A.J. Benza Levels About High Stakes Poker



High Stakes Poker” Season 6 is currently underway on cable station GSN. One notable difference from the first five seasons is the absence of commentator A.J. Benza, who was let go in favor of bringing on floor reporter Kara Scott. Poker News Daily sat down with Benza to get his take on the show’s sixth cycle, which airs on Sundays at 8:00pm ET.

Poker News Daily: What are your thoughts on the sixth season of “High Stakes Poker,” which kicked off on February 14th on GSN?

A.J. Benza: I saw the premiere. When Gabe Kaplan was speaking, I was sitting on my couch and making the same comments I would have if we were taping it. I called Gabe and said it was different. He’s one of the best commentators of our time and I’m lucky to have been with him for five seasons. I missed that most of all – we had a lot of chemistry from being from the same neighborhood in Brooklyn.

I wish I could speak to GSN about why they did what they did. When I got the call that they were going another direction, I was more than mildly upset, not to mention financially upset. I knew it wasn’t a money thing and you can’t help but take it to heart. I said the show wouldn’t be the same. Nothing against Kara Scott, but you fall into the mold of the other shows.

I know that the ratings [for “High Stakes Poker” Season 6] aren’t what they were. It doesn’t mean that I’m the best guy to have in your poker studio, but it means that Gabe and I had a chemistry that worked. The only problem with having a floor reporter is that it’s like having a sideline reporter in a football game. It’s hard to stick a microphone in someone’s face and ask them how they feel after they’ve gotten felted or lost $200,000. GSN knew they were doing something controversial, but I don’t think they understood how controversial it was until the show aired.

PND: How did “High Stakes Poker” change your broadcasting and media career?

A.J. Benza: When I was a journalist in New York, I was always doing television appearances. I came out to L.A. for a show on the E! Network called “Mysteries and Scandals” and that put me on the map in Hollywood as an on-air personality. I hosted a few other shows in Hollywood and was fortunate in that respect. By the same token, network executives step in and try to do things different ways. It taught me a lesson – that’s showbiz. It’s like the phrase “That’s poker.”

PND: What about the first five seasons of “High Stakes Poker” stands out the most and why?

A.J. Benza: I’ve gambled all my life on football and go to Las Vegas a lot. I never saw men and women that could be down a few hundred thousand dollars without any perspiration at all. I have a huge amount of respect for them. They’re all immensely talented. There is so much to learn about poker. It’s brutal, it’s messy, it’s very mathematical, and it’s a nasty game, but you have to be a gentleman about it.

PND: What’s next on your agenda?

A.J. Benza: I’m writing a screenplay. This all happened in the middle of me writing a book, so now I am balancing that as well. There are a few radio personalities doing things with me and I’m doing a play out in Hollywood. I’ve been busy.

PND: We’ve had a tidal wave of comments from PND readers calling for your return to “High Stakes Poker.” Is it flattering to see that kind of support from the poker community?

A.J. Benza: It’s beyond words. I didn’t know anything about high-stakes poker when I started. From reading TwoPlusTwo and other forums, poker players hated me at first. Gabe was off and running and I didn’t know much more than flop, turn, and river. Once I knew the game to an extent, I wanted to stay true to the guy at home who doesn’t know everything about poker. I wanted to be the armchair quarterback who asked the questions and let Gabe take it from there.

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55 Comments

Ricky

AJ us true HSP fans truly wish you were back, it certainly is not the same. Good luck with all.


Jeffrey

We miss ya AJ, and are pushing for GSN to bring you back for the next season. This is a show that doesn’t need another woman on the floor asking the same old questions, that all of us Poker players don’t really care to know the answers to anyway.


Scott

GSN/ SP massively botched this decision. Why mess up something that was working great??? Bunch of idiots in suits who know nothing about poker screwed up the show. BAD DECISION GSN. BAD.


Todd

BRING AJ BACK!!!!


steve

Gabe needs a Ed Mcmahon to his Johnny Carson quips. Gabe also seemed very defensive about players comments about kara Scott’s
interviews.


Chappell

Do miss the banter between AJ and Gabe, I think the interviews take away from the action, which is why I think poker after dark sucks.


Sandra

I try watching the show and I keep yelling at the TV for Gabe to shut up and just call the hands. If I could find an e-mail address to tell them to get rid of him I would. I guess I could start with GSN but he is just sooo NOT funny and his comments are just ridiculous.

I am a 42 year old woman who likes poker but certainainly not a player or major follower but truly this is one of my favourite shows and if I feel like this then certainly other MUST.

ANYONE OUT THERE OF IMPORTANCE GET RID OF HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Michael

I agree. AJ with Gabe made entertaining banter. This current season is dry by comparison. Bring AJ back next season.


JEFF

What I liked about the AJ/Gabe banter is that there were inside esoteric jokes — Kate Smith, Yul Brynner, etc. that even if AJ didn’t truly get the joke, he convincingly made it SEEM like he did. The chemistry was great and I don’t know, I love Gabe but he looks weird standing there by himself. Kara is barely on…this they got rid of AJ for? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…


George S.

AJ who?


w

kara scott sucks hope they change it and realize its poker not a daytime talkshow. they talk while the action takes places and thats enough for all of us..


John

The show isnt the same and it isn’t the same in a bad way. It has nothing to do with the players. Heck, last episode they made fun of the interviews just like we all are, they have no place on this show. This show has no place for a “news-drama” type voice either. Best poker show ever still but I fast forward whenever they ‘go to the floor’ what a waste, like all those other worthless poker shows.

I wish they’d get AJ back in there and stop the on-the-floor reporting. I’d rather have Kara playing..

Sandra, I can see your point. I don’t think Gabe’s humor and comments will appeal to all but they certainly work on this show (not as good as when AJ was in there) just like it did when he was Kotter. In my opinion it’s exactly the type of poker commentating this particular show needs. What it doesn’t need is the over dramatic news-like commentating of other poker shows and Kara brings some of that, which is a big mistake in my opinion.


Sean

AJ is sorely missed on the broadcast.


Colin

Gabe and AJ’s back and forth added to the entertainment value. They did have chemistry, it worked. In season 6, when Gabe makes a comment there is, at times, a strange silence following it. Simply, it works better when there is a reaction to what he says.


JF

Bring AJ back, now HSP is like a soap opera, stinks big time.


Lenny

It seems that all of the popular TV poker shows (WPT, WSOP, etc) have their straight man and comical analyst, and it is a shame that High Stakes Poker broke up the best team of them all. Gabe and A.J.’s antics were priceless. To bad they never let A.J. don a cowboy hat and join the game. He is missed.


Gerald

the new season aint so good as the past five, starting to get like poker after darka dn that show sucks…..Bring back AJ


Scott

Bring back AJ, Gabe needs him.


b.a.

NBC execs must be running this show , just like Jay and Conan screw with what’s working.
Another failure…………………………..


vic

I think gabe is the best at what he does, but the dynamic is different on the show now it’s like a somber, sad show… aj and gabe used to say jokes and laugh and make fun of the players and now with Kara out there and gabe by himself it’s just different… I don’t think the ratings are going to change because we all wanna see ivey and durrrr but it’s just annoying they changed the show from being perfect to generic by putting Kara in there (no offense to Kara).


STEVE

A.J. was finding his groove with understanding Poker Jargon and understanding the plays of the players. NOW you take him away. Bring back A.J. It’s like Abbot without Costello!!!


J.J.

I hate the stupid interviews with the girl (who is she again?). Bring back A.J. The show does not feel the same at all.


Tom

Bring Back AJ!


bill mongiello

I was waiting to see the new HSP, but was dissappointed when AJ Benza wasn’t on. And with all due respect to Kara, if they had to change the show couldn’t they find a real hot chick in vegas to do the interviews


wes

AJ needs to come back the show has lost one of the main stays, whoever thought that moving him out and replacing him with a floor person who asks the same old questions needs to revisit that decesion—the program is NOT BETTER but taken a giant step backwards


Mark R.

AJ you are sorely mised, sir. This latest season just isn’t the same without you.

This was a horrific decision, and High Stakes Poker isn’t half the show it used to be.


mAURICE

We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ! We want AJ!

Well, you get the idea, GSN!


oOLNOo

I’ve never been a big fan of AJs, I don’t mean for that to sound as bad as it does, I’m just saying that I have no loyalty to him

That being said – HSP screwed up BIG. Gabes great but when the cut to him standing there semi-casual (minus tie) it’s almost painful. And his poker commentary is good but no where as fun as it is when AJ was there to be his “set up” man.

HSP was by far my favorite pokershow on television. And I’ll admit that I’m as surprised as anyone that AJ was one of the main reasons.

Ya screwed up GSN, I didn’t realize his importance, maybe you didn’t either, but acknowledge it and get him back in the booth, otherwise the shows gonna wither.


circusofthesun

Bring AJ back!


cp53

Bring AJ back, INDEED!
Those 2 working each other was great filler!


Timmay7

I like T&A as much as any guy. But the show is really lacking with Kara Scott. Bring back AJ


AJ BENZAS BROTHER

BRING BACK AJ BENZA!!


zaxbat

Bring back AJ, He brings out the best in Gabe. I hope you don’t lose Gabe. He seems very uncomfortable with extra dead air.


W T F

HSP is not the same without A.J.


Jsmitty

Makes me sick when IDIOTS in Hollywood try to be different by “switching” it up with a stupid, predictable move such as “lets try sex appeal this time around”. I can just picture the dope pitching his sub-standard and played out idea for a sexy co-host to the guys in suits. Good Job, prolly the same stupid fuck who thinks up ideas for movie sequals that have a 90% fail rate.

I don’t know how many times this has been said but… Gabe and AJ were fun to watch. Now this show is just an obvious patch job. I can just see the stitches and different cloth used thats how fuckin obvious it is.

Good Luck AJ in real life man, I hope everything works out for ya and I mean that.


HSWatcher

I agree with the comment asking Kaplan to shut up. He is definitely NOT one of the best announcers of all time. The guy is irritating and takes away from the game. He may be a decent amateur player, and good for him on that but he is definitely not a good comedian if that is what he is trying to do….and most certainly not a good announcer. Every single person I know that watches that show and plays poker says exactly the same thing. Kotter has GOT to go. Let the players talk without talking overtop of them to make some completely stupid comment. Shut the **** up for a change. Surprise us all. If I had an email address to send to I would ask for him to be replaced as well. Takes away from such a great show. I think he seems to believe he is revelant and he forgets we are not there to hear him.


Brooklyn Cat

Moron move,if it ain’t broke, don’t need to fix it!Bring A.J. Benza BACK
Gabe needs his partner.The broadcast suffers.


MOJO

I had to google AJ Benza after picking up a copy of his book I found in a bin on close out at Big Lots. Didn’t know anything about him, but he sure cleared up a lot for me. After reading the book, I learned super models of the 90′s were complete ho’s. Just think one in six people has herpes. Cindy, Claudia, The Big Black Mean One, The Heroine Junkie chick, Kristy, and the one who dumped Benza for Trump, Kara. Wow, I want to be under the mafia’s thumb, spread disease and call myself a journalist. Paybacks are a bitch ’cause you ain’t famous. And remember how you treated those women? Still a nice cheap read and a laugh for a buck. I give it four stars and raise you an STD.


rb

I wonder who in High Stakes Poker or GSN is doing Kara…cause that’s the only way someone would put her on the show. She’s horrible. Wish AJ was back.


mac

I wish AJ was back as well. Gabe by himself just doesn’t do it for me, in fact it is a bit difficult to watch. Gabe just isn’t funny without AJ to bounce it off of. As for Kara she is okay but doesn’t add anything to the show for me. Personally I would rather watch reruns than the new season, much more interesting even if I had seen it before.


Anonymous

Like many other i also think AJ and Gabe were a great duo. Nothing bad about Kara Scott, but making a good concept worse is just.. well bad.

/Swedish poker wannabe


Bob

Getting rid of AJ made the show almost unwatchable.


rb

I wonder which executive on GSN is doing Kara Scott? That’s the only reason I can think of for them to put her on the show. She’s terrible!!! Bring back AJ.


Anonymous

I REALLY MISS AJ. PLEASE BRING HIM BACK. I ENJOY HIS BANTER WITH GABE.
THANK YOU, MAGGIE A.


junebug

I think GSN should bring AJ back! Kara just doesn’t do it!


Anonymous

please bring AJ back, him an Kape made a very good couple pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase.


Anonymous

BRING HIM BACK OR UR SHOW WILL FAIL


Anonymous

bring him back


norm

AJ is the man! I’ve been watching HSP since Season 1, it’s just not the same without him.


Dina

Bring back AJ..the last thing you need is to mess with a great thing. Like corporate shills trying to dictate music and movie tastes- it does not work.


Jeff

Hell, High Stakes Poker is top level cash game played by top level intelligent and analytic players for us intelligent and analytic young (and older ofc) guns.. I watched every damn episode from ALL season and more than once! Wanna know what makes us hang in for so long? The COMMENTATORS! Poker is poker, after a single season we all understood everything there is to be understood (ok maybe not everyone can comprehend some of the players’ deeper-level thinking, doesn’t matter), so you need to grease it up with yin-yang chemistry from your commentators! I mean laughter brings energy and satisfaction and for some people that is the only thing they look for in T.V.
Selling Sex (if that was the attempt) is not for this public.. It was PER-FECT! Dunno if something wrong happened between Mr.Benza and GSN but you guys folded the NUTS.

Let’s put it simple: You had AQ of hearts and the flop came King Ten of hearts and a black 7. There are many poeple in the pot so no need to rush in, you never know, and you are new to poker so.. Seasons go on and the turn comes Jack of heart; MORTAL NUTS, everyone knows it, but you obviously didn’t! YOU SCRAPPED YOUR QUEEN AND THREW IT IN THE GARBAGE!! Maybe you thought having a royal flush was too easy or you needed someone to enlighten you about this.. You’ve replaced it with a 7, which only makes you a little pair.. nothing really exciting considering the board and the possibilities.. You haste for the river: ‘It might be even better !’ .. Comes in the deuce.. you fail.. epicly fail! FAIL! D:

Good thing the action this season is nice otherwise your little pair of 7s with a lonely ace (hi Gabe! :) ) would be dead..

No AJ in season 7? NO season 7!, this I can guarantee you, just read it up anywhere. Now call back AJ and pray for God he is open-minded enough to come back without bitterness and DOUBLE THEIR PAYCHECKS dammit..


Jaybird

I lost a lot of respect for Gabe Kaplan because of the way he talked down to A.J. Benza on the previous shows. Kaplan is a moron and A.J. is a good natured guy to take it all in stride. Gabe thinks he’s God’s gift to poker. Guess what? He’s not!


slowhandluke9

Wow, how many ways can you screw up a great, entertaining show! Bring back AJ and Gabe, get rid of the token female. We don’t want or need it. AJ and Gabe made HSP entertaining. I’m sitting here watching this poor excuse of a replacement for Gabe and he’s not got it. This is my second week to watch and it will be my last!!!! Not only did Gabe teach us but he was funny as well. AJ was very good as well, they made a good team. BRING’EM BACK OR THIS FAN WILL FOLD…….


Erik Volpert

I for one stopped watching it, I loved AJ he was a great mix with Gabe. The only women I would accept are players, this isn’t the Dallas Cowboys.


tommy

AJ benza made high stakes poker! Without him it just feels so much worse…
bring him and gabe back!


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