Without a doubt, Gus Hansen's play was renowned for being aggressive, erratic and loose. But make no mistake: The Great Dane was - and still is - a brilliant poker player.
Though he has just one World Series of Poker gold bracelet Hansen is one of only three players inducted into the World Poker Tour Poker Walk of Fame for winning three WPT events.
His all-time tournament winnings top $10 million but that only hints at what he's won (and lost) in major high-stakes cash games and playing insane sessions online. In fact Gus famously lost over $20 million playing on Full Tilt Poker in the mid 2010s.
As you could guess, there are naysayers. Forum pundits peg him as a lucky loose cannon. Pros grumble of his legendary bad beats, and novices watching at home frantically flip through their how-to-play Hold'em guides to find out where it says you should re-raise a 2-7 off-suit.
Even Hansen admits to making some questionable plays in his day. "I've raised with cards less attractive than what's in my toilet after I took a dump in it," he says.
But Gus still perseveres.
Gus Hansen, The Early Years
This now-trademark edgy style was sharpened in Hansen's early years in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was born Gustav Hansen on Feb. 13, 1974, in a town outside the country's capital, and grew up to enjoy a childhood filled with competitive sports, including soccer and tennis.
On breaks from school he attended summer camp, which is where Hansen first picked up a deck of cards. Playing his fellow campers for nickels and dimes, he says, was part of the fun.
In addition to the competitiveness of the game, poker's mathematical component appealed to Hansen. Numbers fascinated him and when introduced to backgammon in high school he took to it immediately and practiced feverishly.
In 1993, Hansen moved from Denmark to live in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he picked up poker play at a local casino. He observed other players' personal styles, and modelled himself after one particular competitor who always seemed to be doing something unconventional at the poker table.
This anything-goes approach earned Hansen a loose reputation at the local casino. But, even if they could've, poker room regulars wouldn't have had time to pick up on Hansen's strategy. In 1995, the Dane had to return to his homeland to face the country's mandatory military lottery.
Gus Gets Lucky
As it happens Hansen would get lucky; he drew an early number in the lotto and got to choose the branch of the army in which he would serve. He selected the civil service and spent his nine months of military time training in first aid and emergency rescue.
After fulfilling his civic duties, Hansen headed back to the U.S. - this time to the East Coast to tour New York's backgammon and gin rummy clubs. There he met future poker pros Huckleberry Seed and Phil Laak and boned up on new forms of poker.
The knowledge and practice gave him the confidence to play in his first World Series of Poker event in 1996.
However, Hansen found himself short-handed - literally and experience-wise - at the No-Limit Hold'em event. He hadn't played that version of poker before and was knocked out early in the day.
The incident started him thinking about his game and soon Hansen was practicing Hold'em and mixing up his play to determine his personal style. As it turned out, mixed-up play was Hansen's style.
Gus Hansen Storms the WPT
It started winning him money, and eventually he shifted his focus from backgammon to poker. He traveled to Las Vegas from New York frequently to gamble, and developed a nearly unreadable presence at the table.
By the time the World Poker Tour premiered in 2002, Hansen was ready for his close-up. He took first in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em event at the Five Diamond World Poker Classic in Las Vegas and the payout was more than half a million dollars. The tournament was the first indication Hansen was a force to be reckoned with.
The next year he bagged his second WPT title at the 2003 L.A. Poker Classic, taking down a $532,490 first-place prize. A couple months later he was invited to play at the Bad Boys of Poker event in Las Vegas and won that event as well. It would be a good year for him, as Hansen also finished third in the WPT Championship event.
The 2004 PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure completed Hansen's trio of WPT titles and paid out nearly $500,000. But his biggest paydays were still to come: In 2005 Hansen won the Poker Superstars Invitational and a hefty $1 million paycheck.
Every Hand Revealed
Even better than that, Gus bested a 745-player field at the 2007 Aussie Millions to win the main event title and $1.5 million. Later, as an added bonus for fans, Gus wrote a book about his Aussie Million triumph named Every Hand Revealed.
In it he analyzes the 300 hands he played in the tournament and revealed his thinking behind his seemingly unorthodox moves. Every Hand Revealed was a groundbreaking book in the genre and is still a revered poker strategy book.
Gus' lone WSOP bracelet came at the 2010 World Series of Poker Europe where he won the £10k Heads-Up High Roller for £288,409
Gus Hansen, Gambler
There's no telling, however, how much money he has won and lost in cash games and betting on sports. Hansen is a regular in the Big Game at the Bellagio, where he sweats it out at the felt with the biggest and most respected names in poker.
He has also admitted to a decidedly unlucky sports wagering and prop bet habit, which may or may not have caused him to come up short on funds on occasion. Doyle Brunson reportedly lent Hansen $4 million, which he said the Dane paid back almost immediately.
He also rather infamous for his online poker play where, over a series of years and bad decisions on table selection (which even he admits is his biggest leak) led him to an eye-popping loss of over $20 million. Phil Galfond went so far as to say Gus was even the reasons the game's run.
He dabbled in playing online in bits and pieces but more or less abandoned the format that helped make him famous in the Rail Heaven Full Tilt Poker days for good in 2016.
- Gus Hansen: "I Probably Have the Worst Game Selection in the World"
- Is Gus Hansen a High-Stakes Fish?
Gus Hansen, Racket Master
Outside of poker, Hansen still fuels his competitive drive with sports such as golf and soccer and works out at the gym regularly.
His athletic physique may have helped Hansen get a nod from People magazine in 2004 as it named the poker pro one of the 50 sexiest men alive.
Nonetheless, Hansen is a confirmed bachelor who enjoys his jet-set life traveling around the world to play poker from his home base in Monaco.
In recent years Gus has dabbled in running a music festival in his native Denmark (it didn't go too well). He also also still a very good Racketlon player - a Danish favorite which has players compete in table tennis, badminton, tennis and squash.
Gus has been very selective with his poker play in recent years and his biggest cash lately is still his 3rd-place finish in the 2012 Aussie Millions Main Event.
In a sign he may be slowly working his way back into the game, Gus appeared on an episode of the re-booted Poker After Dark in 2018.
Barry Greenstein on Gus Hansen:
"Gus is often mischaracterized as a hyper-aggressive player when he is actually an active or loose player.
"He plays a lot of pots and his success is a combination of this volatile style and good decision making after the flop.
"I play with Gus in side games where $1 million swings are very rare, yet I have seen Gus get stuck $1 million and get even in the same session -- three different times!"