Our friend in Copenhagen, Jonas Hüttel, passed on an article to us written by Daniel Negreanu in which he shares his thoughts on Gus Hansen and the method to his madness as well as the tough play of the young Scandinavian poker players.
The blog was originally done exclusively for Ekstra Bladet in the language of
Check it out in English after the jump . . .
By Daniel Negreanu
Gus Hansen is one of the most feared players on the poker circuit because of what people perceive as very wild and crazy image. However, the truth is that Gus’ approach is actually based in mathematics and there is method to his madness. This much I know first hand as I’ve tangled with Gus in several big tournaments as well as an infamous hand that played out between Gus and I where I flopped middle set, and he flopped bottom set.
On the turn he made four of a kind and I proceeded to lose a half a million dollar pot. It’s one of the most viewed hands on youtube, but frankly, I’d like to forget about that hand!
It’s my opinion that people completely misunderstand Gus’ approach to the game and that’s why his style becomes even more effective. Yes, Gus does play a lot more hands than your average player- that’s a given.
However, the misconception lies in how he plays those hands after the flop. Gus will raise aggressively before the flop with a wide variety of hands, and he’ll even defend his blind with hands as ugly as 8-3 suited.
After the flop he tends to stay aggressive on the flop by leading out at the flop. Sometimes in the hopes of stealing the pot, other times wanting to be raised.
The key to Gus’ success, though, comes in his play past the flop. Since Gus has cultivated such a wild and reckless image he is able to win really large pots on the turn and the river when his opponents suspect that he is bluffing. When playing against Gus their thought process goes something like this, “Anybody else and I could fold this hand, but hey, it’s Gus, I guess I have to call.” At that point Gus normally shows them the nuts and they moan about their bad luck.
Gus has a deep understanding of mathematics coming from his background in backgammon and he understand that in a tournament with antes, being involved in lots of pots is the best approach. At the same time, he understands that since he will be playing many marginal situations, that he also needs to have a degree of caution.
That’s where Gus is a little bit different from the typical, young Scandinavian who hope to emulate Gus’ style. They may be just as aggressive before the flop, and often even more unpredictable after the flop, but they will also often get caught bluffing at a pot and not being able to put on the brakes.
Playing against these tough, young Scandinavian players is extremely difficult, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience playing with them. When I play on the east coast in the U.S. for example, I already have a good feel for how they play. Most of them fall into the category of being careful, passive players. It’s much easier to exploit a player like that. With a Scandinavian player, though, it’s much more difficult to pinpoint their playing style without watching them closely.
When it comes to tournament poker worldwide, I think that some of the best young players come from the Scandinavian countries. They think outside the box, are very aggressive, and often play an unpredictable style that is closer to optimal than a more conservative approach.