Norway’s Godfather of Poker, Thor Hansen, Passes at Age 71
Veterans of the poker world remain in mourning after the passing on Wednesday of international poker legend Thor Hansen. Hansen, dubbed as Norway’s “Godfather of Poker” was a trailblazer in Norway’s and northern Europe’s poker scene and was for decades a fixture at major poker events around the globe.
Though Hansen’s friends and family offered no details beyond the notice of his death, he was presumed to have succumbed to the colorectal cancer he was diagnosed with back in 2012. At the time, he was only given a few months to live, but he surprised his physicians by responding well to treatment, and he far outlasted his initial dire prognosis. Hansen’s three-to-six-months turned into a full six years, and for a few years he was able to resume his global poker travels. Hansen’s last recorded cash came this past March at the Irish Poker Open & Norwegian Championships 2018 in Dublin, Ireland.
Hansen’s presence on poker’s largest stages dates all the way back to 1987, when he cashed in several events at the now-defunct Grand Prix of Poker in Las Vegas. In 1988, he claimed the first of two World Series of Poker gold bracelets he was destined to win; the second bracelet came 14 years later, in 2002. All told, Hansen earned roughly $2.95 million in recorded major events over a three-decade career, a figure that still ranks third on Norway’s all-time earning list.
Hansen’s popularity and success on both sides of the Atlantic also made him one of the few European poker figures to receive serious consideration for the Vegas-based Poker Hall of Fame. Hansen was named as one the HOF’s ten finalists on three different occasions, in 2012, 2013, and 2017, and it would not be surprising to see him named, posthumously, as a finalist in the 2019 voting. Hansen’s 1988 WSOP bracelet was the first earned by a Norwegian player and just one of 46 WSOP cashes he logged. In addition to his widespread playing success, Hansen also played roles in the development of poker in Norway and across Europe.
Tributes to Hansen have come in from many of poker’s luminaries. British pro Barny Boatman said, “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.”
Mike Sexton offered this, via Twitter: “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).”
One of Hansen’s closest poker friends, Ireland’s Padraig Parkinson, offered similar thoughts: “@Mike_partypoker @nolandalla Saddened to hear @ThorHansen47 has finally lost his battle with cancer which defied logic and is an inspiration to others facing impossible odds and he did it with a smile.Great memories of breakfasts @Irish Open with Thor,Mike,DonODea and Dan.”
Then there was a short post from Lee Jones, a longtime friend of Hansen from Jones’ days with PokerStars and the EPT. Said Jones, “Thor was always incredibly gracious and welcoming to me when I was the new kid on the EPT and he was the grand old man of the events. There aren’t enough people like him in the game and now we’ve lost one of the best ones.”