Denmark’s therealfuddebuf, known in the real world as Mikael Hansen (pictured), turned in quite an impressive feat last November and December, finishing third in the PokerStars Sunday 500 twice for well over $80,000 officially. He is one of a handful of players from Denmark we’ve interviewed lately, so is Denmark the new hotbed for poker? We sat down with Hansen, who has one of the coolest full-time jobs ever, to find out.
“Final tabling it twice within a short period of time is clearly running good. Even though the tournament is one of the toughest every week, the combination of players taking shots and winning satellites to get in combined with the superb structure gives you a chance to take advantage if you build a stack,” Hansen responded when asked what he attributed his Sunday 500 success to. He earned 600 PLB Points total from the pair of third place runs.
Even if Hansen is coming out on the right side of variance, he is clearly taking an optimal approach as well. “Early on, I try to play pots in position with hands that flop well to build a big stack,” Hansen said of his game plan entering the Sunday 500 each week. “If that doesn’t happen, I kind of nit it up, take advantage of the great structure, and wait for my spots. I think it is the major with the best structure, which allows you to be patient.”
His 2013 was a roller-coaster. He explained that he finished second in a SCOOP event in May for over $50,000 before going on a downswing over the next five months. His two Sunday 500 final tables ended the year, so the money from them will help replenish his bankroll. He stands at $1.5 million in tracked scores from nearly 1,800 in the money finishes, an average of $880 apiece.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter: the Denmark pokercommunity. “Poker is really popular in Denmark,” Hansen relayed. “If you look at the PocketFives Country Poker Rankings, you can see that Denmark is doing really well. There is pretty big pool of gifted players playing online and live here. At one point, Denmark won three EPT Main Events in a row.”
Who plays online and live poker in Denmark? And why has the game become so popular? “I think online is mostly a young man’s game,” Hansen said. “Live, you have the usual mix of older grinders and younger online players. Poker was in limbo in Denmark for years. That changed in 2013, when online poker was regulated by the State and now it seems like the environment is good for the game to thrive. You can see the Danish community growing and the results showing up.”
Hansen got started in poker after watching coverage of the World Poker Tour on television and witnessing fellow Dane Gus Hansen (pictured) railroad the competition. He said, “I remember watching Gus Hansen winning a lot and thinking, ‘That looks fun.’ I grew up playing a lot of card games, so learning poker came pretty quickly for me. I dabbled online in small-stakes for fun, but then started having success in MTTs. In the last three or four years, I have worked hard on my game and the results are coming now.”
When we think of poker in Denmark, Gus Hansen and Peter Eastgate (pictured) are the first two names that pop into our head. The former spurned Denmark’s thirst for the game, according to our interview subject: “Gus Hansen was huge. I think he is the biggest part of poker taking off in Denmark 10 years ago. Peter Eastgate was, and is, a really well liked member of the Danish community. Everybody thought him winning the Main Event was fantastic, but I don’t think it changed poker in Denmark. If you want to speak of a Moneymaker Effect in Danish poker, it was Gus doing so well in the early WPT events.”
Interestingly, poker is not his full-time gig. Instead, he is a production manager for the largest television network in Denmark. He mainly works at major sporting events where his network is the host broadcaster or has general coverage. As such, he has been juggling playing poker with working 40 to 50 hours per week, a balancing act he described as “hard… Until now, it has worked, so I try to enjoy it while it lasts.”
When we caught up with Hansen, he was hard at work on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where he was able to take Mondays off in order to play poker. He explained his inner circle’s reaction to his success: “Without a really understanding wife and good coworkers, it would not be possible to balance work, my private life, and poker. Sometimes I sell packages for live events or big online tournaments with no markups to my coworkers so they can have a sweat. Sometimes I get 40 or 50 buyers that way. I think that shows most of them believe poker is pretty cool.”
He wanted to send a shout out to “the grinders out there who combine a normal life with poker. I think it is good for the game not to have just 20-year-old wiz-kids cleaning up online, but also players who show that if you dedicate yourself, you can mix it up with the best of them.”
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