As Poker Goes Hollywood Hansen is Seen as Icon
By Ron Harrahs
In People magazine’s December 2004 issue, Gus Hansen was voted one of the 50 sexiest men alive. He was in good company with the likes of Jude Law, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Jimmy Smits, Donald Trump, Blair Underwood, and Bruce Willis, to name a few.
What does he think of such recognition? Gus smiled, shrugged nonchalantly, and said, “It is pretty cool, but it’s not a life-changing event. I’m still little ol’ me. Sometimes things that happen are random coincidences with effort and skill involved in the mix. It’s all good.”
Gus is easy-going, comfortable with himself, charming, a total flirt, philosophical about life, and, mostly, easy to like. He’s fun; he smiles easily and has no pretenses.
In 1993, Gus moved from his native land, Copenhagen, Denmark, to Santa Cruz, California, where he lived for a few years. “I started playing poker in Santa Cruz. I saw one guy who always seemed to be winning. He helped me out a little. He was a good player for the game that was there, and he did funky, unconventional things. I said to myself, if he can do it, why can’t I?
“I have always liked to try out new things and test the waters. Maybe it is ridiculous, but I don’t like to exclude anything from my game plan. Every option is an option. Nothing is off-limits. Sometimes I would try something and then overdo it. So, in Santa Cruz, when I would overdo it and show some garbage hand, it became known as a ‘Gus.’ When someone would win with a funky hand, he would turn it over and say, ‘I have a Gus.’”
Learning to Play Poker
“I learned poker the same way I learned backgammon, by experience. I didn’t do much reading. I read one book when I started out, Hold’em for Beginners by David Sklansky. I played alot on the internet. The internet is a great place to learn how to play."
“In general, I think it’s best to learn by looking at your own mistakes. A very good way to do it is to analyze with other people. It’s interesting to get other people’s opinions. I think it’s very difficult to honestly analyze a situation correctly and think about your own mistakes. Sometimes at the moment it’s difficult to make the correct decision. That’s why it’s important to sit calmly afterward and come up with the right answer. Then, you will know the next time a similar situation comes up. I analyze mostly with myself and sometimes with Howard Lederer. We go to the gym and work out our bodies and minds at the same time.”
Fame and Fortune
Gustav Hansen’s fame can be directly linked to the World Poker Tour’s (WPT) televised events. However, his fortune can be linked only to his skill, combined with his unpredictable play and mathematical ability.
It all started when Gus was 28 years old. He entered the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic in May of 2002 at Bellagio in Las Vegas, along with 146 other hopefuls. That was the premiere event of the WPT. With a prize pool of $1,416,200, it was an exciting event, with the winner taking home more than half a million dollars.
After the first day of play, Gus was in 10th place with $56,150. After the second and third day, he was in fourth place with $158,000 and $313,700, respectively. He was the leader after the fourth day with more than $1 million.
Gus held on to his lead, and won the title, the trophy, and $556,480. People said he was lucky then and continue to say he’s lucky now, even though statistics prove that he has one of the best tournament records of anyone.
“He’s Just Lucky”
“One thing I think is funny is the fact that people attribute my success to luck. I have been very successful in tournaments over the last couple of years, yet I am the only one with whom the work luck is associated. Perhaps some of the things I do aren’t that bad after all. Everybody can see when somebody gets lucky in a hand, but what is not so readily apparent is that a good understanding of the structure of the game creates its own “luck.” In my forthcoming book, I will reveal and analyze the hidden structure that I believe only a few players are aware of.
“I am definitely more aggressive than most players, but I also have a different philosophy about my game. My outlook is a little more from a mathematical perspective. Other players rely too much on their instincts and reading abilities. Sometimes they allow that to overshadow the mathematical truth. Usually, I let the math do its thing. Sometimes, people put too much into their reads, and ante off all of their chips and then suddenly have no chips at all.
“On TV, they show something I did that was unconventional, making it look like I always play like a wild man. But part of my success is that people always know I will call. Suddenly, I get a free ride because people won’t bet, knowing there’s a good chance I’ll raise. One moment I’m on a total bluff, and the next moment I am playing a mathematical game; I think that makes it very hard for my opponents to read me.”
In six WPT tournaments, Gus has won a whopping $1,830,876; yet, people are still saying he’s just lucky! Actually, there’s a method to his ostensible madness. It’s just not readily apparent!
Girls, Girls, Girls
Gus loves girls, and with his Danish charm and piercing eyes, girls seem to be crazy about him, too. Steve Lipscomb noticed that on the WPT set, girls in the audience were staring, flirting, and falling all over him. He’s just so easy to be around — fun, articulate, and playful. I asked him how he became so amazingly articulate, since his native tongue is Danish. He explained that when he was young, he listened to Pink Floyd and knew all the lyrics, so his pronunciation of words was natural and easy. He is philosophical, and expressing himself comes easy to him.
I asked Gus about his love life. He is 30, and free and single. “I am a very individual person. I like gambling. I love what I do and I love the fact that I don’t have to answer to anyone. It sounds egotistical, but if I have to choose between you and me, it’s me, baby. As far as my situation is concerned right now, this way of life gives me a lot of freedom — no girlfriend, no ties, and I’m not looking. I like to hang out and have fun. I like my independence. I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep.”
His Best and Worst
“I think my greatest weakness is probably that I am very curious. I’m trying to improve that aspect of my game, and it’s probably true that curiosity killed the cat. Sometimes, I’m too stubborn. I become a little too curious and make some bad calls.” That reminded me of the bad poker joke about the player who always went home broke, but never curious!
Why Gus is a Winner
“I think I am very good at adjusting to the situation at hand. A lot of people have one game style; they tend not to adjust at all. I am fairly good at switching from one situation to one with other parameters, but sometimes I overdo it. If I have a plan that works, it usually can have a great impact on my tournament result; if I try something and I’m wrong, everyone talks about it. I think it’s right to try out new things. Most people have rules. It’s OK to do one thing but not another. In my game, every option is an option. I’m not saying that style would work for other people, but it suits me.”
In the final analysis, statistics speak for themselves. In the last two years alone, Gustav Hansen has won almost $2 million in WPT events alone, to say nothing of his many other wins. He is a young, fierce winner who has only just begun demolishing opponents at the poker table.
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