Gus Hansen – one of poker’s most underrated champions [Monday Editorial]

Gus Hansen – one of poker’s most underrated champions [Monday Editorial]

Monday, 21 February 2011

Online poker has, to put it bluntly, been unkind to Gus Hansen. Since Full Tilt Poker launched their nosebleed games for their army of pros and since sites have been tracking the results for sad railbirds such as myself, Hansen has been the Not So Great Dane.

In 2008 he lost over a million dollars; in 2009 he was up $2m then down $1.4m then up $1.5m then down to even in the space of five months. Tom Dwan makes those swings look normal but back then they were crazy – this was when $200/$400 was super high stakes online.

July 2009 is the last time Hansen was up online in the cash games. At his lowest point in September 2010 he was down over nine million dollars in online cash games. Since then he has been on a real surge – in fact, it’s his longest winning streak ever. He has made $5.2m in the past four or five months and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Variance, the haters cry. Well, of course that’s some of it. You don’t make a million a month in the most explosive, swingy games going without hitting the deck pretty damn hard. However, I put it to you that Gus is one of the top poker minds in the world despite his massive losses online – even with this late heater he’s still a $4.1m loser since January 2007.

What you don’t hear so much about is the staggering volume that Hansen puts in. Besides durrrr, Hansen has the most high stakes hands of any player recorded in the nosebleed games on Full Tilt. He has played over a million hands of high stakes NL, Omaha, Omaha 8 and the various mixed games at stakes from $100/$200 to $2,000/$4,000. Bear in mind those huge limits because Hansen’s online losses are approximately $3.88 per hand.

Even at the smallest of the nosebleed stakes he plays that $3.88 figure is a fraction of a big blind and winds up giving him a win rate – or lack thereof rate – totalling less than -1BB/100. Skew his play towards the higher stakes and it is even less than that. Playing against the best players in the world, that’s pretty good. It is a poker cliché but the fifth-best player in the world will be a loser if he keeps playing with the four better players. This is what Hansen is doing.

He loses online but he plays superior competition constantly. He plays Antonius at $2,000/$4,000 Omaha 8; he plays jungleman12 at $200/$400 PLO; he’ll sit at a $500/$1,000 6-max game with Ivey, Dwan and the best players online. The fact that he has only lost $4m over a million hands and three years is actually pretty incredible. It’s an expensive lesson, but it seems to be paying dividends.

Since Gus began playing regular high stakes online games, he has managed to make over $5m in live tournaments. This culminated in a great 2010 for the Great Dane; he notched up his first bracelet win and chucked that monkey off his back with a £10,000 WSOPE Heads-Up High Roller victory as well as taking down the Full Tilt Poker Million IX for $1m straight. He may have had poor results online but when he takes his chops to the live arena and plays against people who aren’t one of the top ten best poker players in the world, he seems to do OK.

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