On the 21st of February in Copenhagen, Denmark, two of the most successful Scandinavian poker professionals of all time, Gus Hansen and Theo Jorgensen, will duke it out in an amateur boxing match with money on the line. If Gus wins he gets $25,000 from Theo and if he loses, he has to pay out $35,000.
In any other industry one would have to wonder why two hugely successful millionaire celebrities in their field, who are good friends, no less, would want to put their pride and their bodies on the line and literally try and hurt each other. But this is no normal industry; this is the world of high stakes gambling where anything is fair game if there is money on it and the more ludicrous the better.
High-stakes prop bets have always been a staple part of poker culture and high-stakes sporting bets have made up a significant portion of those wagers. Gus and Theo are no strangers to these sporting prop bets and have regularly dueled on the golf course, squash court and football pitch for amounts most of us earn over years. But there is a big difference between boxing and almost every other sport, because serious harm can occur.
PokerNews caught up with WSOPE bracelet winner Jorgensen to get his thoughts on the bout and how he has been preparing to take on the Great Dane:
Said Theo, "My trainer Poul Duville has been teaching me to hate Gus for five months, he has been telling me to want to destroy him. But I can't, he is one of my best friends, we've been friends for years and he is a really fun likeable guy, I speak to him every day so I don't hate him. But we have both agreed that there will be no friendship during the nine minutes we are in the ring together. If Gus has the chance to knock me out I have told him he has to take it, because I will certainly be going for it. I know it, he knows it, my girlfriend knows it, and our friends know it; so if it happens it happens."
Footage has circulated on YouTube of Theo training and it looks pretty intense; he certainly looks like he knows what he is doing. Has Gus made a mistake giving Theo such good odds?
"Gus is extremely well conditioned," said Theo. "Everyone knows what a great athlete he is, so I think the odds he gave me were fair at the time. Neither of us had ever boxed before we made this challenge and we are a very similar size and weight; we measured up and we have almost the exact same reach. Gus does have a much bigger nose, though, which should be easy to target.
"Since we made the bet, I have trained every day for 5 months. It took me two months to learn to throw a punch properly and it's been really tough, but I feel good about it now. My trainer tells me the second you get in the ring, you forget everything you have learned, so I hope my conditioning will lead the way to victory."
Like any classic prop bet, the secret is to make a challenge that your opponent thinks they cannot possibly lose... but where you have the proverbial ace up your sleeve that gives you an edge they won't be expecting. Theo explained it to PokerNews like this:
"My plan was to keep the bet low. $35,000 is not much to Gus and I know he will find it hard to motivate himself for this. If the bet was for $200,000 I wouldn't even consider taking him on, but now I think I have an edge. I have been training for five months; Gus has been training for three weeks. He did spar with (Danish World Super Middleweight Champion) Mikkel Kessler yesterday but still, if lose this bet I will never hear the end of it. That would be it for me and betting with Gus."
By keeping the bet low (by their standards), the impression that the money is almost a trivial addition to this challenge and that bragging rights are the goal of this bout.
"For sure, the money almost doesn't matter," said Theo. "This is a rivalry that has gone on for years and I will never hear the end of it for the next ten years if I lose, and you can bet Gus will never hear the end of it if I win. We just can't help ourselves; we shot a commercial for Danish TV the other day and by chance there was a table-tennis table at the studio and we ended up leaving the production crew waiting around for an hour while we finished a match. I doubt the rivalry will end, and Gus will always have the edge in any sporting match we play, but as long as he keeps giving me good odds I will always take him on."
Gus Hansen vs. Theo Jorgensen can be viewed on gushansentv.com on the 21st of February.