Understanding Gus Hansen


Gus Hansen

I make regular appearances on a radio show dedicated to poker. The announcer and callers present questions about the psychology of poker to me, as I am a poker player and mental health counselor. Most of the focus usually hovers around tilt, confidence, patience, and tells. During a recent show, the discussion was turned to Gus Hansen. Every single caller, as well as the deejay, were all thoroughly amazed by Gus's poker ability. Many of the radio listeners spoke about Hansen as if he was some kind of poker deity. They each were awed at what he can do, as they've seen his theatrics on televised poker tournaments.

Indeed, one of the most interesting poker characters to grace the television screen over the past few years has been Gus Hansen. His appearances always seem to produce some great moments in poker. Crazy, bold bluffs look to be his norm. The television commentators love to harp upon his propensity to raise with any two crappy cards, even from poor position. From the television coverage alone, watchers are left to perceive that Gus is wickedly wild. Most casual poker fans believe Gus to be the biggest maniac on tour. Well, sometimes the camera does not lie. Gus is indeed a loose, unpredictable player. I've heard from his fellow pros that Gus had lost a million dollars in one session, and then won it all back in that same session!! Yeap, we are talking a million and up swinging through his bankroll in a single session! His tournament play is equally unique and fun to watch. His chips move in and out fast enough to get hot from the friction against the felt.

His fearlessness is what most observers seem to admire. He is a true gambler. The chips mean nothing to him while he sits at the table. For most of us, the chips psychologically represent money. We cannot escape that fact. In cash games, the chips essentially ARE money. In the tournament setting, the chips are a visual beacon to us as we climb closer to the pay-out money spots. To Gus, the chips are just a part of the poker equipment. He sees the chips the same way an NFL player might view his helmet and shoulder pads - it is just part of the game that you need to play. With that complete comfort with his financial status at and away from the table, he is able to play true psychological poker. If he has a hunch his opponent is weak, he'll attack like a fierce animal. Many novice poker players envy this quality.

Don't be fooled into thinking that Gus is simply reckless. His plays are thoughtful and timely. Remember that televised poker tournaments are edited to show the most exciting hands. Gus produces that excitement, but it isn't as if he does this on every single hand! He has a deep understanding of poker psychology, and he uses it to his advantage. Also remember that Hansen is not a consistent winner. His style causes him to flame-out rather quickly in many games. Adopting his style would cause you similar results. Perhaps what we can pull from Hansen is not his loose-aggressive playing style, but his keen psychological edge. He trusts his instincts. He attacks those who he feels are meek or tight. He plays for 1st place in every tournament he enters, never satisfied to fold his way into the money.

Gus Hansen: Play Profile & Prediction

PLAY PROFILE: His game is No Limit Hold 'Em, where his style matches the game perfectly. More specifically, short-handed No Limit may be his very best game. He is also known as a rather tough lowball player, as well. Gus is known to see many flops with a variety of odd starting hands. This makes perfect sense, as he is one of the greatest players in post-flop play. He (accurately) feels that he can outplay most opposition after the flop, so his 2-6 suited may be a winner whether the flop is A-K-Q of spades or 2-2-6! His confidence is always at its peak at the table. Gus has been known to get emotional at the table at times, taking some time to ateam over a bad beat or a miscue.

PREDICTIONS: I expect Gus's stock to rise in the endorsement realm. His roots in Denmark give him international marketing appeal. His iconic status with American and Canadian poker players via the WPT, and other poker shows, certainly has endorsers very excited. His fearless style will certainly lead him to more final table appearances on the WPT and other poker shows, but may also lead him to many early exits. I am thinking that the future will bring us more "invitation only" televised poker tournaments. Television executives are wary of the string of unknown amateurs who have been swallowing air time. If shows do indeed focus on inviting the biggest stars, you can expect Gus to be a regular due to his overall appeal and viewer interest. I expect Gus to gather up a few WSOP bracelets during his career. If he catches a few cards, he has the skill to win any tournament. Also, short-handed and head's up tournaments are gaining in popularity. This should serve Gus very well.

Update!!! Rumor mills are swirling in and around Vegas that Gus took a series of losses at the table in the summer and fall of 2005. Some people are saying that Hansen is in debt for a few million dollars, at this point. Remember what I wrote, though - the money means little to this guy. It seems that he's already rebuilding a solid bankroll. Must be nice to be down over $4 mil and not sweat it too much, huh?

♣ To check out Gus's online poker room, visit PokerChamps.com.

 

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Greg Raymer
Gus Hansen
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