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PokerStars Festival Dublin: Nice Hand! A Q&A with Team Pro Online's Fintan Hand

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Is there such a thing as a home advantage in poker? Team PokerStars Pro Online's Fintan Hand will hope there is as he's back in his home town for only his second live tournament of the year and the first since he joined PokerStars. His first live foray of 2017 was also in Dublin, as he played the Irish Open back in April. Although Hand is critical of his play at that final table, he busted in seventh place, it was a very deep run on home turf.

The affable Irishman plays the vast majority of his poker online, and is known for his Twitch streams with fellow Team Member, Benjamin 'Spraggy' Spragg. But, anyone who knows a little bit about the history of PokerStars events in Dublin, will likely remember him from Kevin Killeen's victory at UKIPT Dublin in 2014. On that occasion Hand was in charge of the cheering squad, who were dressed in animal onesie's no less. Their cheers helped their man to victory and a UKIPT Main Event title.

Hand and Killeen are great friends and a quirk of the seat draw meant they got to catch up during the Main Event as we discovered when we caught up with Hand during a break in play on Day 1B.

Q: So you sit down for the Main Event and there's a familiar face two seats to your right I believe?

A: Kevin was my best friend in poker for a long time and we started playing around the same time. When we first started grinding online and playing full time we were housemates. He's been off playing WCOOP in Mexico and I've been in Malta, so this is literally the first time we've seen each other in three or four months and we just happened to draw the same table, so we've been catching up.

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Kevin Killeen

Q: Any big pots between the two of you?

A: We've only played two pots together and we had the exact same hand in both pots so we've just chopped them up so far.

Q: This is your first live tournament since signing for PokerStars correct?

A: Yeah, I final tabled the last one (The Irish Open). I've never won a trophy at a PokerStars event though and Kev has one. I would like to take one down.

Q: You've been pretty busy with Twitch streams though!

A: I stream with Spraggy, Sunday through Thursday for around five hours a day. WCOOP was a bit hectic and I've moved house three times in the last three months so I haven't been able to get a proper routine and schedule.

Moving forward I imagine they'll be 25 hours on the PokerStars channel a week and still 20 hours of a solo stream on top of that. For the people that have been asking if we're going to get back on the solo grind, we certainly are. Spraggy right now will be streaming on the PokerStars channel because I'm at this event. He'll be flying solo today, no doubt doing fantastically well.

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The dynamic duo

Q: Do you see them as two very distinct streams?

A: They certainly have a different vibe. I think myself and Spraggy are pretty good at not talking over each other but there are times when you do. We're not even in the same room, so we can't see when the other person's about to talk. So that took some getting used to. I genuinely enjoy the dual stream and there's double the chance that we're going to have a deep run. As well as the loyal viewers there are some who only tune in when you get a deep run so we're increasing numbers with the dual steam, it's a different dynamic and nobody else is doing it.

Q: There's a lot of playful banter between Spraggy and yourself, are you happy for each other when you have a big win?

A: At the beginning of tournaments, we take great enjoyment in seeing each other lose! It's funny, if Spraggy takes a bad beat it's hilarious. As the tournament gets further down the line we never want to see the other person lose. We're not taking any joy out of seeing the other person potentially winning thousands and then getting knocked out in fifteenth place.

I was down to the last 19 in a WCOOP event and there was $200,000 for first. When I got knocked out Spraggy was almost as hurt as me. When it's your own hand you don't sweat as hard because we've been doing it for so long, but when you're railing your friend, I feel more emotionally invested.

Q: What are the easiest and hardest elements to streaming poker?

A: The easiest part is building the community and then having people around who want you to do well. It gives you that motivation to grind. I've been playing poker for five or six years so it's something new.

The hardest part is also the community, because they expect you to be there. So, if you want to take a day off then you're letting yourself and them down. For anyone who's thinking about streaming then consistency is the biggest factor. If you don't show up when you say you will, then people will stop coming back. Consistency is number one.

Q: Spraggy and yourself were commentating on the WCOOP final table on the PokerStars Twitch channel. You live in Malta as does the winner (Steven van Zadelhoff), do you know him?

A: A few of my friends do, Kevin (Killeen) spent some time with him in Mexico when they were grinding SCOOP or WCOOP. Steven was great banter at the final table. Players were trying to discuss a deal and the only deal he was willing to do was winner take all! He seemed like a great guy. I've played on the same table as him once or twice, and plenty online.

Q: The commentary on that WCOOP final table was with cards down and your usual streams are cards up. Do you have a preference?

A: The thing that I really enjoyed on the dual stream when cards were down is that Ben and I could talk about hands. Usually when one of Ben and I are in a hand we can't talk about it, because it's one player to a hand. He can't actively talk about my hand as it's against the rules. So, we don't ever really get to bounce ideas off each other. The other thing is that if one of us makes a mistake we don't really want to bring it up too much.

So on the WCOOP stream I really enjoyed the fact that we could discuss why we thought something was bad, because it's not insulting to the other person and people were enjoying the conversation. It's something we plan to do more of in the future. We had a good response to the cards down coverage.

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Hand will be hoping his cards-down run in the Main Event is a long one

Q: In your deep WCOOP run you had your cards down on Day 2, was that because of the money at stake?

A: In this WCOOP event it was because we play on just a two-minute delay, so if anyone has any sort of substantial time-bank they can definitely catch up, so it's a little bit risky. If we get deep in a tournament, with a lot of money for first, we'll end the stream and add a longer delay.

You can only see the hole cards of one of Ben or I and we alternate every day, we're working on a way to fix it so you can see both sets of cards, but right now we're not able to do that. It just so happened the Spraggy was hosting on this day, because the internet hadn't been installed in my new place. If that event was to happen today my cards would 100% be face-up and we'd be on a longer delay.

Q: A two-minute delay is quite a short delay!

A: Not being able to play without a delay is the biggest issue for Twitch poker. The interaction with the chat is so much better if you have a shorter delay. If someone is new and they ask a question and you don't respond to them for seven minutes, they're going to get disheartened and leave. Not everyone is aware that there's a delay. The delay is something we'd love to get around.

Q: What are your favourite tournaments to play, what sort of action is the viewer going to get?

A: Spraggy's favourite tournaments are 100% the PKO's (Progressive Knockout Tournaments). If you're looking for a man who's out there gambling to get a bounty, that's Benjamin. As for me, it's not an exciting answer, but I just like classic tournaments. I really enjoy them. I just love building stacks, it's like a story with a beginning, middle and end.


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