Mr. Ontario, Arlie Shaban, talks to us about his incredible first two months playing on PokerStars Ontario, how the games have changed, and what it’s like being one of the winningest players in his home province.
When Ontario’s gaming authority announced in January 2022 that it would become a segregated market with no global shared liquidity by the end of June, PokerStars Team Pro Arlie Shaban’s future looked uncertain.
Were he to stay in Ontario, it would mean he could no longer play in the same tournaments as the global PokerStars player pool. Instead, he would only play poker games with other Ontario residents.
The popular Twitch streamer and Ontario native briefly thought about moving but decided to stay put for the rest of the year to see how things went.
It’s now safe to say that things have gone about as well as they possibly could for Shaban.
Month 2 on @PokerStars Ontario
1st in $200 Rumble – $2852
1st in $100 Hustle – $2485
1st in $75 Summer Stacks – $1790
1st in $75 Hyper PKO – $1281
2nd in $100 Brawl PKO – $1172
1st in $50 Hyper – $917
1st in $30 Warm up – $874
100K Profit Challenge +$24,854 (since June 28 2022) https://t.co/P9P09ZaeZJ
— ArlieShaban.sol 33.3% (@ArlieShaban) August 30, 2022
During a brief interlude when he wasn’t winning a tournament, Shaban talked to us about why he made the decision to stay, how his game has changed playing on PokerStars Ontario, and what it’s like to feel more confident than ever.
PokerStars Blog: Hey Arlie! So, tell us: just what the heck has been going on up there? These results are insane.
Arlie Shaban: Yeah, it’s actually been crazy. They changed the rules on June 28th in Ontario, so we can no longer play against the global pool. We’re on PokerStars Ontario now.
This has changed the fields drastically. Players are just incredibly soft and now, when I make it to a final table, a final five or to heads-up, there aren’t really any other top pros I’m playing against. And if there’s another decent player, I’m probably still better than them, which I’m not used to. I’m used to playing against the best players in the world, and they’re just not in these games anymore.
How did you feel when you first heard that Ontario was being cut off from the global player pool?
I was pretty worried, honestly, because a lot of my viewers are from all over the world and I thought it would probably have a negative impact on my viewers. Also, knowing that the player pools and payouts were going to be much smaller definitely worried me as well. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to move out of Ontario. I definitely considered it.
But I figured with something this big and different, it would be worth sticking around and seeing what it’s like instead of just leaving right away, so I told myself I’d commit to staying until at least the end of the year.
You grew up in Ontario, right?
Yeah. I just moved back here from British Columbia a year and a half ago as I want to buy a house here. So regardless of what happened, I was staying for the rest of the year and we’d see how it went. If my channel took a big hit and there were no real benefits, I was going to move. I’d have to.
I want to honour my contract with PokerStars and bring the best stream possible to people and obviously, I wouldn’t be able to do that from here if things weren’t going well. So it was all up in the air.
Then the change happened and it went way better than I thought.
How has winning consistently impacted your day-to-day life?
The one newer thing that’s come into my life lately–which is such a blessing–is that I’m way more excited to play poker every day now.
I’ve been a streamer for five years now and I’ve put in a large number of hours in that time, and I had this fire in me at the beginning that went away. My love and passion for the game stayed, but the fire of being so excited to log in in the morning went and it was more like “I guess I’m happy to play today.”
But that passion and fire have now come back because it’s new and it’s different. I’m trying to figure it all out. Every game I play is new. There are new buy-ins, new structures, and new players I’m playing against, plus I have to tag everyone differently, so I’m trying to figure out the best way to adapt to this client at the same time everyone else is. It’s a lot of fun trying to do that.
Did it go well right from the start?
Yeah, from literally the first day I started streaming on the new client. I made around $350 on the first day but I ran so bad. I thought “this is going to be interesting” because it felt like I should have won a couple of grand that day.
Then over the last two months, I’ve made $25,000 and it’s been non-stop. $11,000 the first month, $14,000 the second month. I’m really curious how month three is going to go.
We’re starting the Bounty Builder Series in a couple of days, followed by the ONCOOP in October. There have been two series so far on PokerStars Ontario– the Summer Stacks Series and the Platinum Series–and I have a title in both of them. We’ll see how things go in these series, I’m looking to get more than one title in each.
What does a regular session look like for you these days?
I play everything on the client that I can from $10 up. I’ll play any stakes now, which is nice. On the global client, me playing the $530s and $1Ks was definitely taking a shot and almost always selling action, unless it was a COOP, in which case I’d take some of those myself. But if it was a regular $530 on a random Thursday, it would have so many regs in it and I’d definitely consider it a shot take. Now I’m one of those really solid regs in the $530s on PokerStars Ontario. So it’s quite different having the roles reversed.
How has that changed your mindset?
At the beginning of sessions now I genuinely feel like I will make money in the session. In the past, I’d always try to win and play good, but it’s expected now.
Most of the top pros in the world probably feel that too, but I always felt like I was battling to win on the global client. If I chose games properly and used proper game selection, then boom, I’m making money. But as a streamer, we don’t always have proper game selection because we want to entertain, so I’d take shots in harder games. That stuff is just all gone from my brain now. I feel very excited and very confident.
I actually have a different game strategy now. I don’t have to go to war against top pros anymore. The plays you have to make against really good top pros, that’s when you start levelling each other and you four-bet bluff and stuff, but there’s not much four-bet bluffing at all on this client, there’s just no need to do it. There are big and scary plays you make against good players that are simply gone from my game now. Now I can just chip away consistently and then you just have to hold in the big all-ins.
So I have a really good mindset every day now, so much so I’m even grinding off stream some days, which I haven’t done in years. On Saturday I played off stream because I just wanted to relax as I had a bit of a headache, and I won $3,000. It was great, I was glad I didn’t take the day off.
I hear you’re also doing well on the live poker streets. What’s been happening?
Yeah. So, Ontario is really busted when it comes to live poker. The rules and regulations seem corrupt, they gave the license to one party and they just don’t do poker. But one time a year in Ontario we have a big poker tournament and it’s at the Canadian National Exhibition, a huge fair that goes on for like six weeks.
I’ve made it through to Day 3 (which takes place on Saturday, 3 September) and there are 20 players left. It was a $150 buy-in and there’s $62,000 for first. So not only am I crushing online in Ontario but there’s only one live tournament a year in Toronto and I’m 13/20 right now.
You’re also trying to complete a $100,000 profit challenge, right?
Yeah, I started a $100,000 profit challenge from the very first day I switched to the new Ontario client: June 28th, 2022. It’s a very simple challenge: how fast can I make a $100,000 profit on the new client?
It can be from anything on the client: sit & gos, spin & gos, cash games, MTTs, and chests, which will all go towards the challenge.
When I migrated over I started with $6,668 and that’s the base of the challenge. So whenever my client hits $106,668, that’s when I’ve completed the challenge. It’s easy to gauge. Sharkscope doesn’t always register every tournament so I’m not using anything other than how much cash is in my client.
Sharkscope has also produced a profit leaderboard for PokerStars Ontario players (which you can view here). How does it feel seeing your screen name up there?
It’s crazy to me that I’m probably one of the best players in Ontario now. I’m actually ranked second in all of Ontario right now.
There are two or three of us rotating at the top. The players at the top are viewers of my stream and I see them on the tables every day. I definitely want to compete for the leaderboard. There’s no money for it, it’s just a public record that we’ve turned into something fun on my channel.
It makes it harder to take a day off though, that’s why I worked on the couch that Saturday!