The PokerStars account “$tinger88” is 62nd on the list of biggest poker winners with a profit of $976,484 after a little over 71,000 hands, according to HighStakesDB.
The Full Tilt Poker account “LucLongley” is 34th on that same list with a profit of $1,492,940 over almost 172,000 hands played.
The man behind both accounts is Brian Hastings.
Under his own name, Hastings sits in 11th on the list, banking $3,890,941 in another 180,000 hands.
On top of his online winnings, Hastings has amassed close to $2.5 million in earnings. He holds three World Series of Poker bracelets, finishing runner-up to Mike Gorodinsky in the 2015 WSOP Player of the Year race.
Brian Hastings is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He has shown incredible results both online and live in just about all the games of poker there are to play.
Recently, Hastings announced he’s quitting poker as a full-time profession. In an extensive blog over on BrianHastings.com, Hastings wrote about his journey through poker and his decision to leave the game, now focusing on a tea startup called UniTea.
While his results speak for themselves, a lot of poker fans won’t remember Hastings solely for his results. Instead, two controversies he was involved in will pop up in many railbirds’ heads when they hear Hastings’ name. Hastings acknowledges that and uses most of his farewell blog to address his side of the story. Time to put things in perspective, one last time.
Hastings Wins $4.2 Million Against “Isildur1”
It’s October 2009 when the “Isildur1” account first appears on Full Tilt Poker. While new accounts popped up every now and then at the time (the unknown “Martonas” account preceded Isildur1), it was clear from the get-go that Isildur1 was different. Nobody knew who was behind the account, but he was ready to play, so much was clear.
Isildur1 quickly lost a million only to win everything back and much more, playing against Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius and Phil Ivey. The account wasn’t backing down, taking on anyone and everyone.
These were the best of times for railbirds with stakes as high as $500/$1.000 and huge pots all the time. Isildur1 lost the biggest pot ever ($1.3 million) to Antonius in November 2009, but won the second biggest pot ($1.1 million) two days later.
Isildur1 was a sensation; the entire world of poker was talking about the action online. Railbirds and professional players logged in daily just to catch a glimpse. Some of them just for entertainment, others to do research. One of the players in the latter category, was Brian Hastings.
Hastings was already a well-established name. He was known as “$tinger88” on PokerStars and played under his own name on Full Tilt Poker as he was part of Cardrunners, a strategy website that had just been bought by Tiltware.
On Dec. 9, 2009, Brian Hastings sat down to battle Isildur1 heads up. In a legendary session, Hastings won a whopping $4.2 million! When the dust settled, Hastings wrote a blog on Cardrunners.com called “Reflecting on a Very Special Day”:
“Wow. I just had the biggest winning day in online poker history. Did this really happen? I’m still having a tough time believing it did […] When everyone starts playing poker, the dream is that one day they will hit it big and make obscene amounts of money that one couldn’t fathom working a 9-5 (well most 9-5s).
But for most, this is just a pipe dream. For it to happen, one needs a combination of very large amounts of both skill and luck […]. And here I am, winning a record $4.18 million in one day (well not exactly – no I didn’t have 100% of my own action, and no I am not going into any further detail about this) playing online poker.”
Hastings wrote about his journey in poker, how he had raced through the stakes and how his preparation had been key in beating Isildur1. He even felt sorry for Isidlur1.
“Although we are adults gambling with our money and know the risks, I do feel bad for Isildur to a point,” Hastings wrote. “Last year I had a 1.4m downswing at 500/1k taking 100% of my action (unbelievably stupid), so I’ve been there. He’s a talented player and I hope he rebounds and I think he will. Maybe this blog entry will even help him.”
Hastings took his time thanking those who had influenced him: his high school basketball coach, Cardrunners founder Taylor Caby and all his friends and family.
Two poker players he thanked were Brian Townsend and Cole South, team members at Cardrunners at the time. On Dec. 14, 2009, ESPN published an interview with Hastings. The article, written by Gary Wise, would bring a lot of heat on Hastings, mostly for two segments that focused on the preparations Hastings had done to battle his opponent.
“Hastings had played Isildur1 three times previously, so he, Townsend and Cole South conglomerated their hand histories, allowing them to study the mystery man’s playing style,” Wise wrote.
Hastings was quoted in the article:
” We’ve done quite a bit of studying of his habits […] Honestly, I give most of the credit to Brian Townsend here. I mean, Brian is honestly the hardest worker I know in poker. He analyzed a database of heads-up hands that Isildur1 had played and constructed ranges of what Isildur1 was doing in certain spots.
In a way, I feel bad that it wasn’t Brian who got this win instead of me. Obviously I’m happy and I’ll take it, but Brian did a ton of work. The three of us discussed a ton of hands and the reports that Brian made, so I’m very thankful to him and to Cole as well. ”
In his most recent blog, Hastings reflected on the interview with a bitter taste in his mouth.
“I explained to Gary post-interview that the words were inaccurate and taken out of context,” Hastings said in his blog. “He replied that I said them on tape, so of course they were true. That was when I first learned that poker media probably doesn’t have my best interests at heart.”
The above comments frustrated Wise last week, but his comments on Facebook have since been removed.
The interview brought a lot of trouble for Hastings as poker players and community members from all over the world were angered that they had combined their databases to get a bigger sample size. The fact that one of his associates had bought hands from a website to get an even bigger sample didn’t go over well with the community either.
The discussion was mostly held in a thread on Two Plus Two called ‘“Could isildur1 get his money back because of Hastings + co ‘cheating” by user ‘HogMajor.’
The opening post of the thread quoted the FTP terms and conditions that showed that sharing hand histories wasn’t allowed.
Isildur1, still anonymous at the time, talked to Matthew Parvis of PokerNews.com:
“In the days leading up to the session with Hastings, I played with Brian Townsend and Cole South a lot. They were always waiting for me. The last session where Hastings won all the money, it just felt like something was wrong. Everything that could go wrong for me did. Every time I tried to pull off a bluff of some kind, it felt as if it was being picked off.
At the time, I just thought it was crazy luck, but now, knowing they shared a lot of their analysis of hand histories with each other, it makes a lot more sense. I feel like Hastings, and even South and Townsend when we played the last few times, had an advantage over me.”
Isildur1 said he would be filing a formal complaint with the site because he thought that things were unfair.
“Yes, I do feel like I deserve to get something back,” Isuldur said. “I feel that Hastings had a big edge over me due to the hand history database. They were able to dissect the exact way I was playing because they analyzed the hands so precisely, and it was impossible for me to adjust, as I had no idea they were doing it.”
Isildur1 said he wouldn’t be playing on Full Tilt Poker for some time, but he never made good on that promise.
Full Tilt Poker started an investigation and concluded that just Brian Townsend had broken the rules for buying hand histories. Proof of a shared database of hands did not exist in their eyes; it was bad phrasing by Hastings. Townsend was stripped of his Red Pro status for a month and that was the end of it.
Townsend wrote a blog about it, which has since been deleted. A section of that blog spelled out the allegations and answered for them:
I wanted to clear up some allegations about Brian Hastings, Cole South and myself. First Brian H. Cole S. and myself never colluded. Collusion is nearly impossible HU but there was always one person playing and never any ghosting occurring. In fact the only person to break the T&C of FullTilt Poker was myself. I had about 20k hands of play on Isildur and I acquired another 30k hands.
This is against the T&C of FullTilt Poker, and because of this violation, I am going to have my red pro status suspended for one month.
Of the three I was the sole one to break the T&C of FullTilt. The three of us never shared hands where mucked hands were shown besides a few hands I posted on weaktight.org, and in fact, all the information I received could be taken from watching the game.
This is not saying what I did wasn’t wrong as FullTilt is very clear in its T&C, rather it’s to clear up the type of wrong doing I partook in.
As for the accusations of team play, Cole Hastings and I live about 3,000 miles from each other. I have never played on Brian H’s or Cole S’s account. As for “conglomerating hand histories,” it’s simply not an accurate statement.
I analyzed the database I put together and the three of us chatted about my analysis and optimal strategy against Isildur.
According to Full Tilt’s T&C this is a permissible discussion as it’s super common for players at all stakes to discuss strategy and certain players tendencies. Any discussion we had occured away from the table when we were not playing a session.”
While Full Tilt Poker’s judgment and Townsend’s blog were pretty clear, people remained skeptical of what exactly had happened. The story that they had combined their databases stuck, especially since Townsend was already under scrutiny after he had admitted in a blog a year before that he had played under different accounts (“Stellarnebula” on Full Tilt Poker and “makersmark66” on PokerStars).
After Full Tilt Poker announced their punishment of Townsend, Cole South too reacted on the situation in post 1,308 of the thread:
I’d like to try to help clear up some issues on my side. There has been a lot of intelligent debate that I would be happy to answer.
1.) Full Tilt very understandably did not want us to comment during an ongoing investigation, and they have found that I did not breach the site’s rules in any way.
2.) A shared hand history database seems to be the main issue of contention. I have discussed many difficult hands from play against Isildur with Brian Hastings and Brian Townsend, posted on pokerhand.org where we can give each other feedback.
I have never sent or received raw hand history data to Brian Townsend or Brian Hastings (or anyone else for that matter) — reports of a “conglomerated” database of all of our hand histories from play with him are absolutely false.
My hand histories showing Isildur’s mucked cards are in only my possession, and I don’t have any hand histories from Brian Hastings or Brian Townsend’s matches, such a database is not possible.
3.) Team play is another point that has been brought up. I have never played on Brian Townsend or Brian Hastings accounts, used a program to see their screen or let them see mine, nor have I been in their presence while any of us played online poker since a Cardrunners meeting about a year ago.
Never have I asked for or been asked for strategy advice during a hand. I’d like to reiterate, the one-player-to-a-hand rule was never broken here.
4.) I’m not going to get into finances, but I have never played a single hand at a table with a player who I have had a piece of. That’s the only issue I could think of that would be relevant with regard to action sharing.”
South commented a couple times more in the thread (comment 1,416 and 1,417 for example), but the discussion continued for five days and most people had already made up their mind. ‘Hastings was a cheater and had won the money unfairly!’ was what was stuck in their heads.
Last year, Cole South was a guest on Joey Ingram’s Poker Life Podcast. The two talked about the situation one last time. From 48:49 till 55:20, South describes what had happened.
“Stinger gave an interview with ESPN – Gary Wise, I think was the reporter – and said something to the effect, or at least Gary thought, that we merged our hand histories into one database and then used that to come up with some strategy against Isildur, which absolutely did not happen,” South said. “I’ve got my hand histories, I’ve never sent them to Stinger or Brian Townsend and I never received any of theirs. Stone cold, zero of that.”
Townsend did buy hand histories from PTR, though, South says in the podcast.
“These are, as they say, ‘public hand histories’ they didn’t have, like the mucked hole cards,” he said. “They weren’t my hand histories from my matches against Isildur.”
Beyond that, South said they exchanged overall tips for play against Isildur, but in the same way poker players talk strategy.
“It was not anything remotely, I hesitate to say ‘useful,'” South told Ingram. “It was like this guy’s aggressive in this spot. It was just like talking to your friends about poker. He sent like an e-mail with maybe three points on things he would do when he’s playing against Isildur. I talk about my opponents’ strategies pretty frequently with people I’m playing. This was extremely tame, nothing remotely I would consider out of line.”
Bakes accused Brian Hastings of multi-accounting and the thread “Hastings Wins $10k Stud and $1.5k Ten-Game Mix Bracelets” on Two Plus Two focused more and more on the allegations.
The moderators soon broke up the thread and started a new one with the title “Brian Hastings Accused of Multi-Accounting as NoelHayes.”
Brian Hastings commented in the thread, but didn’t deny the allegations.
Later, on June 25, Baker posted a photo of a personal message in which Hastings admitted the multi-accounting. In October of that year, Marty Derbyshire interviewed Hastings for PokerNews.com.
In this interview, Hastings explained his play on PokerStars on the “NoelHayes” account.
“After two years of therapy, trying hard to find alternative solutions and continuing to feel helpless, I made a regretful lapse in judgment,” Hastings said. “I just wanted to be able to play the game I love, and that made me who I am today, in the way I used to be able to. My depressed state of mind prevented me from thinking about the situation in the way others have thought about it for a while and I realize now. For that, I apologize.”
In his most recent blog, Brian Hastings added on to that sentiment.
“At one point, he said he could set me up with a PokerStars account that I could play on from Florida with no trace,” Hastings said. “I was depressed again and missing online poker dearly and feeling out of good options, so I took him up on it. It was the wrong thing to do, but I justified it by how wronged I felt by the entire industry. Mental health played a big role in my decision.
And now Hastings is leaving poker. Or at least he’s no longer considering poker his full-time profession. The days of “$tinger88,” “LucLongley” and “NoelHayes” are behind us and it’s unlikely Hastings will return to the online tables anytime soon.
He might not be liked by all, but it’s undeniable Hastings was one of the best, and he gave railbirds one of the most thrilling sessions to follow along with in the history of the game.
In a new podcast with CardPlayer, Hastings discusses his decision to quit poker, his new business venture and much more: