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Generation Next -- Lars Hougaard

Another Hazardous Hougaard

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Jan 01, 2010

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Lars Hougaard should not be mistaken for just another 21-year-old wannabe hot shot, nor should he be dismissed as the brother of a big name pro. Yes his game is influenced by that of his older brother Jesper, but Lars has single-handedly proven his worth with numerous respectable cashes online. The Dane, who named himself “MiniKipDK” on PokerStars, as a play on “KipsterDK”, his brother’s nickname, has now moved out from his sibling’s shadow and is in search of a spotlight of his own.

Rebecca McAdam: How did you get into playing poker?
Lars Hougaard
Lars Hougaard: Growing up as the youngest brother of three, naturally I always looked up to them and followed in their footsteps. They were both great athletes and doing well in sports. When my brother Kresten won the Danish championships in trampoline, I decided to try that out as well. My brothers and I competed in everything from Yatzy and card games with our grandparents to different kinds of sports. We always strived to be better than one another. After winning 10 Danish championships in trampoline, I felt like I needed a new challenge. One day I saw this crazy Dane on TV bluffing people left, right, and centre. Gus Hansen’s performances on the World Poker Tour were a huge inspiration for a lot of Danes, including me. After a couple of $10 home games, I was fascinated by the game, and it appealed to my competitiveness. After a couple of training sessions with my brothers, I was ready for another battle against them, to become the better poker player.

I became a semi-professional poker player in high school, supplying my studies with money from poker. I finished school 18 months ago, and I have been a full-time professional since then. This summer I signed a one-year contract with the Danish poker site Mermaid Poker.

RM: Does Jesper influence you much? And does anyone else play poker in the family?

LH: Jesper’s presence has had a huge impact on my game. Four years ago he gave me $100 online. A week later I gave the money back, and had $300 of my own money to play with. While slowly building my own bankroll, Jesper basically taught me everything about the game. Not just strategy-wise, but also how to be mentally strong and how to be professional in my approach to the game.

One thing is for sure, “The Hougaard’s” love to play poker. Obviously Jesper (25) has had the most success, but also my other brother Kresten (23) played professionally for a few years. To top it all off, our father Flemming, plays 2-3 days a week. A couple of weeks ago, he and I were both deep in the Sunday Warm-up on PokerStars and swapped 10 percent. He is always railing me, and probably gets more excited than anyone when I am in an all-in situation. It is always nice to have the support of your family, especially with such an alternative income and way of life.

RM: Do you compete with each other?

LH: Jesper is obviously a well-accomplished player, so I guess I am competing to keep up with his merits, more than he is competing with me. For a long period of time, I felt like I had to stand in his shadow, because he kept winning Sunday Millions and bracelets. In the meantime I made big results consistently, but was never really able to finish the final tables off with a victory. That being said I am extremely happy to be a part of his success. I remember streaming his WSOP final table from home, intensely following the action. We discuss strategy a lot, and always help each other out. At the dinner break Jesper was in a bit of a crisis. He called me up, and like always I tried to give him advice on how to handle the situation. One hour later I was watching as he got his money in good to win the bracelet. Because of our long hours of strategy talk, we have been a huge part of each other’s successes, and hopefully it will continue that way.

RM: How often do you play?

LH: Depends. On Sundays, I obviously play 10-16 hours because of the big tournaments. On normal weekdays I play one and a half hours on average. I don’t want poker to control my life. If I have more important things to do, I can easily quit poker for weeks.

RM: It sounds like you prefer playing online.

LH: I definitely prefer online poker, but that might have something to do with the horrible conditions live poker has in Denmark. If it was legal to play big tournaments in poker clubs, chances are, I would play a lot more live. Danes are primarily forced to play on the European circuit, if they want to play €1,000-plus tournaments.

RM: Why did you call yourself “MiniKipDK” online?

LH: I made my first account on PokerStars and back then Jesper was a big poker idol. Jesper called himself KipsterDK, and I thought MiniKipDK would be a funny and matching screen name. Today I hate it. Every time I play on Stars, especially when Jesper and I are at the same table, I feel kind of embarrassed and copycat-ish. Later on I decided to get “my own” nickname on other poker sites. On most European sites it is RedShark(1) and on FullTilt it is MrRenniW.

RM: How did you progress through the levels when you started?

LH: Like most people I started out playing sit ‘n’ go’s. I was a true grinder and raked like a machine. But along the way it became too much. Long hours in school combined with ten-tabling sit ‘n’ go’s wore me out, so I started to specialise in tournaments. The transition was pretty easy. I was very comfortable playing a short stack and I felt like tournaments challenged my winning instinct more — I always wanted to finish first. 2008 was a hell of year with more than 30 wins in $30,000 + guaranteed events, and 18 final tables in big Sunday tournaments. But just like with sit ‘n’ go’s, playing the same tournaments over and over again 3-4 days a week, wasn’t that appealing any longer. Therefore I decided to play some more cash games. I have always found no-limit hold’em cash games to be a bit boring, which made pot-limit Omaha an easy choice. Today I mostly play $10/$20 Omaha, but I will probably never lose my passion for tournaments, which is why I am ready in front of the computer every Sunday in my attempt to win one of “the big ones”.

RM: Have you learned anything about your game since playing on the major international tournament scene?

LH: While travelling around international tournaments I am lucky to have good friends around — Søren Kongsgaard, Jonas Klausen, Albert Iversen, Peter Eastgate, Jesper Hougaard etcetera — All terrific Danish players with a good head on their shoulders. Obviously we discuss a lot of strategy, and I think all of us learn new things from each tournament.

Without sounding too arrogant I don’t think my multi-table tournament game needs much improvement, but listening to their thoughts about the psychological aspect of sitting at a poker table with real faces and not just screen names, has improved my live game considerably this past year. I have played six or seven European Poker Tour events and 10 World Series of Poker events this summer, with no real success, which I am obviously not satisfied with. The first double-up in a tournament is vital, but I have been taking some brutal beats early in tournaments, which makes it pretty difficult to get back in the game. I am pretty sure my luck is turning in 2010. I feel ready for a big live result.