No Hou-Haa Here!: Jesper Hougaard Interview

So Jesper, what actually is your background?

When I was 10 I moved to England with my father and he got a job working for NATO and [we] lived there for four years. I went to an English grammar school so my English is pretty good. It used to be great, but it's not so good now!

And what did you do before poker?

I played and coached professional table tennis in Denmark for the national team for quite a few years. When poker took over I kinda got more interested in that; it [started to take] up most of my time and I gave up table tennis after that.

At the start of the heads-up, you were being battered by Cody [Slaubaugh], and then after the break you came back and seized the initiative. What changed?

Believe or not, when you really reflect back on some of these things, I've been in this situation before in table tennis, having to regroup ... And during the heads-up I was in bad bad shape, and we had a big swing in momentum. Basically what I did was something I used to do in table tennis, was regroup, prepare yourself, think about it like it's a new match - these mental exercises of preparing myself really helped me out.

How helpful was the timing of that dinner break for you?

Absolutely, I had to insist on the dinner break, because I felt things were really changing and it was going so quickly. We already talked about having one during levels 6 and 7 [of the final table and] about having one after Level 8, and the break came just in time for me. I don't know what else I would've done; maybe I would've stalled, left the table and got anted off, because I really needed to gather my thoughts. Chips were flying in the wrong direction for me.

Danny Wong
Glad to have position on Danny Wong.

Was it tough having had a 7-1 chip lead going into the heads-up and what did you do to recover?

I felt I played such a good final table and was in control; the only person with chips that could hurt me was Cody, and he stayed out of my way and I pretty much cruised to the heads-up. Once I started losing the chip lead I felt I started losing my grip on the match, I went out to dinner with a load of friends. I phoned my brother back home; I tried to phone my girlfriend but I think she [had fallen] asleep.

I spoke to some people back home, just to talk people about stuff other than poker. When there was 15 minutes left, I put on my earphones and listened to "Eye of the Tiger" and shadow-boxed my way back down to the arena.

How did the rest of the final table go for you?

Well first of all, I hit the flops pretty well, and flopped a straight; I flopped a flush; I did make some bluffs. I made one sick bluff on Danny where he bets all three streets and I raise him on the river. I had a missed straight draw, I had eight-high, and apparently he folded a rivered straight because the flush was completed, which was what I was representing. That was my only big bluff, other than that I had the hands.

Did you target specific players on the final?

I thought there were two, three, four weak spots at the table who I could bully and then just stay out of the way of the other big stacks until it was five-handed when I had position on Danny, which was great as he was the only other guy who wanted to see flops, and he was out of position against me all the time, which gave me a huge advantage.

What did you think of Cody Slaubaugh on the final table?

Kinda weak, to be honest. I'd seen him play on the other tables yesterday and he'd played really well there, occasional mistakes but it's better to be too aggressive than too passive in my opinion. Today I thought he played pretty weak [passive], but I think that was just a strategy; he wanted to stay out of my way and it worked and he almost took it away from me at the end. But overall he played a good final table.

So how did you start in poker?

There's a lot of table tennis players that play poker, because it's great competition. I started when Gus Hansen started winning the WPTs, poker exploded in Denmark - we saw this guy who basically became a household name overnight. We started playing at school, just small games, and if you won $20, $30, $40 in a night, that was huge! I began to just play online and took to it pretty quickly.

How long have you been here in the WSOP?

I've been out here for a long time, I've cashed twice, came close to two final tables, took a bad beat in the Omaha to go out 27th and then lost a big race in the NL shoot-out for most of the chips in play where I would've made the final table.

Finally, what are your goals for the rest of the series?

I don't know, overtake Doyle Brunson and win 10 more bracelets? My goal is to just enjoy my life, I have a great family, a great girlfriend, so yeah, just to enjoy my life.

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