Time stamp: April 27th, 2005, 8 pm British Time (3pm EST)
Venue: Somewhere in a London TV studio.
Reason: Qualifying heat of British Poker Open
Here I sit in my comfortable armchair in my living room in Hampshire, England. I am privileged to subscribe to a satellite TV service that now provides The Poker Channel and that channel this month is showing live - yes, live! - all of the heats of the British Poker Open (BPO). For example, tonight, Howard Lederer, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Andy Bloch will compete with three hopefuls from the on-line world. The format for these is a 6-seat Single Table Satellite. The winner makes the semi-final which are two 6-seater satellites, with three from each progressing to the Final itself.
But, the focus of this piece is the action on April 27th and in particular the unique talent of <a href=""http://www.pokerchamps.com"" target="_blank">Gus Hansen</a>, the Danish poker player who has already won three World Poker Tour (WPT) tournaments with his very own style of "mix-em-up" aggressive poker. From what I have seen, he has left a trail behind him of bemused players wondering how Gus called their monster raises with 10 8 unsuited, or how they managed to put most their chips in the middle to find they had been beaten by full house 3's over 10's.
Awe at the Devil
Gus Hansen was up against one of the top British players and also a winner of a WPT tournament, David "Devilfish" Ulliott. There was also Roy "The Boy" Brindley (a regular European tour winner) and three good on-line players.
What riveting viewing this was! The early highlight was a hand that developed between Gus and Devilfish. To my mind, Devilfish's play was in the stratosphere. I don't know how he did it.
Devilfish had rags, Q3 o/s (no diamonds). Gus had AK suited in hearts. They saw the flop and it came down 3 x x (x x = 2 diamonds) not helping Gus. The turn was 3d. River, another diamond, so now there is a 4-flush on the board. Neither player held a diamond but Devilfish had a set of 3's. Gus had a pair of 3's, ace high. Devilfish raised to represent a strong diamond. Gus considered and then re-raised! A raise-bluff. Now, faced with that scenario, most players and their dog would probably fold. This was a further 26k in chips out of the starting 100k that Devilfish was being asked for.
Devilfish said he was going to call Gus's "AK" (before he had even seen his hand!). And he did. Astonishing stuff, and Gus was mightily impressed with that, I could tell.
The Devilfish paid for it with a mother of a bad beat, but very much a play in the Gus Hansen mould for which he has earned a "lucky" tag from a host of beaten professionals.
Devilfish had since lost a big pot in a 50/50 showdown to a smaller stack, but he picked up some good cards in three consecutive hands which possibly triggered his downfall. First QQ, raised and took the blinds. Next hand, 10 10. Raised, took the blinds. Next, QQ again. Raised again. This time, Gus was probably wondering if Devilfish was aggressively recovering his lost chips by walking all over the table. Gus had 7 5 suited, just the sort of hand he likes to call with. So he did.
The flop came 10c 5c 6s. The Devil checked. Gus had bottom pair and decided to raise all-in. Gus said, "This should be enough to raise with". I suspect he meant that this should be enough to cause Devilfish to release his hand; but not with QQ! Devilfish called and Gus was a 5/1 dog and about to be eliminated in stone last place.
The turn came down 7h. A 2-pair for Gus and the river was not a Q, 10 or 6. The Devilfish was gone and fully convinced that Gus has a pact with Lady Luck.
Reputation enhanced, trap set
Soon after this, the two smallest stacks (including Roy Brindley), fully conditioned to the idea that Gus will call any raise of theirs with any cards, each re-raised Gus all-in with their own half-decent hands. On both occasions, Gus flipped over AK!
That left two on-line players both of whom had been steady and holding their own. The sole lady player, Mel Lofthouse, had over 100k in chips and raised Gus all-in with her own 2 6 offsuit. Gus folded. Nice play! Then she hit a genuine one, A 5. She went all-in over the top of Gus and he decided he would call with Q 9 offsuit. Given that this was a pot which would put Gus well behind, it was a brave but typical call. He clearly considers any chance of 40:60 behind as fair game.
The flop produced a 9 and Gus prevailed. Now he was a mighty chip leader over the remaining on-line player, Matt Born, a journalist.
The Sting in the Tail
Earlier on, Matt had survived when his JJ beat Gus's 88 all-in raise. Now, first hand heads-up, Matt received A 10 and went all-in again. Gus called with A 6 and lost.
Next hand, Matt raised all-in with 3 3. Gus again called with A 6 and lost.
Matt won another two or three hands on slow play and Gus was now behind. At this point Matt seemed to freeze up afraid to make the final plunge, even folding A 6 to a Gus raise! The pots were then exactly 300k apiece, a fact not lost on Gus as he decided that was a good time to finish the game in one go.
But what a time to decide to do it! Matt had raised all-in. Gus held Q 8 offsuit and was busily computing things in his head. It seems though that the prospect of finishing it there and then with 300k each at stake swayed Gus. He suggested this was one of his thought processes afterwards in his interview. So he called.
Matt showed A Q suited and Gus knew his time might well be up. The drama carried on as the cards before the river gave Gus straight draws but it wasn't to be.
Matt Born had a truly prized scalp and all shown live on television.
The essence of Gus Hansen
The commentators, observers and players were all sure they had seen a lot of "bad" moves by Gus, yet this is his method and it is highly successful. It creates a reputation verging on the mystic which for most players on the circuit is impossible for them to define. Their own decisions become confused and I suspect they end up folding far more hands to a Gus Hansen raise than they might otherwise do.
Three WPT wins is not the outcome of luck. Gus Hansen is simply prepared to go in where the bullets are flying but at the same time is prepared to loose his own weapons at all and sundry around him. It makes for a scared table and may explain why Gus dominates the table. He plays the players like all the top pros do.
Tony Bromham (Exorcism)
28th April 2005
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