Hasu prefers to stay anonymous, but is anything but shy when it comes to playing poker for astronomical sums of money

Hasu (Kagome Kagome / JesusLebtNot) is a German poker player who specializes in limit games. He first focused on playing limit hold’em and rose through the ranks to play the highest stakes on Full Tilt. He was playing people like Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius at stakes as high as $3k/$6k. He had to learn other games due to the lack of action he was getting there and now plays 2-7 triple draw as well. He has decided to keep his identity hidden and he very rarely does public interviews but HighstakesDB have had the opportunity of speaking to him.

Hey Hasu. Most of our readers will probably have little idea as to your background in the game so could you please explain how and when you were introduced to poker?

Hi everyone. I picked up poker quite late compared to most others, only starting in 2008, maybe 2007. I had played poker before with friends for a few bucks, but I was usually the first one to bust out of our home games. When I later tried to play poker online it didn’t get better, I used basic strategy that I learned from articles and books to beat the smallest stakes but I quickly reached the point where I failed to rise higher and questioned my talent for this game.

I had tried most poker variants at the end of 2009 and none of them had really clicked for me. Eventually, I worked up the courage to make a final shot at becoming a good player. Impressed by videos of The Bryce and Stoxpoker I tried to learn how to play heads up Limit Hold’em and it started to snowball from there. I ran very good and quickly climbed through the ranks on what most people considered a big upswing until I reached the point where I stand today.

Ah so you are not like a one-time deposit story or someone who started from freerolls. I think training videos have inspired quite a few pros in their rise through the ranks.  Did you make many deposits to begin with and what stakes did you start at?

复古传奇sf I deposited money a few times, but only small amounts. With that money I started to play maybe 10c/20c Limit Hold’em, maybe even smaller. At a few points I had amassed a couple hundred dollars in my account by playing poker, but it never was for long.

How long did it take you to realise that you could make a lot of money from playing the game and were there any particular moments in your rise through the stakes that stand out?

复古传奇sf It was never about the money. In 2009 I realized that my bankroll started to grow pretty quickly, but I never considered that this was money that I could actually withdraw and spend in real life, just some currency that I needed to play against others in this particular game.

复古传奇sf Playing stakes that I was barely rolled for was the real thrill for me. A few times I was down to a few thousand dollars in my account in midst of a huge heads up session. Going broke there once probably would have sealed the deal for me, but in hindsight, I was very lucky that every big downswing was quickly followed by an even bigger upswing.

It seems like a lot of high stakes pros are not concerned about the money when they are moving up stakes. Do you think that that is a characteristic that is needed to play nosebleed stakes?

复古传奇sf I am still undecided if that trait is good or bad though. I know a few players who won a lot more than me just by playing mid stakes and never busting their bankroll in a day. However, when I look into my heart I know that they didn’t have the blast that I had and didn’t feel the adrenaline rushing through their veins like I did when I challenged the best players in the world.

I think there has to be some sort of gamble in your blood when playing so high and having no emotions. You said that you did not think of the money on your account as money. That is an interesting point and I was wondering whether you play or used to play a lot of strategy video games like StarCraft and Warcraft?

Yes, before I played online poker, I spent a lot of time playing an online RTS (real-time strategy) game called Warcraft 3. I think a lot of skills that you learn in these games can benefit you in poker as well.

An example in Warcraft 3 is that you could never see the whole playing field but only those areas that were currently explored by your units. The rest of the field was covered by the “Fog of War”. So you learn to interpret even small signs to figure out what the opponent is doing and change your strategy accordingly.  This is the same kind of incomplete information you can find in poker as well.

There seem to certainly be similarities between the two as top gamers have made successful transitions into poker. Two that I can think of off the top of my head are mTw-DaviN and ElkY. Why is it that a lot of German players seem to specialize in limit hold’em? Are the German poker forums geared towards that game or something?
                                                                                                                    
复古传奇sf Yes, back then I learned about online poker through the Warcraft 3 forums. A former StarCraft player had founded an affiliate platform and had made a thread there to bring new players to the site.

复古传奇sf They had strategy articles and a few videos to give you a good start into your online poker experience, and they were all about Limit Hold’em. So most Germans actually started out playing this game, and although most transitioned to other games later some also stayed loyal to Limit Hold’em until this day.

Ah now I understand why I see so many German players sitting at the high stakes LHE tables. I find it hard to believe that some of your friends made more money than you by grinding mid-stakes. Is that really true haha?

Well, not among my friends, but especially in Limit Hold’em there are a few players who never play the highest stakes but you can find them at any table below that. And they have accounts on every poker site.

复古传奇sf Then you hear about players like nanonoko in NLHE, he also never plays the highest stakes. I guess it all comes down to two types of players, the ‘Working Bees’ who treat poker like a day job and simply try to play as many hands as possible. There are then those who consider poker an adventure, a place where you can have fun and feel the rush of winning and losing tons of money.

That's true - there are the grinders like nanonoko who has a sick win-rate playing an insane number of tables at a time and people like you, Dwan, Ivey etc. who play for the adrenaline and thrill. Do you have accounts on sites other than Full Tilt and Stars and is poker a full-time job for you at the moment?

复古传奇sf No, I have never seriously played on any site other than FTP and Stars. Since having a good time is a core part of playing poker for me the poker client is very important. Most other clients put me on tilt right away because the software is not responsive enough, poorly designed or has they have agendas that prevent you from withdrawing money.  Stars and FTP just have it all – great software, good support and a big player pool. I am very happy with these sites.

I don’t play poker full time any more since Black Friday. The first couple of months I tried to study in university but it didn’t feel right to me, so I joined the company of a friend and since then I learn to work as a product designer / developer. I only have time to play poker on the weekends and sometimes after work.

I don't think many sites offer $1k/$2k+. It seems amazing that you work full-time even though you play the nosebleed stakes online. How do you appreciate the money that you earn when you deal with massive swings when you play and why did you decide to work full-time?

复古传奇sf I don’t see a conflict there. I work there to learn something new and not for the money, whereas I play poker because it’s fun and as long as I can compete at the highest stakes, I will keep playing. Poker was never something I wanted to dedicate my life to. I love the game and I know I will always keep playing it for recreation, but it doesn’t feel productive or fulfilling.

复古传奇sf I would prefer to work in a job where I can have a change in the world, where I can create something that helps other people instead of hurting them.  Now I feel like I am closer to achieving that than before.

Ok that fully makes sense. Poker is certainly not a helpful job for other people like a doctor or engineer etc. Will you continue to play nosebleed stakes when you play recreationally like you do at the moment?

Yes, as long as I feel like I’m not too much of a dog to most of the players there I will carry on. I need to play high when I want to have fun at poker, so it would be hard to quit high stakes altogether. I would also miss some of the personalities there. It’s always been great fun.

Are you willing to play anyone at 2-7 triple draw and HU limit hold'em at the moment, and what stakes are you willing to play?

In Limit Hold'em I’m still fairly confident, but my record there lately has been terrible. I lost between $1 million and $2 million to Ivey and Antonius before FTP went down and haven't really been playing after that.

In Triple Draw I was a bit luckier, but I feel like I am still very much inferior to some of the regulars in that game. My sample size there is also very small; I don’t think I have played more than 20,000 hands in my life. In fact, I want to keep improving and playing more, because it’s really great fun and I’ve become a bit of an addict.

Haha, who have been your toughest opponents in both games?

Patrik Antonius was the toughest opponent I ever faced in Limit Hold’em. He could keep his focus for hours on no end and would barely make a mistake. In hindsight he probably was better than me but I don’t regret playing him at all.

复古传奇sf Phil Ivey was a great player too, but playing against him was never as fun. He never played more than one table at a time and if he lost a buy-in, you knew he would leave very soon. This kills the fun if you ask me.

In Triple Draw I haven’t played as much, but Isildur has given me a hard time lately. It’s amazing how fast he learned the game and by now I don’t think I am ahead of him much anymore. Now that I think about it, it’s been a while that I booked a winning session against him.

It seems like you got and still get action from only the very best. Did you get frustrated waiting for action all day and will anyone give you action at HU FLHE at the moment?

It would be delusional to think that there are worse players just waiting in line to get their butt kicked by you. Everyone who is playing these stakes has had tremendous success in some field of his life, so they are all intelligent people and they will start avoiding what’s bad for them at some point.

复古传奇sf About the waiting, of course it can be frustrating but there are a lot of games out there to learn and I bet there is nobody who is denied action in every game he wants to play, not even Phil Ivey. So it’s also a question of attitude about what to do with your time.

That is true but not many players like to learn new games being too scared about the financial cost of learning the game and taking shots. Phil Galfond lost $1.7 million learning 2-7 triple draw and I don't think most people can handle swings like that although he did jump straight into the nosebleed action. What game do you think Phil Ivey will be given action in?

复古传奇sf Triple Draw is a good example. Even though Phil Galfond said he ‘paid his tuition’ to learn Triple Draw he wasn’t as bad as he might proclaim. I think even when he just started out he was a winner in most games. Every limit player I know has had 550 BB downswings at least a couple of times in their life, and some of them were huge winners in the games they played. So Phil was just unlucky to hit a bad run on fairly high stakes. If the games hadn’t been good for him he probably would have quit a lot sooner.

If Phil Ivey wants to find action online I assume there would be players willing to grant that wish in most games.

Why did you transfer to 2-7 triple draw and how was your transition to that game? Who do you think are the top players in that format of poker?

The transition was not very smooth; I was a hungry for high stakes action and LHE had completely dried out. Then one day I was impressed when out of nowhere there were 2-3 very high tables of that one game that I didn't even know the rules of.

复古传奇sf As a result, I got in touch with another German player to teach me the basics, which hands to raise pre-draw etc. I used the skills I had learnt myself and from him, and jumped straight into the high stakes action. I learned more about the game whilst playing it. I wasn’t too good at all to start with, but most others were in a similar situation to me since it was a very new game that had only recently started to attract players.

I think that the top players are oogee, bixiu, Alex Luneau and Seb86, although bixiu seems to have stopped playing.

The swings in 2-7 triple draw seem crazy with one example being oogee/fishosaurusREX losing $2 million in one month. What sort of bankroll management do you think one needs in HU FLHE and in 2-7 triple draw?
 
It depends how big your edge is in the games you want to play. In LHE 1000 BB seems like a good advice for most players, however in Triple Draw I would recommend to be even tighter - maybe 1500 BB.

I guess it also has to do with whether you are willing to drop down in stakes when needed. This obviously depends on the style of play but what sort of variance can one expect to have in HU FLHE?

复古传奇sf It's hard to make a general assumption about that because it depends on your game selection and therefore your edge on your opponents. You should be assured that variance can be huge, especially between two players who have about the same skill.

In one of my most memorable sessions, which lasted for two days, I dropped 300 BB only to turn around and win 400 BB back from my opponent. That was really sick.

Wow, that is a crazy swing. You seem to be able to handle it well and are not known for tilting even when playing so high. How did you improve your game to reach the highest stakes – did you watch videos, have coaches, etc.?

复古传奇sf I started out like most players by buying books about poker, talking to friends and watching a couple of videos. However it turned out that I wasn’t satisfied as quickly as “most players”, so I literally started 'breathing' poker for a couple of months. No matter where I was, I was either looking at articles, hand histories, writing down questions and interesting thoughts or was listening to podcasts in my car.

That huge motivation I had at that time and my love for the game have made it possible for me to advance through the limits.

There is really no substitution for hard work in my opinion. What do you think of players who claim to put little effort in in terms of post-match analysis? An example of a player like this is Phil Ivey who often played you heads-up.

I don’t think that Ivey really claimed this. In a book I have read it was written that in his early years of poker he always carried a small notepad and pen with him to write down every interesting hand he played, but that’s probably hard to confirm.
Ok even the best have to do hard work as well, even if it may not be as much, and many people don't realise that Ivey is a veteran in terms of the number of hours he has played of live poker. Why did you ask him for $3k/$6k tables?

复古传奇sf I asked him for three reasons. First, I thought I had an edge against him and since he never played more than one table, I was forced to raise the stakes that way. Second, I hoped that an even higher table might attract new players that didn’t recognize LHE as a great nosebleed game before.  Third because higher stakes meant even more thrill for me :).

Did an even higher table attract new players that didn’t recognize LHE? You also said in an earlier answer of yours that you like playing with certain personalities at the nosebleed stakes. Who are they and why do you like playing with them?

复古传奇sf No, in that regard the table was very disappointing. The only two players who faced me there were Antonius and Ivey. When I mentioned “personalities” I meant that it’s not just anyone you are playing against. I like it when you meet the same players over and over again and grow a real history with them. I prefer that over the blind grinding you get when you play Rush poker for example.

What are your future plans and do you intend on playing poker for the foreseeable future?

复古传奇sf When Black Friday hit I had already decided to stop being a professional poker player, so I was kind of in my afterglow. It was time to look for something new and that I did. I started to learn about product design and have worked in a startup company since then. I hope to continue working in that area for the foreseeable future, but I will certainly continue to play poker after work sometimes, or on the weekends, but only as a hobby.

Finally, please could you explain the story behind changing your screen name on Full Tilt and how did you come up with your ‘controversial’ screen names?

I was really surprised when Full Tilt called me one day and asked me to change that name. At that time I was still dreaming to get a pro contract someday and I was about to lose the name I was known under, so naturally I was hesitant. However, when I heard that there were real people out there who apparently got offended by it I agreed to change it right away.

复古传奇sf I made these screen names when I was still almost a teenager in real life and certainly a “nobody” in the poker world. I did mean to tilt other players in a harmless, playful way but I never meant to offend anybody.

Thanks for spending your time to talk to me as I understand that you are generally quite a private person.

Thanks for having me.

Read more of our interviews with high stakes poker regulars in HighstakesDB's player interviews.

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