Gus Hansen: Yes, I’m back on the poker scene

In the coming months, Gaelle Jaudon will bring us interviews with the biggest international stars of the poker circuit. Her first interview for Somuchpoker: Gus Hansen who discusses his goals as player, online poker, WSOP and the poker world in general.

Gus Hansen & Gaelle Jaudon

Somuchpoker : We haven’t seen you on the circuit for a long time, and this year we saw you at the celebrity cash game in Kings casino and at Pokerstars Championship in Monaco, can we say you’re back ?

Yes you can say I’m back on the poker scene. But let’s put it that way; if I win this year’s WSOP Main Event then you can definitely say I’m back! I’ve been doing some other stuff the last couples of years, I played very little poker. I played like 1 tournament in the last 2 years; I stopped in Vegas during the WSOP but I just played some cash game. Like I said I’ve been involved on other projects but this year I’m going to play much more and even some tournaments. I was maybe a little tired before but now I’m hungry of poker. I’m looking forward to spend 2 months in Vegas this year, as I was looking forward for the Championship in Monaco. Kings Casino cash game was also a great experience so yeah you can say I’m back !

SMP : What will be your schedule in Vegas ? Will you play many WSOP events ?

I’m not going to play a lot of tournaments, that’s never going to happen. There is a very decent chance I would play the 50K player championship, the main event, and if I feel good and I have a good start in the summer I could play more tournaments.

SMP : We saw you playing every night in Monaco, on which games did you play at? Do you only focused on cash game?

I mainly focus on cash games, it’s true. I was thinking of playing the 100K high roller, but didn’t. I was thinking of playing the main event, but haven’t, so… I just played cash games. I enjoy it more because you can create your own schedule. I had some friends there so I spent time with them, which is more complicated when you play a tournament. It’s easier for me to stick at cash game and play when I want to.

SMP : And how was your trip in Monaco?

Oh… Day one very bad, day 2 just bad, other days pretty good so at the end I can say I just had enough to buy a ridiculously expensive coke and sandwich at the casino, I’m basically even for the trip.

SMP : Which games do you choose to focus more on?

Right now I’m really intrigued about my worst game, which is pot limit Omaha. I think it’s a very interesting game. Most of the main events are no-limit holdem, which is a good tournament game, but for cash games I personally prefer pot limit, even if I’m not really good at it. Hopefully I can learn to become a much better player.

SMP : And why did you choose to play so much at pot limit Omaha online, at high stakes limits the past years ?

The last 6 months I played a fair amount of cash games at pot limit Omaha online, but at super small stakes, especially because I had some funky ideas and interesting theories I wanted to try without losing another million online like I did in the past.

SMP : When we lose so much online, how is it possible to recover and go back playing ?

Well the only good thing to say about me honestly is that I had the money to play, and lose. It came from somewhere, tournament winnings, cash game, other stuff etc. So in that sense obviously when I look back at it, I see it wasn’t the smartest move I made in my career but I can’t change that now. I can be a little smarter and change the way I handle things, I play online now but at stakes I can win or lose a couple of thousands, not more. I try to focus more now when I play online on the game itself instead of the money involved. When I play live I ‘m not going to play in 2/5 obviously but I can easily do it at home, to study and analyze more the hands I play.

SMP : What are your other projects besides poker?

Because people know you, obviously in the poker circuit, sometimes different proposals and business ideas comes up and I’m always willing to listen so I’m involved in some other businesses. I’ve been involved in a music business in Denmark but… I have to say it went probably as bad as my online poker career! There are some ups and downs but I like poker, I like sports but I’m not limited to that. I’m a very big fan of sports, I did sports also myself a lot, and I’m working with some very high level sports pros in a coaching manner, it’s very interesting. I always have different ideas and interests in general, even if poker and sports are my 2 main areas.

SMP : What about backgammon ? You were playing a lot in the past.

I started my career as a backgammon player, and now I just play very little. The currently number one ranked player is a friend of mine, from Israel, we all call him “Falafel” and we kind set up a challenge and I’ll play him in Vegas. I’m more a recreational player now.

Gus playing Backgammon
Gus playing Backgammon

SMP : I heard a funny story that a few years ago you chose not to go play on day 2 on the Monaco  high roller because you were playing a very juicy backgammon HU.

Oh yeah that was more than a few years ago, that was more like 10 years ago. I was day 2 on the 25K and I was short stack. I was playing high stakes backgammon in a hotel room before the tournament and I decided it was better to stick around there rather than going to play with my small stack. That story is totally true yeah.

SMP : Where do you live today most of the time?

I’m a resident of Monaco for 14 years now and I still enjoy life here. At some point in time I’ll move back to Denmark. I thought about it last year when I was involved in that Danish musical project, but as I said it didn’t go very well. Right now I feel that it’s going to be poker I’m focusing on, at least this year, and I’m going to stay in Monaco and spend some time in Vegas and in Denmark to see friends and family.

The City of Monaco, French Riviera

SMP : If you can make some changes in the choices that you made in the past, would you change anything ?

I think it’s hard to ask that question to anyone and hear that they wouldn’t change anything. If they do, I really think they would lie. We all make mistakes, I have made countless mistakes in my life and obviously, as we are talking about the poker world, I’ve lost many times focusing on the wrong things. Among one of them is online poker, and I have also other regrets but that’s ok, hopefully you move one and take it as a lesson on things you shouldn’t do in the future. Definitely, concerning the online poker, I would like to have handled it in a different way because that was very… let’s just say bad !

SMP : What motivates you to come back to the poker life ? Do you still love the game as much as you used to ?

I’m a games player, and I’ve always been a games player. I like poker, backgammon, I play a fair amount of bridge today, I like to play chess, even if I suck, I like the go, the Japanese game. I’ve always been a competitor in everything. I like to do sports in a competitive level too, even for an old guy like me so… I’ve always enjoyed competing against each other, analyzing and training to get better, so I’m always going to be around in some kind of gambling and competitive worlds. Obviously I’ve always been better in poker and backgammon than at any other games so it seems a good area for me to spend some time. I like it, and contrary to my online career I’m also trying to win !

SMP : You’ve been in poker for a while. Would you say that poker today is less original, less fun than it used to be ? In general, players of the younger generation all have the same kind of story, the same way to learn, are much more disciplined etc.. we don’t really meet the crazy personalities now than we used to before.

One thing that you just said; “they all have the same stories”, is, obviously by generalizing, a true thing. I tend to agree with that. What I really like with people is the story telling part.  If you don’t have a story to tell then you might go to sleep ! I definitely think that some of the olds school boys, weather its’ Doyle Brunson, Mike Matusow, or even Phil Hellmuth, even if I’m definitely not a fan, at least he tells us a good story. To me the story part is a big part of the poker world and I miss a little bit of that. You don’t have to be polished around the ages, you can create a little story, we don’t have to be all in the same category; I think the poker world wouldn’t mind a rivalry like Raphael Nadal and Roger Federer ! Some stories to tell…

SMP : How different would you say are you now from 10 or 15 years ago ? Did poker change you?

Gus Hansen – Photo Cardplayer

Oh definitely, and not always in a positive way. I admit that the first thing that comes to my mind is that poker is a world where everybody is for themselves… I definitely became more selfish than I was 15 years ago. The only good thing about that now is that I am aware of it. You will, no matter what the environment that you are, change because of poker. Hopefully it’s not as bad as others poker players that I know but it will change you whatever area you work. It also has a lot of upsides for me. I have been my own boss for 25 years, which I have time to enjoy a lot ! I think the fact that I’m doing my own things has given me the freedom and time to think about all the crazy stuff I lived. I have a little bit of a strange mind you know, you can see that, and if I’ve been in a more normal environment, with an 8 to 4 job, I would never have done all those things. Obviously there are ups and downs but I have met many people in the poker world who will always put themselves first. I explain: if I ask you who’s on your top spot in life, you’ll say yourself, and I’ll say the same about me, and I think that’s ok. But I met people in poker who will say that the first 20 spots belong to themselves, and I think that’s really sad. I think it’s ok to look after yourself, but you’re not the only person here, you can always be nice to people. Maybe my answer is little bit too negative, but I’m just being honest.

SMP : And would you say you’re happier today than 10 years ago ?

Oh that’s a tough question… I like it because I think that’s probably the most important question in life, are you happy ? I think I’m pretty lucky in that regard. Most people should create their own kind of happiness, it has always a different meaning for you that it has to me but yes, I think in general I can say I’m smiling !

SMP : Are you not tired that people and journalists in particular always ask you questions about your past ? I think it should happen a lot.

No.. Not really… I understand that you, as a journalist, and your readers, have some questions about that period, I’m totally fine with that. I’m not Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo and I don’t take myself as a star.  Most people I meet in poker are really nice, they like to shake hands, take photos sometimes, and once in a while a journalist wants to make an interview, that’s totally ok.

SMP : How do you see the future of the poker industry ?

I think it’s important for poker, and sorry for saying this, that Pokerstars doesn’t have the monopoly. Many people think they’re going overboard, with rake for tournaments or online … To me poker is to stay, anybody can love poker, and anybody can beat the best player in the world in one hand. In the long run the best player is going to win but what I mean is that there is space for anybody. People always liked to gamble, its’ one of the oldest things in the world. Poker is a game that everybody can play, watch on TV, or even play a tournament with people you saw on TV, so in that sense poker is here so stay. I think it’s a little bit dangerous if one entity only, a business entity, runs the entire industry. I know the previous owners, and now it seems more to be a business only company. I think fewer and fewer people are attending Pokerstars events, and it’s good for no one. It’s never good in general if one entity has the monopoly.

SMP : And talking about the game itself, we know that the players are way better today, do you think we’re going to reach a maximum level soon ?

Oh no I think the best player today… he or she plays like shit ! Perfect is a level we’re never going to reach in anything. No one will ever reach the top, and that’s why we always can strive for more. I think poker players today are obviously extremely good compared to what it was 10 and 15 years ago, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone, but there is a lot of improvement for everybody. When I hear sometimes players saying they’re happy because they didn’t make any mistake on the tournament they played, I just laugh. No one is able to play 5 hands in a row absolutely perfectly, that’s just facts. The level has increased tremendously, but I also think the average amateur is way better too, so the game in general is much tougher but also way more interesting. In that sense, if you have a competitive and curious nature, it’s a very fun game. Wether you play for nickels or diamonds, or who’s going to make the dishes, everybody can enjoy that game.

SMP : A few months ago you’ve been involved in small fight with Daniel Cates in an online chat, and you made fun of him saying you could “Help him to get laid”. How is your relationship with him today?

The chat between Gus Hansen & Daniel Cates
The chat between Gus Hansen & Daniel Cates

The funniest thing about that conversation was I really didn’t know it was Daniel Cates. I should have, but I didn’t, because I don’t know well what people’s online names are. I was being a little rude I know, and I didn’t know who this guy was and the comments I made actually really hit the spot. I I had known it was him then the chat would have been a bit different. Now when I look back at it I think it’s actually kind of funny. I have no problem with Daniel, he’s…. definitely, let’s call him a character ! Socially he behaves in a funky way, but I’m fine with him. We’re not best buddies, and we’ll never be, but I know him for a while now and I think he’s fine with me too. 

SMP : Who are the best people you met in the poker world ?

I will say that most of the players I know are from Denmark too. I feel closer in general with some of my Danish poker buddies. I’m travelling sometimes with them but I don’t see myself doing it with some of the American players I know. I mean I’m good friends with Jason Mercier for example, I think we have the same sense of humor, but we never went out drinking together. It depends on the situation, but I mostly hang out with my Danish friends.

Interview by Gaelle Jaudon

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Gaelle Jaudon

Travelling and working in the poker industry for 8 years, Gaelle is working on a regular basis for different poker media in Europe and the US such as for the live reporting, club poker radio where she does live interview of poker personalities, somuchpoker and also as a freelance event manager for the WPT. Originally from Paris, she has a master degree in journalism and marketing.

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