Gus Hansen: The "Great Dane" of Poker
Gus Hansen is a phenomenal poker player. Not only does he have three World Poker Tour titles under his belt, but he has also won a WSOP gold bracelet, an Aussie Millions championship, and a plethora of other world-renowned tournaments. Throughout his poker career, he has won over $10 million from live tournaments alone, which gives him second place on Denmark's All-Time Money List.
For more information on Gus Hansen, his childhood, his path to becoming a professional poker player, and to see what his future beholds, please continue reading this detailed biography. We guarantee you will learn something you never knew before.
Gustav Hansen was born on February 13, 1974, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark. His mom started calling him Gus when he was a toddler and the name stuck with him right up through to his adulthood. Hansen always had a good relationship with his mother, as they spent lots of one-on-one time together. Hansen was homeschooled for the majority of his elementary school years, being taught by his mother and occasionally his Aunt Elise.
It wasn't until Hansen was a teenager that his parents started having more children: two girls and one boy. Since there was a considerable age gap between him and his siblings, Hansen felt more like a father-figure to them than a brother. During the evenings, Hansen was responsible for preparing dinner for his siblings and putting them to bed, because both of his parents worked second-shift jobs at the time.
Before Hansen entered high school, his father taught him how to play backgammon. He spent the entire summer playing backgammon, learning various strategies on how to win and becoming a very skilled player. Hansen was so passionate about the game that he started a club at his school for other students to learn and play backgammon. He would organize tournaments that would take place at school grounds and involve several other schools in the surrounding areas.
When Hansen wasn't playing backgammon, he could be found studying. He was a hard-working student who was especially skilled when it came to mathematics. He was placed in advanced math courses his entire high school career, receiving As in all of them. He was awarded several different academic scholarships thanks to his performances, which he used to pay for tuition at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). Since he was mathematically inclined, he thought a degree in accounting would suit him well.
Developing an Interest in Poker
While attending UCSC, Hansen got his first taste of gambling. He got invited to one of his classmate's weekly Texas Hold'em poker tournaments that took place in the common room of his four-person dorm room. Eight people crowded around a small coffee table and were eager to teach Hansen how to play. Despite never playing poker before, Hansen was able to walk away from that poker game a winner. His friends were amazed by how quickly he was able to pick up the game's rules and start developing winning strategies of his own.
In 1995, Gus was sent back home to Denmark to serve in the military. During his down time, he would play poker against his fellow soldiers. He continued to hone his skills and even tried a couple variation of poker like Omaha, Seven-card Stud, and Razz. Once his time serving in the military had officially come to an end, he moved back to the United States and started entering in every poker tournament he could.
Professional Poker Career
In 2002, Hansen had his first big win. He took first place in the World Poker Tour Five-Diamond World Poker Classic, which came with a cool $550,000 cash prize. Less than a year later he won the World Poker Tour No Limit Hold'em Championship, bringing home another $530,000 in the process. Realizing this was more money than he would ever be able to make as an accountant, Hansen decided to focus all of his time and attention to poker.
He started a small online poker room called Poker Champs in 2003. While he was able to attract a couple of thousand people to his site, he just didn't have enough time to invest in the company. He was too busy traveling the world to compete in various poker tournaments, getting his professional poker career off its feet. He eventually sold the company to Betfair for $15 million.
Hansen was invited to compete in the inaugural Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament in 2005. He was hesitant to compete at first, as the buy-in was $400,000. Believing this would be a good way to show off his poker skills, he decided to enter it. Despite being forced to play against other accomplished players like Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey, Hansen surprised everyone by landing 1st place and taking home the grand prize of $1 million. Soon after that, people started calling him the "Great Dane" of poker, as a reference to his incredible talent and Danish heritage.
Now that he had a little more money to work with, he started competing in tournaments all over the world. He headed to Melbourne, Australia in 2007 to compete in their Aussie Millions event. After placing in the top ten for most of their smaller tournaments, Hansen managed to win first place in their main event. Performing better than his 700 competitors, Hansen was able to take home his biggest career win yet: $1.5 million. He decided to write a book about his experiences at the Aussie Millions titled, "Every Hand Revealed." Thousands copies of his book have been sold in Denmark and the United States.
Hansen appeared on the second season of High Stakes Poker, where he managed to win $575,000 after taking down professional poker player, Daniel Negreanu. His performance on that show lead to a sponsorship from Full Tilt Poker. He was a part of the Full Tilt Poker team for just over five years, proudly wearing his Full Tilt Poker uniform to every tournament he competed in.
The year 2010 would be a significant year in Hansen's professional poker career, as it was the year he won his first World Series of Poker bracelet. He finished first in the No Limit Hold'em High Roller Heads-Up event at the WSOPE, winning the signature gold bracelet and over $450,000. Later that same year, he won his first Poker Million IX tournament. He played heads up against Tony Bloom, getting him to fold on a well-orchestrated bluff. The prize for this tournament was another $1 million.
The last major performance of his career took place in January of 2012. He placed third in the Aussie Millions $250,000 No Limit Hold'em Challenge. Making it to the final table, he got beat out by Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius. Although he didn't win, he wasn't too disappointed; his third-place finish came with an $820,000 cash prize.
Taking a Couple Years Off
Over the next few years, Hansen struggled to perform well in live tournaments. He explained his concerns in an interview with Poker News, "I think every competitive player has to question himself at some point and ask 'has the game surpassed me? Am I rusty? Am I not good enough in this game anymore?' I'm asking myself questions and that keeps me up at night."
He won a couple of thousand dollars here and there, but he was no longer making enough money to support himself financially. He also was performing poorly online, reportedly having lost 21.7 million dollars at Full Tilt Poker alone. He took all this as a sign to walk away from his career as a professional poker player and take a job as an accountant instead.
He completely left the poker scene, refusing to enter any tournaments or even make an appearance in Las Vegas until he got his finances back on track. He also dedicated more time to improving his physical health, playing tennis and backgammon on a regular basis.
Is Poker in His Future?
Towards the end of 2016, he revealed his plans to play poker again in another interview with Poker News, "I'm going to Vegas. There's a World Poker Tour in the beginning of December. Historically, I've done very well in that tournament. I think they have a pretty good structure. Maybe I'll have to breathe in and see if I can turn things around." Hansen didn't place in that World Poker Tour event and has yet to perform anywhere near as well as he had during his prime.
Hansen plans to continue to play poker whenever he can take time off of work. Now that he doesn't rely on poker as his main source of income, he can enjoy playing the game and not have to worry about his performance. While he may not be the same quality of player he once was, Hansen will still go down in history as one of Denmark's most talented poker players; the "Great Dane" of Poker's short-lived career will never be forgotten.