It’s not too difficult to look like a class act at a two week poker festival that coincides with the Galway races. Being able to stand upright some of the time is more than enough to get you through the qualifiers. Remembering the bar person’s name (and your own of course) some of the time is the clincher. Coming back into the poker room from an unofficial drink break and being able to remember in what general area of the room your poker table is situated is considered showing off and is probably an indication that you’re English.
Gus Hansen was there for the full fortnight this year and, on the rare occasions he was surgically removed from the pacman machine, put on a demonstration of how a sponsored player should conduct him(or her)self that was nothing short of a masterclass. He mucked in in the charity event, played some of the 35€ afternoon events (when he finished runner up in one of these, he offered to stake the guy who’d beaten him in the main event), posed for endless photos, signed autographs and even spent half an hour with entertainment officer Mad Marty Wilson, which probably felt like two weeks all by itself.
But it’s not just the bread and butter poker players who consider Gus to be a superstar. A few years ago, I was playing a pro celeb WPT event in LA. I got what looked like a great draw. The charming girl on my left whose name was Nina or Mina somebody was apparently a shit hot actress. There was a guy from ER (which seemingly has nothing to do with Winnie The Pooh), a screen writer or two and some other Hollywood people. I was delighted as it’s not often I get to play at a table where I’m arguably better than half my opponents. There was an empty seat and after about half an hour Gus strolled in, put his chips on the table, and was promptly whisked off to do some TV stuff. The actress put her hands up to her face and did a very good “Oh My God, it’s Gus Hansen!” The rest of the guys were a little more reserved but seemed appropriately impressed anyway. Eventually, one of them asked me what I thought was the best way to deal with Gus. I told them that as the event was a bit of a crapshoot it’d be a good idea to move in with any kind of a half decent hand if he raised. They asked me if that was what I was going to do and I promptly assured them it was. Gus sat down, raised a pot and one of my men was in like a shot. Gus folded.
A few hands later, Gus raised again and my troops didn’t let me down. One of them put his chips in the middle like he had a royal flush. Gus folded. I was beginning to really enjoy this until it occurred to me that sooner or later somebody might ask when was it going to be my turn. I hadn’t thought of that. Then, it all went off. Gus raised and two of my lads moved in practically simultaneously. Gus shrugged and folded and nearly fell out of his seat when they produced two hands that only a supreme optimist could describe as mediocre. Almost keeping a straight face was one of the highlights of my career. My life even. Then, as usual, it all went horribly wrong. They broke the table so this story has no end, which is probably what Mr Hansen was thinking when he’d had Mad Marty in his ear for ten minutes in Galway.