Thor Hansen has been living with terminal cancer for three years now -- about five times longer than was predicted after his diagnosis.
He’s not just a poker icon; he’s also a medical phenomenon.
"Nobody in Norway has ever lived with my condition as long as I have," Hansen says while relaxing outside the hotel smoking a cigarette before Day 2 of the 2015 Irish Open.
"I was given six months, but three years later I’m still here. Whenever the doctors have a meeting, they speak about me. They say I’m not made of flesh and bone."
They say that children and drunken people tell the truth, but so do those who have nothing to lose.
Hansen might fall into the last category.
Poker Never as Popular In Norway
Poker never more popular in Norway but obstacles remain.
The reason why he’s playing here at the Irish Open is simple:
“I was playing the Norwegian Championships right before this event and PaddyPower invited me over," Hansen says, "so it’s hard to say no.
"We had over 1,200 players again. They could have broken new records but about 250 people got stuck at the airports because of heavy snowfall.”
If even the Norwegians can’t cope with it, it must have been terrible weather. When it comes to poker, Norway also seems to be a big paradox.
The percentage of players the country has is huge compared to the small population. Strangely, poker is also still illegal.
“Yes, poker has never been as popular in Norway as it is today," Hansen adds. "A big Norwegian TV station even brought a team to the Championship and I was doing a lot of commentating for them.
"But playing poker in Norway is still illegal. They’ve made some small changes now and they want to allow a single tournament in Norway per year, but it’s really all just bullshit.
"The government has the monopoly and they don’t want to give it away. There is a lot of corruption going on.”
"I Owe My Life to Norwegian Medics"
Hard to turn down hospitality of Irish.
While high-level corruption in Scandinavia certainly shakes the reputation of the European North as we know it, not everything is bad.
Hansen is still very happy about going back to Norway after his diagnosis three years ago.
“It was the best decision in my life. I got treated very well and the medical staff is great.
"Frankly, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t gone back. They found nine large tumours in my body and I’ve been on chemotherapy now for three years straight.
"I lost my hair in the beginning but it has come back. In November I’ll have another treatment, and I might lose it again, but I can cope.
"Chemo allegedly takes your immune system down. In three years I haven’t even had a cold. I feel good. They can’t explain it.”
And this from a man who spends time in airplanes and large gaming halls with hundreds of people all breathing the same air coming out of the A/C.
It seems only a question of time until we’ll see the first reports on Thor in the Medical Tribune. Undoubtedly, a case like this will catch international attention.
"I Will Return to Norway and Rest for Awhile"
"In three years I haven't even had a cold."
“Had I stayed in the US," Hansen adds, "they wouldn’t treat me at all.
"If you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease there the health system doesn’t want to spend money on you anymore.”
“I’ve done fine so far. But if chemo doesn’t work anymore, I don’t know what they’ll do. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
"What I know is that after the Irish Open I will return to Norway and rest for a while.”