It’s always jarring and a little unnerving when the power cuts out in your home late at night. The darkness outside deepens and creeps in through the windows as you scurry to turn on your smartphone’s torch. Luckily, if it happens at night, you’re usually in bed anyway, or asleep on the sofa with Netflix asking if you’re still watching something.
But imagine if all your power cut out moments–literally seconds–after you’d just won a flip heads-up in a $5,200 buy-in Spring Championship of Poker event to win $232,156.
That’s what Fintan “easywithaces” Hand experienced on Saturday night when he emerged victorious in the SCOOP-82-H Thursday Thrill for his second SCOOP title. In the final hand, the PokerStars Ambassador and Twitch superstar called his opponent’s shove with pocket fours and was up against ace-queen offsuit.
“I wasn’t sure if I should call or just grind it down to a win, but with the bounty overlay I decided to go for it and I flopped a set,” says Fintan a few days after the biggest win of his career. “I didn’t even see the river because I left my chair, screaming ‘let’s go’ or something. I went to see my fiancée Hannah who jumped off the couch, all of this over about five seconds. Then the electricity died and the moment was kind of ruined.”
Hand was streaming the event in front of 15,000 viewers when a nationwide power cut in Malta brought his broadcast to a burning halt. Sure, he had an incredible $95,437 plus $136,718 in bounties added to his PokerStars account, but he was denied the chance to celebrate with the community he’s built over the five to six years he’s been streaming on Twitch.
“It’s hard to explain,” he says. “I don’t expect people to get this because I had just had my biggest score ever. But it was similar to finishing second in a tournament. There’s always a feeling of disappointment, and when my stream went down I had the realisation that the moment was gone and because the power cut out I had lost all of my recordings. It just hurt.”
Hand assumed he could simply flick the power back on and at the very least share the end of the PokerStars broadcast on stream with his community, but it took 30 minutes for the power to come back on and the internet didn’t come back until the next morning.
“It was a surreal feeling,” he continues. “I felt empty and devastated, which is not how I should have felt at that moment. It’s one of the pinnacles of my career, but to not have had that moment hurts a bit. These things happen in life and it’s obviously an insane result. It is what it is. Hannah and I then went for a walk with our cat and dog, then had a couple of glasses of champagne. If I was going to share the moment with anyone in the world I’m glad it got to be Hannah, even if it was only for seven seconds of joy.”
If you watched any of Hand’s broadcasts from Day 1 and the final table, you would have seen a player in fine form, both in the quality of his play and the way he was running.
“The $5K run was so surreal, I felt somewhat embarrassed as it went down,” says Hand, who won $25K in bounties in just a couple of hours alone on Day 1 and at one point had 20 per cent of the chips in play with around 30 players remaining. “I’ve never had 90 minutes of poker like that. It was crazy. I was loving it, but at points, I was legitimately speechless. I always dance around like an idiot and have fun when I play, but I felt weird.
“I try to be more emotional when I play these days, not in a fake way,” he continues. “When I was coming up in poker it was cool to be stoic and not react. But when this tournament was going down, I was just in disbelief. I wasn’t nervous, I played like I normally would, but I definitely had butterflies in my stomach.”
Hand admits he hadn’t enjoyed the greatest SCOOP prior to the $5K. In fact, he was stuck around $30K on the series. “That’s obviously a considerable amount of money, but in the grand scheme of things, for a series like SCOOP, it’s not disastrous,” he says. “I’d had a couple of close calls and final table bubbles, but I’ve also had SCOOPs in the past where I didn’t make a single Day 2. So I wasn’t downbeat, I was still excited to get on every day.”
So when PokerStars awarded Hand a ticket to the $5K, it presented the perfect opportunity for both an epic stream and a big score, like the one he had in 2020 when he won a $1K SCOOP for $73K.
“The fact that the results came lifts the pressure in a way, but it doesn’t change the fact that I want to be competing in the $1Ks, $2Ks and higher,” he says. “I wasn’t playing the $5K on my own dime, but I played everything up to that without selling or swapping anything. I think it will be good for the stream if down the line I can become a fixture in tournaments like the $5K, even if I’m not crushing them–that’s a long way away and a very tough thing to do–but if I can get into them regularly I’ll have the potential for more moments like that, and that’s going to be good, for sure.”
For Hand, the Sunday Million, the Super Tuesday, and the Thursday Thrill are the three most prestigious tournaments on PokerStars. Now he’s won one of them. “They’ve been around the longest, so the fact that I could win the $5K Thrill–even though I can’t pronounce it properly–it pretty special.”
What wasn’t special was the way Hand felt the following day. A few glasses of bubbly was enough to leave him with a monstrous hangover–he hadn’t drunk much alcohol this year and none at all during SCOOP–and it also happened to be one of the biggest Sunday’s of SCOOP: Main Event day.
“Poker streaming isn’t the hardest job in the world, obviously not,” Hand says. “But trying to be a good poker streamer when you’re hungover is the worst. You can’t just sit in silence and let your fragile self recover, you have to keep talking and try to be entertaining. The last three hours of my stream the next day were probably some of the worst content I’ve ever made.”
None of that prevented him from going deep in yet another tournament–this time the $2K buy-in SCOOP Sunday Warm-Up (#91-H)–that he eventually finished fourth in on Monday night for another $48,543 score.
All of this success could go to a player’s head. They may consider taking time off to relax, trusting that the game will still be there for them when they return. Not Fintan.
“I just want to keep working, full stop,” he says. “I want to keep trying to get better and try to have more moments like we did because those are the moments that get the most exposure and they’re the most fun. So regardless of the results, my plan is to keep working.”
Being one of poker’s most popular Twitch streamers doesn’t have many drawbacks, but one is certainly a lack of time for studying. “I think if I wasn’t streaming, I would have a lot more time for study, but I don’t know if I’d have the same desire to keep playing poker if I didn’t have the community I’ve built up and I didn’t get to talk to them every day,” says Hand.
“It’s hard to study when it’s 3am and I’ve streamed for 10 hours, so my only option is to study in the morning, but that’s also the time I spend with my fiancée. It’s a tricky balancing act, but I definitely have a desire to get better for the stream. I wouldn’t swing at the high stakes as much without the stream, but then I’d also never get 15,000 people watching me play the Big $22 on a Tuesday.”
Speaking of people watching, you can bet many members of poker’s high stakes community were tuning in to watch Hand battle on the $5K final table which also included the likes of Jon “luckyfish89” Clark, Andy “BowieEffect” Wilson, Thomas “WushuTM” Muehloecker, and Wiktor “Iimitless” Malinowski.
While Hand received some complimentary messages from some high stakes regulars–in particular his fellow PokerStars Ambassador Sam Grafton, who was commentating on the finale on the PokerStars Twitch channel–he’s not really concerned with how people rate his play.
“Sammy sent me some very kind words,” Hand says. “He has always been one of the most charismatic, fun people in poker going all the way back to the UKIPT tours. He was always the loudest person in the room and was so welcoming, and he’s now elevated himself over the last few years to be a top reg and he’s worked extremely hard, so it was nice coming from him.
“But for everyone else, I don’t really take much notice of it,” he continues. “There will always be critics who think I’m terrible. Streamers will never be as good as the top regs, right? That’s not up for debate. Over the years there has been some fun poked and we don’t mind at all, but in the same way, I don’t mind when they say I’m bad, I’m also not going to care if they say I’m good either.”
Hand doesn’t stream for kudos. He streams so his community can enjoy it. “That’s why it hurt so much that I couldn’t share that winning moment,” he says. “I’ve got people who have watched me for five years ever since I was playing 180-man Sit & Gos at the beginning of my streaming career. I like to be decent at poker, but I’m definitely a streamer before a poker player these days.”
He’s now won two titles in two years, but SCOOP is almost over for 2021 and that means Hand will be returning to his regular daytime schedule. No $5Ks and daily $2Ks. Just good, old-fashioned grinding.
“I love it, man,” he says. “After SCOOP, it’ll be like taking a walk through your favourite place on a summer’s night. It’ll be so peaceful and not stressful and there won’t be any four-betting going on every second. I won’t be getting three-bet every hand by Lena900, C.Darwin2, luckyfish89, BillLewinsky, pads1161. They can all take a few days off and I’ll be getting in there in my $25 tournaments. It’s not that I won’t miss it, I’m just happy on my regular grind.”