Showdown vs Gus Hansen and Co.

So as most of you know, recently at EPT London three members of Team PokerStars Pro took on "The Professionals" from FTP in a heads-up battleship style duel. It all started via Twitter with some friendly needling between Gus Hansen and me. We discussed it, and I went to the people at PokerStars to see what we may be able to do here, and the challenge at EPT London was born.

While Gus had a limited selection of pros to choose from, you can't really go wrong with Viktor Blom and Tom Dwan on your side. I was fortunate enough to have plenty of choices but ultimately went with Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier and Isaac Haxton, who is the face of Team Online, which I thought was fitting since this duel would happen on the virtual felt, and Ike clearly had the most experience.

The selection process was my favorite part of this whole journey. First I went to Twitter for suggestions and the same names kept popping up:

  • Jason Mercier
  • Vanessa Selbst
  • Eugene Katchalov
  • Elky
  • Isaac Haxton
  • I would have been confident picking any of those two players, but I thought the best way to handle it was to actually get feedback from these players themselves. So I asked each of these five players to rank who they felt was the best choice, and second best choice- without picking themselves! A first place vote would be worth two points, with a second place vote being worth one point. Isaac was the clear #1 choice, getting votes from every team member. The vote for second place was much closer, but it was Elky that got the call.


    The reason this was my favorite part of the process was because it created a great team bonding experience amongst theTeam PokerStars Pros, both the ones that were chosen, and those that weren't. We all scheduled a dinner the night before at Maroush Gardens in London to discuss strategy. Isaac was very open and helpful with his vast knowledge base of the players, specifically in helping develop the best strategy for Elky against Blom.

    Vanessa Selbst always has such a unique take on the game and is such an outside the box thinker which is one of the reasons she has been so dominant the last few years- she is a tricky one that Selbst! She discussed several unique weapons I may be able to use against Gus Hansen's limping strategy. I didn't end up having to use that secret weapon, but it's definitely a great tool that I may throw at him in a rematch. Jason Mercier also had a lot of experience against Gus and had valuable insight. Eugene Katchalov is so well-rounded-- not just in hold'em but in all the games--and provided solid analysis on all three of our opponents.

    All in all, our absolute demolishing of the Professionals truly was a team effort. We won eight out of the nine matches in a clean sweep! What was the difference? I think our team elevated our game to support each other. We cared for each other, rooted for each other, and were genuinely engaged and happy for each other.

    Regardless of how what the final scoreboard ended up looking like, I knew we'd already won even before the matches had started. The time we spent together sharing was valuable both in terms of elevating all of our games, but also in terms of friendship which you can't put a price tag. It was a solid reminder to me of what it takes to be a top pro. You "could" do it all on your own, but why would you want to? It's so valuable to share strategy tips with a group of people you both respect and trust. If you want to improve your poker game, that's the best tip I could ever give you.

    Daniel Negreanu is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

    Daniel Negreanu
    @PokerStars in Daniel Negreanu