Here’s the Heads-Up: Brian Hastings Now Has a Gold Bracelet
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 to reporters, moments after his victory. "But there's only
one gold bracelet, and this means more than the money to me."
Indeed, Hastings typifies an ultra 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 chic twenty-somethings stoked with sixand
seven-figure bankrolls who typically buy into games in dollar amounts greater than the cost of an average house.
Hastings once (or perhaps twice) reportedly won a pot of over $1 million dollars online, which he now looks upon pretty
much as just another (good day) at the office.
Now, Hastings' "office" is in Vancouver, BC (Canada). The Pennsylvania native jetted up 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 within the U.S. and essentially "commuting" 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 show an eighth-place
finish last year at WSOP Europe. Hastings also posted an 11th-place finish at West Palm Beach during last season’s
WSOP Circuit. Nice results – but nothing to brag about. 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 the Rio Sportsbook 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 an 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 eight 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' overall 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 on 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 runner-up, Mo also enjoyed a nice run, winning seven of his eight matches. He collected 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 was two-time gold bracelet winner Brock Parker, who
made the final four. Vanessa Selbst, another former winner, 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 instant 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
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 re-bought 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 and 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 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
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 shoutout to in terms of your poker career or maybe a mentor?
HASTINGS: I think I’m done with shoutouts for now.
THE FINAL TABLE
The final table was comprised of the top two finishers – an unusual configuration since this was a Heads-Up
No former gold bracelet winners were present at the final table.
The runner-up was Jason Mo, a 24-year-old poker pro from St. Louis, MO.
Final table players came from one nation – United States
Final table participants ranged in age from 22 to 24.
Final table play began at 1 p.m. and lasted until 5 p.m. The duration was about four hours.
OTHER IN-THE-MONEY FINISHERS
The top 32 finishers collected prize money – which means players that advanced from the first three rounds.
Tournament results are to be entered into all official records as an open event. Results are also to be included in the
2012 “WSOP Player of the Year” race.
Multiple former WSOP gold bracelet winners cashed in Event #12. They included – Brock Parker, Vanessa Selbst,
Antonio Esfandiari, and Eric Froehlich.
Each of the last three champions of this event participated, but none cashed. Leo Wolper, who won this event in 2009
made an unwanted walk to the exit early, as did 2010 winner Ayaz Mahmood. Jake Cody, the defending champion,
lasted a bit longer but went out during the third round.
The $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em World Championship began with 152 players. Day One at noon,
players were randomly grouped into brackets. The odd-number field size meant that 104 players received a first
round bye. Only 24 first-round matches were played. Once there were 128 players, round two began and played to
64 survivors. Then, the day concluded with the round three -- where 64 players played down to 32 (which guaranteed
an in-the-money finish).
ROUND 1: Highlights from the initial round included recent WSOP gold bracelet winner Andy Bloch’s early match
against Swedish online poker marvel Viktor “Isildur1” Bloom. Bloch proved to be no match for Bloom, playing in his
first WSOP tournament on U.S. soil (he played previously at WSOP Europe). However, he had a tougher go in the
next round, losing to Tommy Chen. Hence, Bloom’s WSOP intro was less than spectacular.
Brit Sam Trickett has been crushing the world’s biggest cash games the last few years. Good thing, because he’s off
to a rough start at this year’s WSOP. Trickett was bounced out of the first round by Victor Ilyukhin, from Russia.
ROUND 2: Second-round action began with a more balanced field of 128 players. Notable happenings from the next
series of matches included a few upsets -- including Russell Rosenbloom upsetting Vladimir Shchmelev as well as
Cristiano cleaning out Shaun Deeb. Another notable match saw Jacob Godshall ax Jason Mercier. Battles of titans
included Steve O’Dwyer besting Yevgeniy TimoshenkoAntonio Esfandiari making Isaac Haxton disappear.
ROUND 3: In the third round, the first player to reach the round of 32 – which meant a guaranteed in-the-money
finish -- was Steven Landfish. Tommy Vedes, who is already enjoying a good WSOP, joined the money celebration
soon thereafter. Less fortunate was Phil Ivey, who suffered a knockout blow, with Chae An throwing the final punch.
Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi also hit the rail, kicked to the side by Mark Radoja.
This year, many eyes were on Jake Cody, the defending champion. He won the 2011 No-Limit Hold’em World
Championship, defeating runner-up Yevgeniy Timoshenko in the final showdown. However, Cody failed to reach the
money this time – exiting at the hands of Michael Drummond during the third round.
With players in the money, notable highlights from Day Two included the following:
ROUND 4 (32 players to 16): Antonio Esfandiari was an early advancer, besting Scott Baumstein. Brain Hastings
wiped out Tommy Vedes, who had hoped to make his second uber-deep run in this year’s series. Also of note was
Tommy ChenBrock Parker, another duel champ,
fared much better – axing Mark RadojaVanessa Selbst moved into the Sweet 16, after busting
Kevin Saul. Eevert Kokkonen won the final match of the round, cutting away Max Steinberg from the field.
ROUND 5 (16 players to 8): Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari did an early disappearing act in the next round. His
chips vanished at the hands of Tommy ChenBrock Parker rocketed into the elite eight after busting Douglas Polk.
Jason Mo knows poker, or at least he knows how to play heads-up poker, evidenced by vacuuming up Eevert
Kokkonen’s final chips. BRIAN HASTINGSVanessa Selbst showed
mortality against Jeffrey GrossMichael Drummond is shooting for his first gold bracelet, and used Alexander
Venovski as cannon fodder. Andrew Robl made the final eight, as well – forcing Jonathan Jaffe to the rail.
ROUND 6 (8 players to 4): Brock Parker moved one step closer to winning his third gold bracelet, after wiping out
Michael DrummondJason Mo took no time to sweep away Andrew Robl and advance to the final four. Meanwhile,
Brian HastingsJeffrey GrossTommy Chen,
who took out Chris Moore.
ROUND 7: On Day Three, the final four was played: BRIAN HASTINGSJason Mo beat Brock
ROUND 8: BRIAN HASTINGSJason Mo in the finals.
ODDS AND ENDS
This was classified as WSOP schedule Event #12, since it’s the 12th gold bracelet of 61 to be awarded this summer in
Las Vegas. The tournament was played over three consecutive days and nights, starting on Tuesday at noon and
concluding Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m.
The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory (or some hours later
when the tournament end very late). The ceremony takes place inside Brasilia. The ceremony begins at the
conclusion of the first break of the noon tournament. The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 p.m. The national
anthem of the winner’s nation is played. The entire presentation is open to public and media. Video and photography
is permitted by both public and members of the media.
Last year was the first time in history that a $25,000 buy-in No-Limit Heads-Up tournament had been held at the
WSOP. That event was won by Jake Cody, from the UK. The buy-in was returned to $10,000 this year, as had been
the case in 2007-2010.
Last year’s tournament created the largest prize pool for any Heads-Up poker competition in history. The previous
high mark was set during each of the last three years, 2008-2010. Those $10,000 buy-in tournaments were capped
at 256 entrants. Accordingly, the prize pool for each was identical – at $2,406,400. Last year, the buy-in increased by
150 percent, up to $25,000. Although the turnout was half the previous size, the prize pool eclipsed the previous alltime
record by a wide margin.
This is the sixth time a Heads-Up event has been included on the WSOP schedule. The Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em
Championship winners for the previous events were:
2011 – Jake Cody ($25K buy-in)
2010 – Ayaz Mahmood
2009 – Leo Wolpert
2008 – Kenny Tran
2007 – Daniel Schreiber
2012 WSOP STATISTICS
Through the conclusion of Event #12, the nationality of gold bracelet winners has been:
United States (8): Chip Saechao, Brent HanksAndy Bloch, Herbert Tapscott, John
Monnette, Brian Hastings
France (1): Aubin Cazals
Bulgaria (1): Nick Jivkov
Canada (1): Ashkan Razavi
Netherlands (1): Vincent van der Fluit
Through the conclusion of this tournament, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has been:
United States (7): Brent HanksAndy Bloch, Herbert Tapscott, John Monnette, Brian
Thailand (1): Chip Saechao
Bulgaria (1): Nick Jivkov
France (1): Aubin Cazals
Iran (1): Ashkan Razavi
Netherlands (1): Vincent van der Fluit
Through the conclusion of this event, the home state of (American) winners has been:
Nevada (2): Brent HanksAndy Bloch
Florida (2): Leif Force, Cory Zeidman
California (2): Chip Saechao, John Monnette
Illinois (1): Nick Jivkov
Alabama (1): Herbert Tapscott
Pennsylvania (1): Brian Hastings
Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of professional poker players to semi-pros and amateurs
who won gold bracelets is as follows:
Professional Players (8): Brent HanksAndy Bloch, Aubin Cazals, John MonnetteAshkan Razavi,
Vincent van der Fluit, Brian Hastings
Semi-Pros (2): Cory Zeidman, Nick Jivkov
Amateurs (2): Chip Saechao, Herbert Tapscott
The streak of consecutive male gold bracelet winners (or put another way – no female winner) is currently at 231
consecutive events, and counting. Aside from the annual Ladies Poker Championship (a non-open event), the last
female to win an open WSOP event was Vanessa Selbst, back in 2008.
Note: Various categories and statistics will be updated with each gold bracelet event as they are completed.
-- by Nolan Dalla