EPT London: Landmarks
The history of poker as one of the most popular pursuits on the planet - among players and spectators alike - is peppered with landmark moments that shaped the modern game. There's the invention of freezeout tournaments, widely credited to Puggy Pearson and then Jack Binion, who combined to create the World Series, and then 30 years or so after that came the combination of the internet and PokerStars.com that produced the Moneymaker Moment™.
Television got in on the act sometime in the late 1990s and the introduction of under-the-table cameras (see countless previous posts by this author about the pioneering Late Night Poker series) gave screen-time to the best practitioners of the game, turning them into stars and propagating the dreams of thousands of young pretenders. This is where a Danish player named Gus Hansen entered the equation, and was almost single-handedly responsible for inventing a new type of player that soon spread like watered gremlins across the world scene.
The Hansen accolytes are typically very young, apparently completely carefree, relentlessly aggressive and seemingly have such an aversion to the established "correct" way to play that they warm their houses with big bonfires of rule books. But behind the apparent madness of the best exponents there is clear and effective method; so much so that Hansen himself has now penned a book entitled Every Hand Revealed, in which he discussed the thinking behind every decision he made en route to success in the 2008 Aussie Millions.
Buying and reading that book is one way to understand Hansen. Another is to watch him play on the EPT. I was attracted to Hansen's table to watch the Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein, the EPT Prague champion Arnaud Mattern and the British pro Ian Frazer, all of whom are sharing table five. But for all their consummate skills, this was obviously the Hansen show.
First hand, it was folded to him in the small blind, he raised and took the big. He had kings. Second hand, Hansen is on the button. It's folded to him (that's the respect Hansen on the button usually commands), he raises, he picks up the blinds and antes. Incidentally, these bets are even part of the show. He picks up two red chips, three purple and four blacks, totalling 3,900.
Hansen folds the next hand to a mid-position raise, but then bets again - two red, three purple and four blacks - when he's in mid position. Mattern calls on the button. The flop comes As-10d-4h and they both check. They both also check the 10h on the turn, but Hansen fires 7,700 on the river of Kc and takes it down. Next hand: the same rainbow bet from mid position, but this time Frazer moves all in from the big blind. Hansen calls instantly and flips pocket queens, Frazer has 10s and there are no shocks on the flop, turn or river.
Hansen began the day with 72,000. He has a significantly more imposing 120,000+ these days. Greenstein, who has seen all tis countless times before, is sitting and watching patiently.