Excessive Stakes Poker Co-Host AJ Benza Talks About His Favourite Palms From The Present


AJ Benza didn’t develop up enjoying playing cards, and has by no means gambled for enormous sums of cash, however the New York Metropolis native has develop into entrenched within the poker world for his work on some of the iconic reveals the trade has seen.

Benza co-hosted Excessive Stakes Poker with Gabe Kaplan for the primary 5 seasons of the present, which premiered in 2006 and rapidly grew to become fashionable with each professionals and amateurs watching at house.

After the fifth season of the present in 2009, the duo was damaged up and ultimately changed altogether with comic and avid poker fanatic Norm Macdonald in season seven. However after greater than a decade away from the sport, PokerGO introduced again each Kaplan and Benza to revive the well-known money sport collection for an eighth season.

Excessive Stakes Poker featured world class poker professionals and rich businessmen who have been keen to place enormous piles of chips within the center, but it surely was Benza and his Welcome Again, Kotter star companion within the commentary sales space that gave the present its preliminary legs on the top of the poker increase.

“It’s so a lot enjoyable to be again within the sales space with Gabe,” stated Benza about his return. “I’ve great respect for his poker information and his comedic timing.”

With a number of years working collectively, the 2 have developed fairly a rapport. Kaplan, who has expertise enjoying high-stakes money video games and first began attending the WSOP in 1978, serves because the skilled. Benza, who has had many notable on display screen credit akin to Mysteries and Scandals, Rocky Balboa, and Celeb Match Membership, serves as his straight man.

“There are occasions the place I really feel like Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire, as a result of clearly he leads and I must observe,” stated Benza. “And it’s not all the time simple since I have no idea the intricacies of poker like Gabe does. I’m comfy in my function [speaking for] the man sitting at house who doesn’t fairly perceive all of the terminology and odds and outs and percentages.”

Regardless of having a entrance row seat to among the finest poker minds on the planet at work, the 58-year-old doesn’t attempt to decide up any technique suggestions. He simply desires to benefit from the drama and have the ability to crack jokes with Kaplan alongside the best way.

“It used to drive me mad as a result of I needed to try to catch up, however that’s unimaginable,” stated the actor and former gossip columnist for E! Leisure Tv. “So whereas I really like the motion and the drama, I lastly accepted the truth that I’ll by no means be wherever close to Gabe’s stage of experience. However what I’ve heard from so many individuals I run into is that they like the truth that I ask ‘dumb’ questions or often get stuff improper, as a result of it permits many individuals to be taught at house as they go.”

The C.W. Publish Faculty graduate additionally takes delight within the authenticity of his work and feels lucky to work alongside somebody he respects.

“I really like that I’m again within the sales space voicing one of the best poker present there’s ever been, with a man who’s higher than the remaining,” stated Benza. “And at any time when issues get a bit difficult, I take consolation in the truth that we’re simply two guys from Brooklyn. We have now a shorthand.”

As somebody who was nonetheless inexperienced in his poker information when he took the job, the sheer amount of money on the desk took him unexpectedly. He started asking himself the query each non-poker participant watching the present asks themselves.

“Initially, it was the amount of cash laid out that caught my consideration,” stated Benza. “I bear in mind seeing Daniel Negreanu betting one million bucks in season one and it felt pretend. I couldn’t consider what was taking place. These stacks seemed pretend, however they have been actual.”

“Clearly, I used to be a neophyte at poker after I bought the job, so I couldn’t consider the amount of cash on the desk,” stated Benza. “However some fingers stand out for various causes.”

Benza recalled a hand from the primary season between Daniel Negreanu and Barry Greenstein as one in every of his favorites. Negreanu raised with OkClub Suit 9Club Suit and Greenstein three-bet out of the small blind with AClub Suit JHeart Suit. Negreanu referred to as and the flop got here down 7Club Suit 3Club Suit 2Club Suit.

Greenstein wager $10,000 and Negreanu took two $50,000 bricks of money and put them within the center. Greenstein referred to as with the nut flush draw and was all in for a pot of simply over $200,000. The three-time bracelet winner drilled a membership on the river, taking down one of many first massive pots of the season.

“Barry caught the jack of golf equipment on the river to win and I knew proper then… holy shit, that is actual cash.”

The hand between the 2 poker legends was possible extra memorable to Benza than some extra informal poker followers as a result of it was the primary time he noticed cash of that measurement change fingers, all whereas the 2 combatants concerned reacted the identical as anybody would at a $5 house sport.

“I do know there have been many battles between two of my favorites, Eli Elezra and Sammy Farha,” stated Benza. “I liked seeing the best way they battled and stayed associates all through all of it. It didn’t matter if the pot was value $50,000 or $500,000.”

However even Benza, who has seen hundreds of Excessive Stakes Poker fingers up shut and private, isn’t proof against the classics.

“I bear in mind the hand when Brad Sales space tossed out three bricks with simply four-high towards Phil Ivey’s pocket kings,” stated Benza. “I bear in mind seeing that earlier than Ivey laid his hand down.”

With $300-$600 blinds, David Williams raised to $1,800 from the lojack with JSpade Suit 9Club Suit and Sales space three-bet to $5,800 from the cutoff with 4Spade Suit 2Spade Suit. Phil Ivey was within the massive blind with OkDiamond Suit OkHeart Suit and chilly four-bet to $14,000. Williams folded and Sales space referred to as. Sales space had purchased in for $1 million and Ivey began the hand with about $300,000 in his stack.

The flop was 7Spade Suit 6Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit and Ivey wager $23,000. Sales space moved all in, putting $300,000 in money into the center. It grew to become an iconic scene in high-stakes poker lore and precipitated Ivey to utter, “I want you had put the chips in. The money simply seems to be so candy.”

Benza acknowledged it in actual time, saying, “It’s a bit intimidating,” as Ivey tanked for what was nearly one other two minutes earlier than laying his hand down.

And naturally, although it’s from some of the current episodes, Benza stated the laydown made by Doug Polk towards Phil Hellmuth was one in every of his favourite fingers to look at.

“It is likely one of the finest lay downs within the historical past of the present,” stated Benza. “It was simply superb.”

Throughout its early days, the present captured followers as a result of this system was in contrast to some other poker present out there, pitting the preferred gamers round towards one another. Tournaments with massive prize swimming pools made for thrilling TV as effectively, however the lineup of gamers was unpredictable. Excessive Stakes Poker ensured that the world bought to see probably the most participating personalities on the desk.

After watching many poker reveals come and go over time, diehards within the poker group would typically reminisce concerning the outdated episodes of Excessive Stakes Poker with tons of money being thrown round. And now that the present is again, among the youthful gamers who got here up watching it have now even made it onto the printed.

“Most of the guys on season eight regularly discuss how they grew up watching it as children and now they’re enjoying towards sharp professionals,” stated Benza. “I really like to listen to guys discuss how Excessive Stakes Poker was the present the place they discovered how one can play. And right here they’re a few years later and we’re nonetheless calling the motion. It’s very thrilling.”

The sport has clearly modified over time as methods and kinds evolve. Nonetheless, what drives the drama hasn’t modified in any respect. It’s nonetheless only a battle of wits for big sums of money with a good quantity of luck concerned.

“What stands out to me is what number of instances an [amateur] will go up towards a professional and win,” stated Benza. “I’ll all the time admire the balls on these guys, and the way their play has improved over time. I really like understanding that Gabe and I – and the best way we referred to as the video games – had a hand in that.” ♠

Doug Polk Makes Unimaginable Fold In opposition to Phil Hellmuth

The 12 months is way from over, but it surely’s going to be powerful to discover a higher televised play in 2021 than what Doug Polk pulled off in a current episode of Excessive Stakes Poker towards 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.

The no-limit maintain’em sport featured blinds of $200-$400, and a rotating lineup that additionally consisted of Jake Daniels, Brandon Steven, James Bord, John Andress, Bryn Kenney, Phil Ivey, and Tom Dwan.

Hellmuth opened the motion by elevating to $1,100 from the hijack with QSpade Suit 10Heart Suit. He was referred to as by Bord on the button with 2Spade Suit 2Heart Suit and Polk defended from the massive blind with 10Diamond Suit 7Club Suit. The flop got here down JSpade Suit 9Spade Suit 8Heart Suit, giving each Hellmuth and Polk a straight. The motion checked to Bord, and he wager $2,000.

Polk check-raised to $7,000, and Hellmuth shocked the desk by shifting all in for $97,200. Bord rapidly put his underpair into the muck, and Polk went into the tank for a number of minutes, participating Hellmuth in some desk speak earlier than making his determination.

“Since Phil raised earlier than the flop, I might undoubtedly be placing him on a set,” stated Kaplan to the house viewers. “Doug’s bought to name. He can’t presumably be placing Phil on Q-10.”

Regardless of Kaplan’s assertation, nevertheless, Polk was hesitant.

“That is insane,” stated Polk. “It’s simply such a monster elevate. Phil, what do you bought over there? I’m contemplating making a really massive laydown. A really, very massive laydown.”

Hellmuth, sensing he may presumably lose a buyer, responded with, “I may simply have…” earlier than Polk interrupted.

“What may you simply have?” requested Polk incredulously. “You simply wager rather a lot into little or no.”

Hellmuth continued to speak, telling Polk he may have a set, blockers with a hand like pocket tens, or a giant drawing hand like ASpade Suit 10Spade Suit.

“Oh, now you’re busting out blockers? God, if I fold this and I’m improper…” stated Polk.
It was then that Hellmuth determined to cease speaking, although the far facet of the desk was busy putting bets on whether or not or not Polk would name.

“I feel I’m useless rather a lot, given this,” Polk stated, referring to Hellmuth’s desk speak. He then confirmed his playing cards to the remainder of the desk, which solely introduced extra disbelief from the opposite gamers. Regardless of their shock, he nonetheless determined to muck.

“That’s not a fold, are you loopy proper now?” requested Steven, who had wager on the end result. “If he’s bought Q-10, then he’s bought Q-10. Pay the person and let’s transfer on to the following hand.”

Hellmuth determined to not present his playing cards on the night time the episode was filmed, and even requested to rabbit hunt the flip and river, implying to Polk that he had a set. Nonetheless, he couldn’t disguise from the truth of the state of affairs as soon as the present aired.

“Think about making like 15 massive blinds right here,” Polk jabbed, tweeting together with a screenshot of his laydown.

Hellmuth, to his credit score, took the ribbing in stride.

“Sigh. I can see why you say that this was one of the best fold of your profession. Nice fold Doug! [You] saved $90,000 that everybody else would have misplaced. Everybody else! That’s $90,000 that’s not in my checking account.”

Kaplan agreed, closing out the printed of the hand by saying, “Doug Polk is likely one of the few individuals on the planet that might have folded there.”




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