It's not easy being Gus Hansen, poker player, these days.
Deep in the throes of a $17m downswing online, moments of respite on and off the felt - including non-poker things like opening a new squash center in Copenhagen last week - have been few and far between.
A signs-of-life upswing last week was met by a return to the doldrums over the weekend and, according to Hansen, the stress of it all is beginning to take its toll - even on a gambler like himself.
Hansen Down $17m Online
As he told PokerListings on Day 1a of EPT Vienna yesterday, if things don't turn around soon it may mean the beginning of a big change to his poker life.
PokerListings: Which national football team are you rooting for this summer, who do you think will win the World Cup?
Gus Hansen: I will root for the team I’m betting on.
PL: Which is?
GH: Good question, as I haven’t made a bet yet. I guess Brazil has the home advantage, so they will be tough to beat, even if they are not as good as some of the other squads.
"I don’t know much about Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker, but it looks like I should learn more."
I think the Spanish players are starting to get old, although they are still one of the best teams. And Germany might have enough fire power to go deep. With Bayern Munich, they now probably have the best team in the world, and obviously there are some German players on that team.
PL: Do you use tracking software when you play online?
GH: No, but it seems like I should. I don’t know much about Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker, but it looks like I should learn more.
PL: What’s your opinion on the shot clock for tournaments? How much time should you have?
GH: All in all, I think it is good. I played the high roller event in Prague, where we had a shot clock, and there was one guy at the table who would stall the game at every single decision pre-flop. Literally every decision.
This seemed to rub off on the other players, so they played slower, too. It was very frustrating.
Usually, I would never call the clock on someone who has to make a big decision. If you bet on the river, and I check-raise big, I don’t mind if you take 20 minutes to make a decision that can cost you your life.
But if you do it all the time, it’s bad for the game. The shot clock would speed up the game, which would be good for the action, good for TV.
Back in the days when I played a lot of Backgammon, we used to play with a shot clock, too.
I think you should have about 30 to 60 seconds, whichever the organizers decide. But when there is a set time, you should stick with it. There should be no extra buttons and time-outs and so on. That would only make things more complicated.
PL: Playing high-stakes takes extreme mental strength, especially when things are going badly. Tell us what the experience has been like over the last while and how you're able to stay positive and keep playing.
GH: Well, right now, I’m not very fucking positive, I can tell you that! I mean, I had another big losing session last night, so I need sleep and exercise.
Actually, I’ve been on a long losing streak, so I have to look away from the results and look at how I’m handling myself and how I play. I have to dig deep and find a way to get back on top of things.
This might include even a longer break from poker just to clear my head.
"I probably have just about the worst game selection in the world."
PL: You told us in an interview in Galway you were second-guessing yourself and your game a bit more. Is that still the case/even more now?
GH: I’m definitely second guessing myself. I had a very successful week only one week ago, followed by a really bad week.
I need to find a way to figure out whether second guessing is actually part of the problem or not. I definitely need to take action.
PL: A lot of people are saying your biggest obstacle is clearly game selection. You’re a great player but your willingness to sit with anyone at almost any game is killing you. Agree or disagree?
GH: I probably have just about the worst game selection in the world.
PL: We literally can’t imagine a poker world without you. Is that even a possibility? If you continue to lose, can you see yourself quitting?
GH: I can see that happening, but I’ve always been a gambler. It’s hard to imagine that I wouldn’t be around at all in the poker scene anymore, but I could definitely be there to a lesser degree than I am right now.
PL: Jean-Phillipe Rohr told us in an interview you won $2.5 million playing high-stakes backgammon at the EPT Grand Final a few years ago. In fact the games were so good you missed the second day of the high roller tournament for it. Are backgammon games really that big/high? Is that where a lot of income comes from?
GH: At that Grand Final there was indeed a high-stakes backgammon game, and yes, they are still around. At the time I was winning a seven-figure sum, then lost back a seven-figure sum.
I’m definitely trying, but the problem is that at some point I can’t compensate for my losses anymore. And also there are not too many people who can afford to play for so much money.
PL: Dwan has left the Professionals. Do you have a favorite for a replacement?
GH: Right now, some of the Germans would spring to mind. There are quite a few very good ones around. I think their attitude and their professionalism would make a nice counterpoint to the more crazy guys like Isildur and me.
PL: What are your thoughts on the state of poker/future of poker? Are games unbeatable? Is Macau the only place to play to still have an edge?
GH: Obviously, it is still possible. You just have to be better than the others at your table. Of course, people have been getting better and better. This is not 2003 anymore, and it sure isn’t 1995.
PL: Do you have to go to Macau nowadays to have an edge?
"This is not 2003 anymore, and it sure isn’t 1995."
GH: I have been doing well in Macau, which definitely doesn’t hurt. I have been there a couple of times in the recent past, but I don’t plan on going in the near future. I’ll be at the EPT Grand Final and then the World Series of Poker.
In Macau, poker can be like everywhere else, but there are also games where you have to get invited. It was like that when I first played there. They have some different rules in Macau, but I’m fine with that.
For example a couple of years back, me and Sammy Farha wanted to play heads-up in Vegas but the casinos didn’t allow it because it’s a ring game. In Macau, if you and me play heads-up, and someone wants to join, he can only do that if we want him to.
That, by the way, is the way it works in Backgammon, too. We’ve had some crazy straddle games in Macau, with pots of a couple of million US dollars, and I haven’t even played in the highest games.
PL: Do you know how high they play?
PL: Do you think you have a shot at making the list of the 50 Sexiest Men Alive again?
GH: No! I’m definitely not getting younger, and to come even close I would have to change a couple of things. First of all, get back in shape.