But the biggest outlet for Hansen’s ‘crazy gambler’ was the big games in Macau. Hansen found himself in Macau in early January 2012 and almost immediately was involved in some huge games. He says he wasn’t even sure if we was going to play at first, but the action was too much for him to resist. ‘I wasn’t sure I felt like playing that big,’ he says. ‘It was after a period playing less poker than I was used to so I wasn’t sure I was sharp enough. I went there with a limited bankroll and thought I would play a couple of times, and if I wasn’t comfortable playing at that level I would stop. Fortunately, I started off doing quite well.’
Exactly how well he won’t say, but he returned in February for a second session that he covered in his blog in frank detail. ‘When you put your opponent on either a set or a flush-draw and the board pairs on the river AND completes the flush, is it good to call a 4.2mill bet? Once again the answer is probably not! The bad news is I paid 4.2mill to find out – The good news is my opponent was bluffing and I dragged in a 13.5mill pot at the end of the session,’ he blogged.
Hansen has been back for a third and fourth time and seems hungry to return. ‘I’ve been doing well there so I am going back. I don’t know when, but I am going back,’ he says. But even for someone with a seemingly enormous pain threshold when it comes to high-stakes gambling, he says the games are occasionally a bit too big for his tastes. ‘The games are really big. The smallest games I’ve played there have been $1.3k/$2.6k no-limit. And sometimes the game got kicked up to double the blinds with a live straddle. When the initial raise is in the $15k range you have to have a bit of stomach for a game like that.’
‘They did have some games that I didn’t play. I’m not sure I was even invited, but if I was I would have politely declined. They were playing $5k/$10k blinds and that was a little too steep. If you’re playing for too much money, which I have definitely tried in my career, you handcuff yourself a bit. You’re not ready to make the big bluff when you are supposed to and that is an essential and important part of the game.’
There are even some hints of bankroll management from Hansen in his old age. This was the man who was first on the list to sign-up for the $1m buy-in Big One for One Drop. But his name was not on the list as the cap was reached, and he only found his way in via a last minute satellite at the Rio. He had second thoughts about whether to even play in the $25k satellite, before buying in late and obviously winning the whole thing. Sadly he didn’t last too long in the $1m event, going out shoving 10-J into A-K. But it’s unlikely we’ll see him shying away from the super-high rollers in future.
‘I think it’s up to the individual to evaluate if their bankroll can afford them to play $200k tournaments,’ he says. ‘I don’t see anything wrong with it, and on some occasions it brings new people into the poker community and we are always welcoming new players. We saw some players in the One Drop that hadn’t surfaced before so that’s good.’
A little-known high-stakes player surfaced online at the end of the summer. An online account under the name of ‘broksi’ began hitting the high-stakes games on PokerStars and it quickly emerged the man behind the account was none other than Hansen. ‘I felt the discussions [between PokerStars and Full Tilt] were coming along and getting everything back on track. I felt like the time was right for me to start playing again online,’ he says. Sadly it’s not been going too well. According to highstakesdb.com he is down almost $900k at the time of writing. ‘Unfortunately I have been a little rusty, and I need to sharpen the edges a bit,’ Hansen admits. ‘I have been playing at the WSOP, but it is slightly different online and I’ve got to get used to sitting in front of a computer again.’
Of course, there will be those who will say he’s losing because he’s a high-stakes fish. That’s long been a refrain even from those who like the Dane. Phil Galfond was once quoted as saying Gus Hansen was the reason the games ran at high-stakes, while Ziigmund has been even more excoriating in his criticism. It’s something Hansen is aware of, and it would be wrong to say it has no effect on him.
‘It just makes me work harder on my game. If people are saying it is there any chance they’re right? If they’re right then I have to improve my game. Let’s just say I’m fairly certain the critics are wrong, it still makes me want to play even better the next time they are at the table. So I don’t think it’s going to work out good for them.’
But Hansen is the first to admit he doesn’t play straightforward poker and sometimes adopts lines that make little or no sense to observers. ‘I think it’s fair to call it an interesting style,’ he says with a laugh. ‘I have a bit of a strange profile, but I think that is partly because I have such a strange style. I think I am one of the few poker players who has not learned it from the books.’
A new beginning
In fact, Hansen’s start in poker may be one of the oddest in history. He was a successful professional backgammon player when he turned his attention to poker – sitting down in the $300/$600 games, the highest stakes games at the time. ‘You don’t [usually] go from learning the rules to $300/$600 and that is partly the reason for me thinking out of the box,’ he says. ‘Sometimes it is one my flaws. I like to do the opposite of everyone else and sometimes I should just go the straightforward way.’
Does he think this is why some people view him as a fish? ‘You have guys who think I am the best in the world and you have people who think I am the worst player in the world. There is a large range of people who think I am too crazy and too easy to exploit. A lot of the other players are always regarded as the best, but it’s more interesting if you’re seen as a madman or crazy Gus.’
Gus Hansen has always been one of the most interesting characters in poker. His enigmatic and unpredictable style permeates though his poker into his day-to-day life. He’s as likely to be found cycling through the streets of Monaco as sitting in a private room in Macau playing ridiculously high-stakes.
If the image of a wild, party-loving, gambling madman as portrayed in the infamous Fake Gus Hansen Twitter account (see below) are just a parody, they aren’t a million miles from the truth. He’s one of the few pros who ooze charisma and who the public can’t get enough of. And thankfully we’re going to see a lot more of him back where he belongs. At the poker tables.
After a couple of years spent mostly away from poker it’s time for things to change. ‘Poker is coming to the forefront again,’ he says. ‘I have been laying low for a while, but I will be back with a vengeance.’ Welcome back Gus, poker has missed you.