High Stakes Heroes: #4 Gus Hansen

High Stakes Poker didn’t know what was about to hit it when the original aggro Scandi Gus Hansen arrived for season two of the show

Between May 2003 and January 2005, Gus Hansen made four WPT final tables and won three titles, becoming the first overseas superstar of the modern poker world and introducing the public to a new, hyper-aggressive style of play. But could he also play cash games? Fans of High Stakes Poker would find out in season two of television’s best ever poker show, when Hansen accepted the invitation to become the first European player around its famous baize.

Hansen quickly carried on around the cash tables what he had started on the tournament scene, apparently disregarding the rulebook about starting hands and getting into a series of huge scraps with the show’s established stars. He played massive pots and played them hard, and good luck putting him on a hand. As Daniel Negreanu will testify, Hansen wasn’t always bluffing…

PokerPlayer: What are your main memories of the show?

Gus Hansen: I remember my hand versus Negreanu because I’ve been asked about that 87 million times. I remember a bad bluff I made, and I remember some bluffs where I wasn’t really telling the right story. So some good things, some bad things, some nice hands, some not so nice hands…

When you were approached to appear on Season 2, had you watched any of Season 1?

Actually, no. But a lot of the players on the show were players that I played on a daily basis. We played the big game at Bellagio and so on. So in that sense it was a familiar line-up. I had played with cameras before so it wasn’t anything awkward for me. So it was just: ‘Put some cash on the table and go from there.’

Did anyone’s game change when the cameras were on?

There were definitely some people who have a tendency to tighten up. Some people tend to not to want to look stupid, so in that sense it changed their decision making a little bit. They were a little bit more nervous, so they’re not going to bluff as much. Maybe they are easier to bluff because once again they’re a little bit nervous. Definitely people can change in front of the cameras. But this was an old-school crowd, basically me and Daniel [Negreanu] and Phil Ivey were the young guys on the show, so in that sense it was people who have been playing high-stakes for a long time. Everybody was comfortable with the cameras. But I wouldn’t refute that some players changed their game a little bit because the TV was there.

Did people change their game to play against you particularly, as an aggressive Scandi?

I think it’s pretty much standard in any game that if you have a player that’s slightly more crazy than the rest, you obviously don’t give him as much credit for having the big hands as you would do some of the other players who haven’t played a hand for two hours. Usually I played more than one hand in two hours. So in that sense, I think its just normal strategy when you’re in a game, or if you’re being observant playing the game. You gotta follow who’s playing what, and who’s doing crazy sh♠t all of the time, and who’s not.

When you came back for Season 6, what had changed?

It was a slightly different line-up than the one I was used to playing on a daily basis. The personas had changed; you threw in some Esfandiaris, some Laaks and whatever they’re called. But apart from that, people had gotten better. I think probably, even though he is very old, the oldest high-stakes player in there, Doyle Brunson, could be playing some of his best poker in 2014 because he is constantly learning, he’s picking up from people. The game has evolved.

What are the games like in Macau? How do they compare to High Stakes Poker?

I haven’t been there for a while, but yes I’ve definitely played in those games. It’s different. The Macau games play bigger: bigger buy-in, bigger blinds, bigger antes. There are a lot more straddles. And there’s a different style. These days you see more min-raises, you see that if the blind is $100 you open to $200, $250, but in Macau there’s more of an old-school kind of style, ‘I’m going to raise everybody out. Make it $500!’ In that sense it’s a different style and obviously if you’re used to taking flops in position for 2.5x, that’s not going to work in Macau because you’re not going to see it for 2.5x. You have to change your strategy, be a little more open to the fact that to see a flop costs money. It’s a different game, different players. It’s just different.

How did you finish at the end of those two sessions on High Stakes Poker – up or down?

I’m going to take my political oath and say, I cannot recall. The only difference between me and the politicians is that I actually cannot recall. I have no idea.

How are things going for you online?

I had a big downtick recently. I’ve been playing all night and that was pretty ugly [Hansen lost $1m the night before this interview].

You’re well known for these big swings. What’s your emotional state like?

It’s a little f♠cked up as we speak. The downward spiral has been going on for a little too long with way too few upticks, so right now I’m contemplating the whole situation, definitely taking a serious break, slowing down, maybe playing smaller stakes. That’s definitely within the realm of possibility.

Do you have any close relationships or friends who can give you good advice?

Yes. Unfortunately, I am somewhat stubborn in certain situations and I haven’t been a good listener. Maybe I should start now. It’s important and it’s very nice [to have someone you trust] but obviously if you don’t listen it’s not going to be much help. Like I said, I have to turn things round and right now you caught me on the wrong foot.

Hansen’s hands from High Stakes Poker!

Hand 1 – quads!
Gus Hansen vs Daniel Negreanu, High Stakes Poker Season Two
Pot size: $575,700

In arguably the most talked about hand of the early seasons of High Stakes Poker, Gus Hansen wins a pot of $575,700 after turning quad Fives against Daniel Negreanu’s flopped set of Sixes. Hansen opens his 5-5 to $2,100, Negreanu three-bets in position to $5,000 and Hansen calls. Both men flop sets on the 9-6-5 board. Hansen check-raises Negreanu’s $8,000 bet to $26,000. Negreanu calls. Hansen then leads $24,000 after making his quads with the 5 turn and Negreanu calls. Hansen then checks the 8 river and check-raises all-in ($167,000) after Negreanu bets $65,000. Negreanu makes a crying call.

When asked about the hand, Negreanu has since said: ‘He maximised his value in that hand by making a completely bad read. I fooled him into thinking I had Aces or Kings.’

What’s your side of the story? What do you make of Negreanu’s analysis?

We have discussed the hand, me and Daniel, and I wouldn’t put it exactly as he did. But definitely from my earlier playing with Daniel, I could see him value betting there. I didn’t exactly put him on Aces or Kings, so I don’t agree with that statement. But I could definitely see that if I checked – against me, who can call as light as any – he would value-bet Aces or Kings because I would probably value-bet hands that had those beat.

Talk us through it from your side.

In retrospect, which I’ve also said before, I did not like the way I played it. I checked, he bet, I check-raised the flop. That’s straightforward. When he called the flop there was something weird. I mean, you’d flopped a set, you’re not too unhappy, but it is bottom set and there is a straight out there. So I was a little unsure of what was going on. [Hansen says at the end of the hand, ‘I wasn’t too happy on the flop.’] Obviously when the turn came, that uncertainty disappeared because I had the nuts and was probably not going to get beat by any hand, let’s put it that way. So now the focus shifted to, ‘Okay, I want to get as much money as possible from him having definitely something.’

I think that my bet on the turn, betting $24,000, is ridiculous. I tend to bet fairly big in general and betting $24,000 after I check-raised to $26,000 on the flop, so there being $65,000 in the pot, is just yucky. The right play for me would be to bet $50,000 on the turn and just shove it in on the river. That would give him absolutely zero per cent chance of getting away from any decent sized hand. And he would have snap-called me if I’d played it like that.

But now, with my little funky bet on the turn, my check on the river, him betting and me check-raising, I feel like I definitely gave him a chance – I’m not saying he should fold, but I definitely gave him a chance of getting away from the hand. Had I played it a little more straightforward, a bigger bet on the turn, shove on the river, he wouldn’t even have thought about it.

Here, he’s like, “Really? Could you really have that?” And he mentions the four hands that I could have that could have him beat. And he mentions my hand. He definitely could have got away from it and I should not have given him that chance.

Hand 2  – triple bogey
Gus Hansen vs Eli Elezra, High Stakes Poker Season Six

Pot size: $209,800

It’s season six of High Stakes Poker, but two veterans of the early shows, who have history in the off-camera Vegas cash games, go at it. Hansen raises preflop with 6-4 and bluffs on all three streets of a K-9-3-3-A board. Eli Elezra check-calls all the way, $9,900 on the flop, $25,500 on the turn and $62,200 on the river, winning $209,800. ‘I will not win this hand,’ Hansen, playing the board, says as Elezra makes his final call.

What do you remember about this one?

This is a straightforward hand. I raise 6-4 suited and Tom Dwan calls, Eli calls. I flop completely nothing, but it’s a discombobulated K-9-3 flop. So what are they going to hit? And if they hit, how much heat are they going to take? So I took a standard stab, which is nothing out of the ordinary.

I think I was losing in this session and probably not level-headed, maybe slightly tilted and not focusing. And I definitely give Eli credit for being able to pick up on that, but firing a second bullet on the turn is still okay. He can have a hand that he’ll want to take one off. It could be that he decided to take one off with a gutshot, with a backdoor flush draw, with a medium pair trying to hit trips or his kicker. So again, you can always argue how can he call with K-8 on the river after my third barrel?

In general I’m representing something that has K-8 completely crushed. But I’m not sure I’m in the state of mind, against Eli Elezra, that I’m able to tell the right story right there. Obviously, when you get caught bluffing, you don’t feel too proud about your play, but definitely I thought after the hand that I really just f♠cked off a lot of money there.

Gabe Kaplan says in commentary that Eli had been seen to fold Kings in previous shows and wonders if you knew that.

I had not seen enough of previous shows to make that assessment, but I had played enough throughout the years with Eli to make the assessment that he should be able to fold. But again my frame of mind was not in the right spot.

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