Gus Hansen was a shareholder of Full Tilt Poker and a sponsored pro and based on years of personal experience he doesn’t believe Howard Lederer or Chris Ferguson acted maliciously in their management of the now defunct online poker room.
In September of 2011 Hansen released a statement saying he was blindsided by what had come to light about the management of FTP leading up to Black Friday.
He was one of the few members of Team Full Tilt to address the situation.
In an interview today with PokerListings.com at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas Hansen reiterated that he had no knowledge of how the business was being run, but added that he would be shocked if Lederer or Ferguson had done anything even resembling foul play.
While Hansen thinks the company suffered from neglectful management he doesn’t believe that Lederer or Ferguson ever acted against the best interests of the company and its customers.
Gus Defends Lederer, Ferguson
In the following interview Hansen discusses the $50,000 Players Championship, the $1 million Big One for One Drop, high-stakes cash games in Macau plus what’s come to light since Black Friday laid waste to Full Tilt Poker more than a year ago.
PokerListings.com: This is the first we’ve seen of you at the WSOP and it’s the $50k Championship. It looks like you’ve got a tough table.
Gus Hansen: Yeah this is Day 2 and obviously almost everyone made it through Day 1 so it’s not that much of a feat to be here.
PL: Better than the alternative, though.
GH: Yes definitely better than the alternative. Better than being one of the three who got knocked out.
But I’d rather have an easy table. From the looks of it, walking around, it looks like the hardest table. There’s Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Matt Glantz, Brian Rast, all very accomplished players.
And even the so-called weaker players at the table aren’t weak at all.
"I don’t think anyone wants to bust in a $1 million tournament."
I’ve been playing tight but I’ve had mostly bad starting hands so it makes sense to play tight. But I’m just humming along and hopefully I’ll get through the day.
Obviously this is one of the more interesting tournaments of the year. I like the fact that it’s multiple games. So you really need to be well-rounded.
PL: What else are you most excited about this summer at the WSOP?
GH: Well, the One Drop is coming up. That’s obviously a bigger buy-in than I’m used to, bigger than most people are used to I think.
And by the looks of it we’re going to hit the cap so we might have 48 players for that event. So I assume six tables of eight.
That’s one of the tournaments where it’s really nice to be there at the final table.
PL: It’s going to be an interesting dynamic with all the businessmen and a lot of the best players in the world. How do you expect it to play?
GH: See I have a very good feeling of how it’s going to be, at least in my mind. But my lawyer told me I shouldn’t reveal my secrets.
No, I’m actually really looking forward to seeing what it’s going to be like. Everyone I’m sure has at least toyed with the idea of how they’re going to play or what kind of play they expect from their opponents.
I have some ideas that I hope pan out because I think that would put me in a good spot for that tournament. But like I said I’m not going to say how and why and when.
But I think that even if these guys aren’t professionals, they’re going to be competitors at some level.
PL: Who do you think will be the most worried about busting?
GH: I don’t think anyone wants to bust in a $1 million tournament.
PL: You’ve played a lot and played really high but do you think there will be times in this tournament that you have a hard time pulling the trigger just because of the amount of money?
GH: I really hope not. We’ve had the $250k buy-in tournament at the Aussie Millions for the last two years which is a big buy-in tournament. This one is just a tad bit bigger, and a bigger field with 48.
Hansen at the 2012 Aussie Millions.
So if you get there in this tournament it’s like winning multiple big tournaments so obviously this is a huge event.
So I do hope I’ll be able to play, not straight-forward, but my usual game. And hopefully that usual game will be sufficient to get me to the final table but we’ll have to see about that.
But if I’ve got the feeling like I have to pull the big trigger then hopefully I’ll do it.
PL: Backtracking a little bit, What’s the last year been like for you?
GH: Yeah, things have been a bit different. I don’t know if everyone knows but I basically haven’t played online in a year. That’s not true I played a little $5/$510 PLO with a friend of mine on the internet. But other than that I haven’t played.
But I have played some really huge cash games in Macau.
PL: What are the games like out there like?
GH: Well, they’re really friendly games. I wrote about it in my blog earlier this year I think, that people here could learn a little bit from the way they act at the table.
So even though they’re businessmen there’s always laughs and smiles and giggles and no cards thrown at the dealer or something that you might see in professional games or tournaments out here.
So in that sense it’s very nice, very nice people.
You have some non-pro players in the game which obviously makes it somewhat easier than sitting and playing with Phil Ivey and Daniel Alaei. But there are also some very accomplished players sitting there too.
Actually in a game I was playing in Macau, this local player just pulled out four or five monster bluffs and everyone was a little shaken up because it came out of nowhere. And some of these guys will be playing in the One Drop.
So some of these guys are able to make moves no matter what kind of situation they’re in which means they’re going to be testing you and putting you to tough decisions. And the more tough decisions you have to make the more chances you’ll make a mistake.
PL: You said you haven’t played online poker in the last year. You were really active on Full Tilt as a player and a member of the Team. What’s your opinion about what’s happened since Black Friday as far as getting money back to players?
GH: Obviously it’s no secret that I was a shareholder of Full Tilt and that I was sponsored by Full Tilt. And it’s no secret that I have a ton of money tied up on the site.
Hansen was a major part of Full Tilt Poker's public image.
It was sort of wham, bam, thank you ma’am for me. It was not only the company where I was a shareholder but also the other things as far as my sponsorship and the money I had on the site.
So in that sense I’m very personally invested in what happens and like everyone else I would love to see a resolution.
There’s rumors about PokerStars stepping in as the sort of white knight and I really hope that goes through because it would mean everyone getting their money back.
It would be nice for me. I will survive without it but I would take the money if everyone else got paid back.
But I’m sad to see everything that’s happened to a company that I was really invested in financially and emotionally, whether it was from neglect or from foul play.
From my point of view it seems like everything was going so well that they weren’t aware of all the dangers that were lurking. I think that’s what happened but I can’t say for sure. I wasn’t in the loop. I wasn’t making day to day decisions.
I was a sponsored player who was on the front on the commercial side but business-wise I don’t know what happened. I don’t know.
There are a lot of lucrative companies out there that would be in trouble if they lost 60 percent of their customers, had their assets frozen and were sued by the US government.
Whether there was some wrong decisions along the way before that happened, that very well be, but what happened on Black Friday was the biggest thing.
PL: A lot of people are pointing to how the company was run before Black Friday, as far as the phantom deposits and the shortfall of player funds. What was the image of how the business was being run for you as a shareholder?
GH: Like I said. I wasn’t in the day to day decisions. As far as I was concerned, though, everything was good and jolly. I was on my usual trip to the Aussie Millions, playing some poker and watching some tennis, and everything was good.
Hansen and Lederer at the 2007 Aussie Millions, when Full Tilt was the sponsor.
Then I went back to Monaco where I live and it seemed like all hell broke loose. From my point of view I thought things were fine. And I think from most people’s point of view everything was fine.
But as far as the phantom deposits and everything else that might have been going on, I don’t know. I wish I knew it all because it’s a company I was involved in but I don’t.
PL: So was it Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson who were on the inside so to speak and everyone else was shielded from what was going on?
GH: Well, it was a company and it had a business structure like any other company. It’s no secret who the CEO was and who was on the board.
I’m more of a poker player than a businessman but I think it’s standard for the CEO and board members to take care of the business interests and it looks to me like because everything had been going so good for so long, people weren’t as careful as they should have been as far as the business went.
PL: Based on what you know from your own experience with Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson, do you believe they would always act in a way that was in the business and the customers’ best interests?
GH: I have known Howard Lederer for a long period of time and I’ve known Chris Ferguson for a long period of time and from my point of view I would be shocked if they ever did anything that even remotely reminded me of foul play.
I think they could be guilty of neglect or not being careful enough but I can’t believe they’d be guilty of foul play. Obviously there’s a chance I’m wrong but I honestly don’t believe so.