Thor Hansen, a poker legend and the best poker ambassador Norway has ever known, died Wednesday at the age of 71 after a six-year battle with cancer.
Hansen was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012. At the time, doctors told him he had three months to live, but after three-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, he reported that he was feeling just fine. His health held up for another three years after that, allowing him to play the game he loved right up until his passing.
His last tournament entry came last month at the WPT Seminole Rock N Roll Poker Open in Hollywood, Florida.
The man known as “The Godfather of Norwegain Poker” wasn’t just a role model for his countrymen. He was an admired figure for all Scandinavian players, as well as North Americans who were lucky enough to share a table with him over the years.
Nice Guys Finish First?
Hansen was born in Oslo, Norway in 1947. After playing pool and betting horses as a young man, he discovered poker in the late 60s, playing at the local racetrack with his brother.
“Poker came naturally to me,” Hansen once said in an interview with Club Poker. “I never thought about what I was going to become. Poker just meant so much to me so quickly, I never thought about anything else.”
He’d soon take his passion for poker stateside, trading chips with the likes of Las Vegas legends Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, and Stu Ungar.
In 1998, Hansen won his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet, taking down the $5,000 buy-in Seven Card Stud Event for $158,000.
He took home his second bracelet four years later, winning $62,000 in the $1,500 NL Deuce to Seven Draw Lowball event.
Then in 2007, Hansen finished runner-up to Freddy Deeb in a $50,000 HORSE World Championship.
In all, he racked up nearly $3 million in live cashes over the course of his career, putting him third on the list of all-time Norwegian tournament winners.
Tribute to a Legend
There are few figures in the poker world as universally liked and lauded as Hansen.
Poker pro Sorel Mizzi called him “a light-hearted, kind, and gentle person.”
Phil Helmuth tweeted that poker had lost “a great human being and a great player,” a common theme as the tributes poured in overnight.
Thor Hansen was one of the most respected, beloved poker players in history. His behavior at the table was impeccable – never berated dealers, never criticized other players, & never whined about bad beats. Everyone ♥️ him. 1st WSOP bracelet winner from Norway (‘88). #icon #RIP
— Mike Sexton (@Mike_partypoker) December 5, 2018
Rip Thor Hansen one of my favorite people in poker always smiling and always nice to everyone
— Robert Mizrachi (@PokerRob24) December 5, 2018
Thor Hansen was that rarest of things, an International Treasure.
Let’s let his family and friends know how much we all feel the loss of this lovely man.
— Barny Boatman (@barnyboatman) December 5, 2018
Hansen had been nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame several times in recent years, most recently in 2017, but he has yet to make the cut.
However, Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott was posthumously voted into the Hall last year, and Hansen will no doubt have similar support when it comes time to vote on the 2019 class of inductees.