Gus Hansen

Julien Sitbon He was one of poker's first superstars during the global boom in the 2000s. To this day he remains a beast in his own category among the menagerie of pros. Say the name "Gus" at the table, and everyone will immediately know who you're talking about: Gus Hansen, and nobody else! The perfect prototype of a complete player, an outstanding competitor, the inventor of an ultra-aggressive style that has helped turn poker into a real TV show, "The Great Dane" has known it all: the Bobby's Room at the Bellagio, Macau’s private high stakes games, the TV sets of High Stakes Poker and the World Poker Tour, the WSOP bracelet and the biggest online cash-game tables. Since April 2024, it's as a part of the best team in the world - in his words! - that Gus resumes his hunt for trophies.

Ask him today, and Gus Hansen will tell you the same thing he did twenty years ago. Professional player second, gambler first and foremost: that's what the Dane has always been, that's what he'll always be. The years go by and the bankroll fluctuates, as does the frequency of his appearances on the circuit, but the game, all games, remain imprinted in the Copenhagen native's DNA fiber.

Like many before him, it was on the sports fields that Gus honed his competitive instincts. At ease with all types of rackets, he became a gifted tennis player at a very young age. In a parallel universe, if you look hard enough, you'll probably find a Wikipedia entry where the record holder of Grand Slam titles is named Gustav Hansen... But in our own universe, it's in a completely different discipline that Gus first made his name: backgammon.

Immersed as a teenager in the subtleties of this age-old game, Gus developed a host of skills that would prove invaluable to him years later, cards in hand: mastering the art of equity, knowing how to take the right risks at the right time, making decisions under pressure, and managing financial stakes set to grow exponentially... All this, in addition to providing him with a bankroll enabling him to test out another game.

We're in the mid-90s: Gus Hansen has already discovered poker during his first trips to the US. But it was indeed backgammon that would open him the doors to the poker rooms of Las Vegas, via the many “rounders” with a foot in each world with whom he had made friends in the illegal rooms of New York, such as Phil Laak or Huck Seed. "I was sitting behind Huck Seed when he won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1996. It was my first time at the WSOP. There were 301 players entered that year... and I do believe I was eliminated in 301th place!"

Others might have been discouraged, but his friend Huck Seed's victory would serve as inspiration, and not just because he had "staked" him to the tune of 10% of his entry, receiving in return the same proportion of his winnings. It didn't matter that his poker debut was unsuccessful: his income was already comfortably assured by his backgammon prowess.

In retrospect, it seems Gus Hansen was also a wiz with his crystal ball, as he couldn't have chosen a better time to make a splash in an official competition. 1st June 2002: we're at the dawn of a global poker boom. At the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the very first stage of a brand-new televised circuit called the World Poker Tour has just ended with Scotty Nguyen, Freddy Deeb and John Juanda losing to a tall Dane unknown to all, but whose style of play no one could ignore, truly extra-terrestrial for the time: ultra-aggressive and unpredictable, capable of over-raising - and winning - with any starting cards, even the worst, and endowed with the composure of a buddhist monk (and we’re not just saying that because he’s bald!). "What is he doing? It's all luck! He'll burn his wings in no time", sneer many of the established barons of the time in the face of this $550,000 victory.

Except: nine months later, Gus Hansen does it again in Los Angeles, winning a further half-million at Commerce Casino, again in front of the WPT cameras. Then, in January 2004, he wins a third on the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure cruise ship. In less than two years, thanks to a style of play as innovative as it is spectacular, Gus Hansen has become the first player to win three World Poker Tour titles, just as Texas Hold'em is invading televisions and computers the world over. The planets are perfectly aligned: a poker superstar is born.

Gus is now welcomed everywhere. To THE big stable of players at the time, Full Tilt Poker, of which he would become one of the most prominent names. In the Bobby's Room at the Bellagio, to join The Corporation, a group of high-stakes players who pooled their bankrolls to take on billionaire Andy Beal in the biggest cash-game in history. In the ranking of the "50 sexiest men alive" drawn up by American magazine People. And, of course, on the sets of all the most hyped shows, including High Stakes Poker, a cult classic whose heyday included a $500,000 clash between his quads and Daniel Negreanu's full house. Everywhere, his nonchalant air and deadpan humor are a hit. "Not to say that I am a great player or anything, but somebody has to win", he says between two victories.

To those who had dubbed him "the mad man", he responds in 2008 by publishing Every Hand Revealed, a meticulously detailed account of his victory in Melbourne's Aussie Millions: a bestseller translated into ten languages, which would reveal a method, relentless and thoughtful, hidden beneath the man's apparent madness, and serve as a literary precursor to the Inside the Mind of a Pro show. For those who felt the World Series of Poker step was too high for him, he would then be posing with a grin up to his ears in the final photo of the WSOP Europe 2010 heads-up event, World Champion bracelet on his wrist. As for those who shrugged and predicted that his atypical style of play had no chance of being emulated, the emergence of the famous "Scandinavian school", embodied by young guns like Victor "Isildur1" Blom, proved them a hundred times wrong.

Far behind him are the years when Gus Hansen wound’t leave the biggest online cash games, multi-tabling day and night against the best. Not a happy time financially, by his own admission, but, he hastens to add, "if I lost, it's because I'd won the money to afford it". Also on the chopping block is the jet-set lifestyle he was rumored to have enjoyed when he was based in Monaco.

One thing, however, the now family man hasn't lost: his taste for competition. His name continues to appear in the world backgammon rankings, and his gangly figure regularly haunts the high-stakes rooms of Las Vegas. His latest challenge, after accumulating over ten million dollars in winnings on the live poker circuit? That of Team Winamax, which he officially joined in spring of 2024.

Between Gus Hansen and the team of European pros, the attraction was mutual. "This is the best Team right now," he says today of the players coached by Stéphane Matheu, with whom he trained in tennis in Las Vegas twenty years earlier, and to whom he had introduced the world of poker. "I'm looking forward to exchanging ideas with my teammates. And I also think I can bring them something different. I hope to surprise them in the months to come..."

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  •     Live tournament accomplishments

    01/2012 Aussie Millions $250,000 Challenge - Melbourne 3rd (A$800,000)
    05/2011 WSOP Heads-Up Championship - Las Vegas 3rd ($283,966)
    09/2010 WSOP Europe High Roller Heads-up - Londres Winner (£288,409)
    04/2008 World Poker Tour Championship - Bellagio, Las Vegas Runner-up ($1,714,800)
    10/2007 World Poker Tour - Barcelona 5th (€100,600)
    07/2007 World Series of Poker Main Event - Las Vegas 61st ($154,194)
    01/2007 Aussie Millions - Melbourne Winner (A$1,500,000)
    09/2005 European Poker Tour - Barcelona 5th (€78,000)
    03/2005 World Poker Tour Shooting Star - Bay 101, San Jose 3rd ($320,000)
    02/2005 Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament - Caesars Palace, Las Vegas Winner ($1,000,000)
    01/2004 World Poker Tour PCA - Caribbean Winner ($455,780)
    12/2003 World Poker Tour Championship - Bellagio, Las Vegas 3rd ($276,426)
    02/2003 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic - Commerce Casino, Los Angeles Winner ($532,490)
    05/2002 World Poker Tour Five Diamond Classic - Bellagio, Las Vegas Winner ($556,460)


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