Gus Hansen has one of the craziest poker careers of all times.
This child prodigy went from the top of the world to losing over 20 million dollars and having to get a regular job as an accountant. A meteoric rise and an unreal fall.
This is the crazy story of an absolute legend, Gus Hansen.

We’ve also made this blog post into a video, if you’d rather watch than read. 
The text version continues beneath the video. 

EARLY LIFE

Gustav B. Hansen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 13th of February, 1974.
He was born an only child and showed great potential from an early age. For the majority of his time in elementary school, Gus was homeschooled by his mom and aunt. 

But Gus wasn’t just a bright mind, he also dominated the national youth ranks of tennis.
In fact he was well on his way to becoming a pro, when a serious injury put a stop to his plans.

Frustrated and eager to find a new outlet for his competitive spirit, Gus started playing backgammon. Something his dad had taught him.

Gus Hansen as a Child

He spent an entire summer perfecting his skills and learning various strategies.
Gus, once again, proved a natural and would beat every opponent that played him. And so he started organizing bigger and bigger tournaments that took place on school grounds and would bring in the best players from around the country.
But even they didn’t stand a chance against Gus who was playing at a World Champion level.

When Gus wasn’t playing backgammon, he could be found studying. His mom had instilled a hard working mentality in him, and he was especially skilled in mathematics. Since backgammon wasn’t a very lucrative profession Gus leveraged his mathematical skills to secure an academic scholarship – thinking a degree in accounting would suit him well.

Always eager to find new challenges, and having beaten every backgammon player in Denmark, Gus chose to enroll in the University of California, Santa Cruz.

INTRODUCTION TO POKER

Alright, so, Gus was now in the US, enjoying the sun and life of California.
One day, he was invited to a friend’s weekly poker tournament. The game was Texas Hold’em – something Gus had never played before. Perhaps for this reason, Gus’ friends thought we would be an easy win. But he quickly understood the game and began playing around with different strategies. By the end of the night, Gus was the last player standing, and was forever hooked.

Gus began playing more often, at the local Ocean View Card Room. Although he clearly had a talent for the game, he found that he still had a long way to go. Rather than discourage him though, this only added to his passion. 

Two years into college, Gus had to go back to Denmark to serve in the military. Back then, most young men in Denmark had to complete at least 9 months of basic military training. 

During his downtime, Gus would play poker against the other recruits. He kept experimenting with different strategies and even tried other forms of poker like Omaha, Razz and Seven-card stud. Hansen kept improving his skills and after finishing his military training, he was on the next flight back to the US.  

DEVELOPING THE ‘GUS HANSEN POKER STYLE’

After serving his time in the Danish military, Gus flew to New York to live out his dreams and follow his passion for gambling. But, the first couple of years would be hard on the young Dane. He would primarily play cash games but had his first appearance at the World Series of Poker in 1996. Gus was eliminated in the very beginning of the tournament, and although he is often described as an overnight success, people often forget his hard times during this period in New York.

But Gus didn’t stop.
He was determined to get better and decided on a bold new strategy.

He was going to switch it up and play his hands with a variety so crazy – it would make him impossible to read. He would see a lot of flops, with a variety of odd starting poker hands.Not afraid of big bluffs, this style would focus on confident, aggressive post flop play.

This was the birth of the Gus we know and love.
“I’ve raised with cards less attractive than what’s in my toilet after I took a dump in it”, Gus famously said. 

He would often fly to Las Vegas, to play bigger games and finally started getting some traction. Although he of course lost a lot of hands, he would more than make up for it on the hands he actually won. And the poker community took notice.

In 2002, Gus decided to test his loose, aggressive style of play, when he returned to tournament poker by attending the World Poker Tour’s Five-Diamond World Poker Classic. Gus absolutely cleaned up, beating all 146 opponents and taking home a cash prize of 550 thousand dollars!
Gus, and his new style of play was definitely on to something.

GUS HANSEN’S POKER CAREER

After his big win at the World Poker Tour, Gus was eager to prove that it wasn’t just beginners luck. He wanted to solidify his place amongst the greatest. And in 2003 he did just that. Gus won the WPT LA Poker Classics, collecting a cash prize of half a million dollars, and the respect of the poker world. 

Gus Hansen was really making a name for himself, and he was looking to diversify his brand and business. That same year, he started an online poker room called pokerchamps.com. The site quickly got a couple of thousand users, but Gus had a hard time balancing his time between running the site and traveling the world to play poker. 

He ended up selling the site to Betfair for around 15 million dollars. 
Not bad, for a 2 year business venture.

But Gus wasn’t about to slow down.
In December of 2003 he finished 3rd in the Five Diamonds World Poker Classics, and just a month later he took his 3rd WPT title after winning the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. His crazy style of play, impressive winnings and good looks had made him one of the world’s most famous poker players.

In 2004 he  was even voted one of the Sexiest Men Alive, by People Magazine.

In 2005, Gus was invited to play in the Poker SuperStarts Invitational Tournament. This tournament was a big deal,  with a buy-in of 400 thousand dollars. On top of that, Gus would be up against other poker legends like Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey. But Hansen was hungry, confident and eager to show off his style, and so he entered the tournament. 

This proved to be a great decision, as Gus took the tournament by storm and landed 1st place, taking home the grand prize of one million dollars. Watch this video to see how it happened. 

Gus continued playing in all the biggest tournaments, and in 2007 he flew to Australia, to attend the Aussie Millions Event. He placed in the top ten for most of their smaller tournaments, but ended up winning the main event collecting a massive cash prize of 1.5 million dollars. That’s not a bad payday, and Gus wrote a book about the experience titled ‘Every Hand Revealed’. The book also did really well, and sold thousands of copies in both Denmark and the US.

At this point, it seemed like everything Gus touched turned to gold. And he was about to take home the biggest cash prize of his career. In April of 2008 he played in the $25.000 WPT Championship Event, and despite finishing in second place he picked up a hefty prize of 1.7 million dollars on his way out.

Despiste having won more than 7 million dollars in live tournaments at this point, Gus still considered cash games his speciality. Most poker fans will remember his legendary showdown against Daniel Negreanu in the second season of the High Stakes Poker TV show. Both players had great hands, but Gus turned Quad 5’s against Negreanu’s full house and won the record breaking pot of 575 thousand dollars.

Despiste having won more than 7 million dollars in live tournaments at this point, Gus still considered cash games his speciality. Most poker fans will remember his legendary showdown against Daniel Negreanu in the second season of the High Stakes Poker TV show. Both players had great hands, but Gus turned Quad 5’s against Negreanu’s full house and won the record breaking pot of 575 thousand dollars.

Shortly after appearing on that show, Gus signed a sponsorship with Full Tilt Poker. He appeared in numerous videos for the brand and sported their logo on his shirts for every game he competed in. Full Tilt also agreed to provide his financial backing in exchange for him playing exclusively on their site.

2010 would prove to be a big year for Gus Hansen. He finally won his first World Series of Poker Bracelet after finishing first in the No Limit Hold’em High Roller Heads-Up event. He received a cash prize of more than 450 thousand dollars to go with his golden bracelet. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he topped the year off by winning 1 million dollars for finishing first at the Poker Million IX tournament.

GUS HANSEN’S DOWNFALL

Gus Hansen’s last major performance was at the 2012 Aussie Millions $250,000 No Limit Hold’em Challenge. He made it to the final table, but placed third after Patrik Antonius and Phil Ivey. Gus of course wanted to win, but wasn’t too disappointed as the cash prize for third place was 820 thousand dollars.

But this still seemed to mark a turning point in his career.
After that, Gus seemed to struggle. He would still win a couple of thousand dollars here and there, but was no longer making enough money to support himself financially. 

“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 told Poker News.

Gus Hansen downfall

And to make matters worse, Gus was losing a lot of money playing online poker. Without the financial backing of Full Tilt, Gus was quickly squandering his fortune away, reportedly losing more than 21 millions dollars on online poker. The most anyone has ever lost. 

“It’s the same game and the same opponents. But when you sit in front of a screen you cannot see your opponent, you just have to push some buttons. And apparently I’m not as great at that”, he told a Danish newspaper. 

No longer able to financially support himself through poker, Gus had to go and get a regular job as an accountant. Quite a massive change of pace.

WHERE IS GUS HANSEN NOW?

Working as an accountant has allowed Gus Hansen to stabilize his finances, and given him some much needed clarity and perspective. But the 9 to 5 lifestyle is very different from being a legendary poker player.

Perhaps for this reason, Gus stepped out of retirement a couple of years later. 
He started playing small tournaments and is now, once again, able to finance his life by playing poker. 
He currently lives in Monaco in the south of Europe and travels around the world playing poker. 
But he is looking for a new home in Denmark.

In October of 2020, Gus and his girlfriend Malan had a child. And it’s of course going to be interesting to see if the Great Dane can juggle both a massive poker comeback and his new life as a father.

But what a cool dad Gus must be.

Gus Hansen Kid

Want to test your skills?

Before losing everything, Gus Hansen built a massive brand and fortune playing poker.
No doubt the guy has a talent for the game.

If you and your friends are looking to test your skills in a social game of poker with friends, you should check out our free app, EasyPoker. 

It’s a digital version of a physical poker set, and by far the easiest way to play poker with friends – no chips or playing cards needed.

You create a table with just a single tap on your screen, and friends join in by typing the four digit game code on their phone.
Whether you’re playing live or online, the EasyPoker app is perfect for poker with friends.  

Doyle Brunson
Doyle Brunson

more poker player stories? 

We’re constantly adding to our library of awesome poker player stories.
Like this one, about the notorious poker playboy Dan Bilzerian. A guy whose number of girls is only rivaled by the zeroes in his bank account. But is it all legit?
There’s a lot of stories and opinions about him, so we collected them all into one easy read.

Daniel Negreanu vs Doug Polk

If you have anything to add to the Gus Hansen story, or have a wish for who we should profile next, please let us know in the comments below or by reaching out to us.