Who doesn't remember that huge pot on High Stakes Poker with Gus Hansen and Daniel Negreanu getting in tons of money with a full house versus quads? Who didn't get into poker after seeing Hansen go all in every single hand in Poker Superstars III?
In the early days of the poker boom, Gus Hansen was without a doubt one of the biggest names in poker. "The Great Dane" won millions in World Poker Tour tournaments before he was hailed as one of the stars in the just-started European Poker Tour. He ran a poker site early on before selling it to Betfair, only to become one of the faces of Full Tilt Poker in its booming days.
After Black Friday, Hansen was again contracted by Full Tilt Poker, this time as part of the collective, 'The Professionals,' alongside Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom.
Full Tilt Poker owner Amaya ultimately decided on a different strategy and parted ways with their sponsored pros altogether. Hansen kind of disappeared with it. After losing millions of dollars in online cash games on both Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, he announced would take it a bit easier the coming months.
After some time away from the felt, a couple of months ago, Hansen resurfaced. Out of nowhere, Hansen showed up in Vegas in August to play some $2,000/$4,000 cash games with the likes of Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius and Daniel Negreanu, something documented by the latter who tweeted and blogged about it. A couple weeks later, he dipped his toe in the water, playing some hands online after a long hiatus.
Now, Hansen says he's planning on getting back into poker again. We ran into the Danish superstar in Monte Carlo, his home base, as he checked out the action at the Big One for One Drop Extravaganza last month. We spoke with him at length about everything poker.
Gus, first of all, I've missed you on the live poker circuit. How's life been?
I really can't complain. I've been laying low. I really don't think I've played a poker tournament for two years. I've been to Vegas once or twice and played side games, but I really haven't played any tournaments. I'm actually thinking about getting into the swing of things and playing some tournaments later this year and next year.
But other than that, I've been staying healthy, doing other things. I was involved in some business with an old friend of mine back in Denmark. It was a music business, but let's just say it didn't go well, so that's the end of the comments on that one. I've had different ideas and different projects, but right now I'm thinking gambling.
And gambling is poker or gambling is gambling?
Gambling is gambling. Poker is definitely part of that but I did start out with backgammon and that sometimes resurfaces with a game here and there. But I'm definitely thinking about going to the Aussie Millions next year and some other tournaments.
Daniel Negreanu wrote a blog about you guys playing in Vegas in the same lineup you played some years ago. How was that?
Yeah, well, unfortunately, I can't say it was a successful experience for me. But I think they're some good guys and it was a fun game. I think Daniel wrote that as well. The atmosphere is nice. There's joking, banter; people are having a good time.
I definitely missed that because it's fun and I obviously enjoy the game of poker. The results were unlucky and definitely, looking back, I was rusty. I basically hadn't played a hand of poker for a year. I still remembered the rules, but I was very rusty.
What made you rusty? What made you decide to not play for over a year?
It's no secret that I've had some serious online losing. It's kind of old news. So you lick your wounds, clear your head and do some other stuff. But that doesn't change the fact that I like to compete. My endeavors throughout my life have led me to gambling, whether it's one game or another. That's always going to be a part of me and I'm always going to be seeking that. Obviously, I'm not going to play as much as when I played fucking 24/7, every day. But I will always be around in some way, shape or form because I like it and overall I've done pretty well at it.
I'm not sure if you know this, but a ton of players are broadcasting poker on Twitch these days. You laid the foundation for that with Gus.tv, which I watched 24/7. Any chance you'll get back into live streaming or commentating poker?
I have thought about it. To be honest, I know that people are playing on this, you call it, Twitch. I've heard about it. I don't even know what it is. I've never seen, I've never written 'Twitch.com' or anything so I don't know.
Oh, Twitch-dot-tv. I'm sure I could figure it out. It could be kind of fun. I think, not to put myself up on a pedestal or whatever, but I think I have a good banter. People enjoy the bullshitting, the talk, the this-and-that.
Maybe streaming again would be popular. I haven't really given it too much thought. I just know it's around. So now that you mention it, I might go check it out. Twitch-dot-tv, got it.
Besides live streaming, have you thought about the media side of poker? I mean, I even watched backgammon when you commentated on it on Eurosport back in the day.
I have thought about it just because I think it comes naturally to me. I like to talk. I like to give it straight to your face. You don't have to be mean, but I think it gives it a little edge when you push the envelope, when you say, 'Hey, Daniel Negreanu, that was just a bad play!' I mean, I'm straightforward and he can handle it.
Every time you see a final table, the commentator says, 'It's the eight best players in the world.' I'm just like, 'What are you talking about? It's not the eight best players.' I mean there are some good players; there are some probably mediocre players. You don't have to call anybody bad but you do have to be a little more straight. I've thought about getting into commentating because I kind of enjoy it.
For the Big One for One Drop Extravaganza there was a strict 'no pro' rule. What do you think about the tournament and Guy restricting pros from playing?
Me and some guys, gamblers, backgammon players and poker players, actually discussed this yesterday. I have absolutely no problem with restricting pros from entering. He wanted to make an amateur-only tournament, and I think that's absolutely fine. I think it probably was a mistake to not let the pros play the satellites and side events. I think it would have given the tournament a little bit more flair.
Let's say a bunch of pros entered the $10,000, $50,000 and $250,000-satellite. Now you have four pros in the field, maybe five. That grows the tournament to maybe 40 players. You might have a Phil Ivey in there; you might have Gus Hansen. I think that would've given it a little more color.
I think it was fine not letting any pros register, but I think it would've been good to have some pros in via satellites. But that's a matter of taste. They would enjoy sticking it to Phil Ivey. Now they want a tournament where they can say the best poker players in the world were in. So I think that would have been better, but who am I to say? That was at least the conclusion we came to last night but we also had quite a bit of vodka, so what do I know?
Talking about satellites, I remember one particular satellite back in 2012 when you got into an event with a buy-in of $1,000,000.
Actually, I had put up the €1 million to play already but with the limitation of 48 players, there was a little overage. It was really weird because I played cash games for 24 hours and I just stopped by because I was going to find out if I was in the tournament or not. I had wired in the money already but it was uncertain if I would be able to play because it supposedly was full already. So after 24 hours of playing cash games, I saw that $25,000 sat and said, 'Ah, fuck it, I'll try my luck there!'
Heads-up you faced Shaun Deeb who didn't want to play the event anyway. That must have been easy.
Hey, that was a cheap way into the €1 million. I played on Day 1 of the One Drop and I think I was fifth in chips or something like that going into Day 2. Day 2 was probably the worst I've ever played in a tournament. It was really bad timing to choose that €1 million buy-in to play your worst game.
It wasn't running bad; you were playing badly?
Yes. I mean, obviously you could say ace-queen versus ace-king is not running good, but it was a situation where I should have gotten rid of it. I can only blame myself for at least not giving myself a better shot at it. You make mistakes. It's poker.
Is that day of poker something still in the back of your head or just now that I brought it up?
I haven't thought about it for a long, long time. But I think it's probably good to remember some of your mistakes. Obviously, you shouldn't go day in and day out thinking about all your mistakes, but it's good to learn from them. If you don't accept the fact that you're making mistakes, you're not going to make any progress. Obviously, it was a bad tournament to make a lot of them, but nonetheless. OK, I'll think about it the next time I play a 100K buy-in or 250K buy-in.
You said 2017 is a new year. The Aussie Millions is at the end of January. Before that, nothing on your schedule?
There's Vegas on my schedule. I'm going to Vegas. There's a World Poker Tour in the beginning of December. Historically, I've done very well in that tournament. I think they have a pretty good structure in that tournament. There are similar structures all around but I like the way they plan the days with the dinner breaks. You just play for eight straight hours. You can eat before; you can eat after.
That's a thing that I never really understood about poker tournaments; you play two hours and then you need a 15-minute break? What did you do? You sat in a chair for two hours and that takes a big toll on you? I hear people say; 'Well, I have to go to the bathroom.' Then go to the bathroom and miss a hand! It's not that big of a deal. I mean that's really a thing I don't quite understand. I don't understand how you schedule a day and then suddenly have a dinner break. Bring an apple. Bring some yogurt. Whatever the fuck; frozen yogurt, ice cream. I don't care what you eat, but you came to play.
'It's a long day. Why don't we have a lunch break and then a dinner break?' Because it's stupid! When they play a final in the Australian Open and [Novak] Djokovic and [Rafael] Nadal played for four hours and 22 minutes going into the fifth set, they don't stop and have a fucking dinner break. Oh, didn't you guys get hungry? Of course they're hungry. But they get some fluid, eat a banana, whatever.
Are you still up for the 48-hour sessions and whatnot? I'm not going to say you're old but you're older than…
I think it's a bad idea and I'm starting to realize I'm not 22. I hate the fact that that's the case but nonetheless, I try to limit it. When I was in Vegas — I was in Vegas after the World Series this year — I still had some long sessions in me. I try to limit it to be a little more acceptable than the 48-hour runs from back in the day.
My all-time favorite YouTube poker clip is the quad fives versus Daniel; I think it's Season 1, right? Tell me, how was that first season to play?
Money was really flowing at that point in time.
For everyone involved?
I would say. Poker players were getting freerolled into tournaments and were getting sponsorships from the online sites. So I think people were a little more loose back then. Then you had Black Friday; that definitely hit some people. So it's probably a little more conservative these days and the big difference is that poker players in 2016 are just much, much better than they were in 2003. It's like you can take pretty much anyone in the room here at the non-pro Big One for One Drop tournament, and put them in a 1985 setting, they would be the best player in the world.
From '85 to '95 the level of play went up a little bit. From '95 to '05, it took a drastic increase in the level of play. The last 10 years have probably been even more steep with online play, learning sites, learning tools, etc. etc. The level of play is just increasing. Obviously, we haven't seen the top; things are always going to evolve. People are going to get better and better, whether it's tennis, American football or poker. It was more of a loose cannon kind of game back then, I think that's safe to say.
In Prague some years ago, you told me you wanted to be the world champion in racketlon. How did that go? Do you still play?
No, I don't. Well, I did lose a close match in the quarterfinals of the World Championships, so I wasn't that bad and I lost by a nose, but nonetheless.
Is it big?
No, it's not big. There's been World Championships the last 15 years, so there's a bunch of guys playing all over. It's popular in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Germany. Some people play in the U.S., some in Australia, but it's not big big. You're not going to see it in the next Olympics. Let's just say it like that. Even though, you probably should. I mean, synchronized swimming is an Olympic sport and there's about 200 people in the entire world that do that.
I still try to keep in shape. I play a lot of racquet sports, but I don't compete. Knowing I'm trying to get back in the swing of things for poker, maybe I'll do that as well.
How do you look back at the entire post-Black Friday period where you were with Full Tilt again only for the company to chose a different direction, eventually letting you go.
It felt good to be back with a team. I've always had a good experience with Full Tilt. Obviously, some things went wrong but it got resolved with PokerStars stepping in. They chose a different path because PokerStars was getting to be such a giant. I didn't think too much about it. You have a business and you make some decisions. Maybe they're wrong ones, maybe they're the right ones, but obviously I would have liked to continue. But that was their decision so I didn't really spend too much time thinking about it.
Do you still ever talk to Erik Sagström? I saw that he won a tournament in Vegas again recently. You were involved with him way back in the day running PokerChamps.
He's a good friend of mine. We've known each other since the early 2000's. We are from the same neck of the woods. He's Swedish, I'm Danish, but we talk in Swedish and we've known each other for so long. He is one of my good friends in gambling.
Obviously, as some people may know, there's a lot of money floating around and one guy owes a little bit to another guy and that guy owes a little bit to this guy. That's not because they're broke but it's convenient. He lives in Vegas, I live in Europe. If I come to Vegas, maybe I borrow some from him. If he comes to Europe, maybe he borrows some from me. Just because it's convenient.
He's a good guy. I trust him completely and I was happy to see him win a tournament because, like me, he hasn't played a lot of poker. He really likes to follow sports, so it was good to see him win another tournament and it's going to be good seeing me win another tournament.