Poker Legends: Gus Hansen
“I’ve raised with cards less attractive than what’s in my toilet after I took a dump in it.”
This quote comes from Gus Hansen, aka “The Great Dane”, and many would agree that it perfectly characterizes his crazy loose-aggressive play style. This wild gambler has a reputation for being impossible to read, making unpredictable plays, and ratcheting up the action at any table he sits down at.
Like many other Poker Legends, his story follows the archetypal meteoric rise followed by an equally dramatic fall. His natural genius and hard work propelled him to the top, making him over $10M in live earnings, a WSOP bracelet-winning champion, and one of the most decorated World Poker Tour (WPT) champions of all time at three wins.
How did Hansen go from rolling in the cash to having to return to a day-job as an accountant? Keep reading for the full scoop.
Rising to the Top
Hansen had every marking of a child prodigy. In addition to having a keen mind for mathematics, he was also a fierce competitor. In fact, he almost became a pro tennis player before an injury sidelined him.
Looking for an alternative outlet, Hansen took up backgammon. After spending a year perfecting his strategy, he was unbeatable. He even started hosting his own tournaments to bring in the best players, but after crushing them over and over again, the games dried up and nobody would challenge him.
When he went to the US to study accounting in university, he found poker. By the end of his first night, he had all his friends’ chips and he was hooked. Determined to improve, he started frequenting a local card room and developing his characteristic “laggy” style.
Once he started winning big, he couldn’t stop. From 2002-2010, he won millions in high-profile poker tournaments while simultaneously crushing the highest stake cash games. He had made it big time.
Flying Too Close to the Sun: The Downfall
During the 2010s, Hansen started getting deep into online poker. Whether it was his loose style, his inability to read people at the table, or a compulsion to gamble bigger, it didn’t end well. By 2015, he had lost $21 million in online poker, the most anyone has ever lost online.
“I think every competitive player has to question himself at some point and ask, ‘has the game surpassed me? Am I rusty? Am I not good enough in this game anymore?’ said Hansen. “I’m asking myself questions, and that keeps me up at night.”
We can only imagine how much it must have hurt to go back to the banalities of an office job after living the lavish and fast lifestyle of a poker high-roller. However, it was good that he took some time to stabilize his finances.
And it looks like Hansen is starting a comeback. He played the WSOP main event in 2019, and he’s been playing small tournaments in his current home of Monaco. We’ll stay tuned to see where the Great Dane goes from here.