Gus Hansen: “I’m Asking Questions and That Keeps Me Up at Night”

It's no secret Gus Hansen has been on the short end of some very big online poker sessions over the past few months.

In fact, Hansen says, he's gone from being the biggest Omaha Hi-Lo winner online to the biggest loser in just six months - down millions this year alone.

Taking a break from the huge online swings for some less daunting stakes at FTP Galway, Hansen graciously took some time to talk with PokerListings Italy's Giovanni Angioni.

Among the topics was, of course, his latest downswing but Gus weighed in on everything from the newest FTP ambassadors to the good and bad of overlays to his pick for the WSOP Main Event to the end of privacy in poker.

As always Hansen proves himself candid, thoughtful and refreshing. How was the Main Event (UKIPT Galway)?

Gus Hansen: BAD! I got knocked out early. I thought I had a good idea about my opponent, he seemed he was going to be very aggressive and I made a big call on the river that obviously now I know I shouldn’t have made.

Let’s say it was short and painless. But it’s ok. There will be other Main Events.

PL: You've been playing pretty much everything here in Galway. And seeing you at a €40 buy in tournament was unusual. How did people react paying €40 to play and then discover that Gus Hansen is sitting next to them?

When Gus drops in on your €40 tourney.

GH: I have been here in Galway for two weeks and I played €40, €140, the €1k heads up event and so on. I think the response has been pretty good. People have enjoyed it.

Players in the €40 were like “I just want to get knocked out by Gus Hansen!” And I think everybody has been happy about the hall. It’s a great setup.

PL: Yeah, how about that? How did you like the setup?

GH: For me it has been very positive, I think the response has been very positive. In most poker tournaments they try to cram as many poker tables as they can in leaving no room for anything else.

Here they have actually taken the time and effort to build up a social room where people can hang out, play a game of pool, get a drink at the bar.

Gus' Galway companion.

PL: … play Pac-Man …

GH: Yeah, Pac-Man too. So, in that sense I think they have done a good job. They also had a bridge tournament and I happen to enjoy playing bridge, so I have enjoyed it.

Everybody that I talked to has been really positive about it.

PL: Casinos usually have two rules: no pictures and no daylight. Here we're breaking them both at the same time.

GH: I like playing while seeing outside, it makes you feel like you're not a complete vampire. The only thing that is annoying here is that sometimes the light from outside gives a glare on the PacMan machine.

I feel that for the first time they gave a little thought to the fact that people are not going to play poker all the time – so you actually have other things to do.

PL: Today while discussing the Main Event we talked about something like a 250K overlay, which is happening right after the big ISPT overlay – how’s that for poker? Is it good because it gives more value to players or is it bad because it makes it harder to organize tournaments for those without money to burn in them?

GH: It’s obviously good for the players. Let’s take it from the basics. You have a 10K guarantee and there is only 2 players playing for 1K each: sounds like a pretty good situation, doesn’t it?

Here it's not on the same level, but if you get – being reasonable – 750-800 players, then having a million guaranteed is obviously good for all the players. Yet, being realistic, if you're a sponsor you put a guarantee because that's a goal you hope to obtain.

So, you won’t keep doing it if every time you end up putting an extra 200K here and there. You have also a business to run.

PL: So, wait – is it good or bad to have an overlay?

GH: I think it's good to have an overlay every once in a while, especially when you have a tournament where it’s not a fake guarantee.

You know, lots of times you will have a $1m guarantee in low buy-in events … but for online ones with thousands of players.

Big overlay and local hat doesn't hurt the goodwill.

There you could guarantee even $3 million and it wouldn't matter as we all know it’s going to go well beyond that. Here they were trying to get a thousand players and they didn’t succeed.

Players get a little bit back now and I think it’s good every once in a while to have that.

PL: Bringing FTP back is hell of a challenge. PokerStars bought it, fine. But that’s not enough to bring back all the players and the trust necessarily. You need something to attract people so, if you can afford it, a $250K overlay is going to work like a charm … isn’t it?.

GH: Like I said, I don’t think it’s bad. Full Tilt, with the help of local people, put on a good show. This setup creates some good will – which does not hurt anyone and especially does not hurt Full Tilt Poker, given the things that happened in the past.

I like to think I am on a  “New Full Tilt” now, but nonetheless people still remember the Black Friday. So, yes, this formula has been a success in this sense.

PL: Ok, moving on to something else. A short time ago Ben Sulsky kind of complained about people not trying out new games and sticking too much to the ones they're good at. Now, seeing that you like playing pretty much anything, what do you think about that?

GH: I think people can do what ever they want to do – so, if they only want to play NLHE, that’s fine for me.

You know, there's a reason why Phil Ivey is recognized as the overall best player in poker: he plays all the games. He's ready to play all the games and he's ready to challenge pretty much everybody in all the games.

I like to play all the games but I am not as successful as Phil.

I can can understand Ben’s frustration though. He’s a really nice guy for what I know. And I can see he is frustrated because the only guys he can play are some guys who are only playing one game.

And I understand them as well: if they're successful at one game, why should they go for losing a lot of money trying to learn another game?!

PL: Back in the day FTP was the room of the big-name pros. (New FTP ambassadors) Martins Adeniya, Sin Melin, Dermot Blain, Ben Jenkins are all great guys – but they're not the names FTP would have selected for its team years ago. So, what happened? Did FTP's position in the market change for good?

GH: I don’t know if this changes the room’s position as we still have some big names. I actually like it now – I knew Martins before but I just met Sin, Dermot and Ben and they are all super nice guys.

New ambassadors like Adeniya great for grassroots game

It’s a little more on the grassroots obviously, but also the UKIPT itself is a small event – they don’t have a 100K high roller and their main event is not a 10K one.

I think it’s nice to show that you don’t have to play 100K buy in events to become a pro. In poker you can be a pro at the WSOP, at the big high rollers, you can be professional at the UKIPT level or even in your local 2/5 games.

From the two weeks I have spent here, I can tell you that I think they picked some very good Ambassadors. They found a good fit to show that people can also be a professional at the UKIPT level.

It’s a good way to show that you don’t have to be Viktor Blom who suddenly wins 5 million playing online in three months to get yourself a name. It’s good.

PL: The GPI-Hendon Mob deal – what's your take on that? Is it the end of privacy?

GH: I think I lost my privacy as a player a long, long time ago – so this won’t change too much for me.

Every time I win or lose on the Internet -- unfortunately lately I am mostly losing as I can’t remember my last winning session -- everyone knows everything.

I think there can be pros and cons. But, hey, it’s also 2013 and I don’t know anyone in this village without a digital device.

Think about this: we were out drinking the other night with the Ambassadors and Hana Soljan.

I couldn’t remember the last part of the night and the next day I saw on Facebook that I had my shirt off and I was doing push ups. That’s a new world.

It’s not 1812 or 1955 anymore. It’s a different world and loss of privacy when you find yourself in a public place is normal.

PL: Normal, fine. But how about if you have to choose between good or bad?

GH: I think there's not a single poker player in the world who should not be thankful that poker has grown to what it is today.

It can be a hobby, a profession, a game that has gotten so popular that you can actually play for a living at small, mid, high, super-high levels.

Gus Hansen
Online swings take their toll.

For that, if you're trying to make it as a pro, somebody is going to watch over your shoulders and see how you're doing.

That’s part of the deal. You can’t be surprised afterwards.

PL: Let’s also talk about your online swings now. How do you even manage to go to sleep after your games? First you win millions, then you lose millions … and those numbers, man! – they are crazy.

GH: I sleep better after a big win than after a big loss, I think that’s no secret. But yes, I've been doing a lot of losing lately and I've been frustrated.

I feel like I am missing something. Maybe I'm outdated. I used to be the biggest winner on Omaha HiLo while in the last six months I'm the biggest loser on Omaha HiLo.

So, I wonder: what happened in the mean time? I know I haven’t been running good but, at the same time, I don’t think I have been running THAT bad.

I am kind of questioning myself. 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?'

I'm asking myself questions and that keeps me up at night. Especially when I go on a big losing streak as I am.

But then I've been gambling for 20 years. I've lost everything I had, I won a lot back and then I lost what I had again.

I'm doing pretty well even though my online results are indicating that I am not doing too well. I have other venues I play.

Like Ben Sulsky, I play all the games. If you get me a high-stakes backgammon player, I will play. If you give me an Open Face Chinese player – I will play.

If you give me a high-stakes poker game, chances are that I am going to play. I have different avenues to walk down. Sometimes I lose on the carousels but then I win on another round.

I'm kind of used to the big swings. Of course it’s more fun to win than to lose but then it’s kind of part of what I do.

PL: Let’s close it with a pick for the WSOP. Who’s your guy?

JC Tran
C'mon Gus. You know me.

GH: Oh. I wish I had one. To be honest, this is not meant to say I am a badass or anything, but I don’t know who is at the final table.

PL: Really?

GH: Yeah. But at least it’s not like Phil Ivey, sitting next to the Main Event winner and not even knowing who he is.

I don’t know who is at the final table so I can’t really give you a name … Oh! NO! Wait!

Of course I know one. To me he always seems like a very accomplished player and a nice guy. So ...

PL: The name?

GH: JC Tran, he’s who I mean. He would be a good choice.

He's been at final tables before. He has won tournaments before.

This is the big one but he has been there before and that will give him an advantage. He is definitely a solid choice.

PL: What’s your next stop, Barcelona?

GH: There are some talks of going back to Vegas after this. Maybe Macau. I would like to show up in Barcelona but things can change.

PL Macau-wise. If we would build a copy of it in Europe and name it “Eurovegas” would you see yourself playing there?

GH: Obviously it’s more natural for me to be in Europe than to be in Macau. But to me, when I am in a casino, I am in a casino. It always depends on who the players are.

Definitely not all bad for Hansen these days.

Right now the games in Macau have been good to me so I'm going to pursue the Macau games. I've been running good.

I've definitely won more than I should. But I also think I have been losing more than I should on the Internet.

Right now I like the Macau games. Maybe things can change and we will have some beautiful games in EuroVegas if this ever happens. So we’ll see.

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