A.J. Benza Levels About High Stakes Poker

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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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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..


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!


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.


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

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