allows you between the matches to go research your opponents. You have the opportunity to go online or ask some friends about an opponent. It’s a very unusual kind of format.
HASTINGS: I’m not doing anything too advanced. Tommy Chen -- who I played in the semifinals -- I already knew who he was. He was pretty active posting on CardRunners a few years ago and one of my roommates has played a lot of mixed games cash with him, so I got some reads there. And then, Jason Mo -- I found out from Twitter. Mutual friends were tweeting. So I found out who he was that way. And then basically found out he’s a mixed stakes no-limit regular and that’s really all I knew. I didn’t know anything specific.
QUESTION: Last thing. Anyone you want to give a shout-out to in terms of your poker career or maybe a mentor?
HASTINGS: I think I’m done with shout-outs for now
The official report of this tournament, with much more news and official data, will be posted soon to WSOP.com.
-- by Nolan Dalla