Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gus Goes For Gold

Gus HansenThe World Series of Poker Europe continues to intrigue, with that “high roller” Event No. 4 -- the £10,350 no-limit hold’em heads-up event -- now down to just four from the starting field of 103.

In just a little while they’ll be starting the final day of that one. The always smiling Jim “Mr_BigQueso” Collopy will play Hendon Mobster Ram Vaswani in one semifinal match, while Andrew “Not the ESPN guy” Feldman goes against Gus Hansen. The winners will then play a best-of-three match to determine who gets the bracelet.

Incidentally, the structure for the WSOPE heads-up event is similar to that used this summer at the WSOP, only less one round. That is to say, players are taking chips won to subsequent matches, meaning the finalists today will start with nearly two million chips. (I wrote something about this format earlier this week.)

Both Collopy and Feldman are gunning for their first WSOP bracelets, while Vaswani is trying to land his second. Of course, all eyes will be on Hansen today to see if he can land his first bit of WSOP gold.

Hansen has been the focus of a lot of attention of late for his massive online losses. I wrote some about the subject not long ago. Apparently he dropped another $3 million on Full Tilt Poker in August alone!

Gloria Balding of PokerNews interviewed Hansen a couple of days ago just prior to the heads-up event. Pretty interesting stuff, actually, with Hansen not being shy at all about addressing his recent online woes.

Hansen recently suffered an injury to his Achilles’ tendon, and it sounds like his mobility has been limited somewhat as he must wear a walking cast for six weeks, then go through some rehab. “Good thing you play online poker,” said Balding in the interview. “No, right now it's actually a very bad thing that I play online poker,” said Hansen with a kind of weary-looking grin, alluding to how badly things have gone for him there of late.

A little later Hansen talked about dealing with losing and acknowledged that it “takes its toll,” sometimes causing one to play worse and thus extend the downswing. He also noted that he’s been gambling for 18 years -- including a lot of high-stakes action not just in poker, but in backgammon and a Russian game called “hachi-puri” also played on a backgammon board (not sure about the spelling of that) -- and so has become well acclimated to handling losses.

“In the beginning it was tough when you lost 50 bucks,” says Hansen. “Then it was tough when you lost 500 bucks. And so forth. So you kind of get used to it.”

Hansen goes on to draw an analogy with acting and how some may begin their careers being nervous to perform in front of crowds, but gradually grow accustomed to doing so. Like I say, an interesting interview -- check it out.

Gus Hansen explains the rules of backgammonHansen is, of course, a fairly well-renowned backgammon player who may well be offsetting some of these poker losses in those other games, even though they are less readily available for him to play, especially for high stakes.

(By the way, if you are yearning for more Hansen video, take a look at this absurdly dramatic introduction by Hansen to the rules of backgammon.)

After receiving a bye in the first round of the WSOPE heads-up event, Hansen has defeated Max Steinberg, Mark Everett, Phil Ivey, and Neil Channing to make it to the semifinals. Hansen was incredibly lucky in the match with Ivey, who had about a 4-to-1 chip advantage at one point and had Hansen all in and drawing to just two outs, one of which came to save the Great Dane.

Not necessarily rooting for Hansen today, but I do think his being there in the final four adds a lot of interest to the event. And of course if he does win, that’ll make a good story -- as would his subsequent return to the online high-stakes games which one assumes would inevitably follow.

The WSOPE Main Event (£10,350 NLHE, Event No. 5) gets started today, too -- in fact, it is already underway -- so I’ll probably once again be checking in frequently on those reports over at PokerNews. Will also be looking in over at the World Poker Tour live updates some today, where the final table of WPT Borgata kicks off a little later.

But as I imagine will be the case for most poker-watchin’ peoples, it’s gonna be Gus who’ll get most of the attention today.

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