Poker News

The current season of GSN’s “High Stakes Poker” is off to a flying start, with one important change. Prior to the recording of the program in Las Vegas last November, longtime host A.J. Benza was dropped in favor of having analyst Gabe Kaplan run solo in the booth and veteran poker announcer Kara Scott interviewing players from the floor. This has led to a petition to return Benza to the program.

An online petition to bring Benza back to the popular cash game show is currently garnering a great deal of support from its fans. To many viewers, “High Stakes Poker,” which is now in its sixth season, was a program that didn’t need any changes to make it more appealing. Furthermore, the idea of following the trend of other poker shows – which normally have a female hostess who interacts with players or commentators – was something that many viewers didn’t want to see happen, especially at the cost of Benza being in the booth.

At this point, over 400 people have stated in a thread on TwoPlusTwo that they have signed the petition for Benza’s return or sent their opinions to GSN. In a poll regarding the decision, almost 600 people responded overwhelmingly (nearly 9:1) against the dismissal of Benza, even though Scott is a highly respected broadcaster in her own right. Scott has extensive broadcasting experience on the European Poker Tour (EPT) and currently can be seen on ESPN’s production of the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Europe. The general mood of the crowd regarding the change at “High Stakes Poker” seemed to be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The comments indicate that the dismissal of Benza and the addition of Scott have weakened a previously strong show. Poster “Golfing_Stud” commented, “I love Gabe. He’s by far the best poker announcer there is but A.J. was his straight man… we need him back. Kara can stay or go she doesn’t add a lot.” Fellow poster “EGarrett” agreed, stating, “Please don’t mess with success in entertainment. It’s so easy to screw things up. And do not make the show more like Poker After Dark by adding an interviewer. Something about PAD is lifeless and boring… apparently designed to get you to fall asleep in front of the TV and give them long term ratings.”

The “High Stakes Poker” Season 6 premiere aired last Sunday on GSN and, whether intentional or not, there was what seemed to be a “tip of the hat” to Benza. As the program opened, Kaplan stood alone on one side of the shot – as if he were making room for a second person – instead of being centered in the frame. This, for longtime viewers of “High Stakes Poker,” was quite odd. Poster “Dromar” saw this peculiarity and wrote, “It’s too overt to anyone who’s ever seen HSP before, and just looks weird to anyone who hasn’t. I would be delighted if AJ walked in at the beginning of the next episode and they were like ‘lol just kidding, why the f*** would we copy PAD?'” “Dromar” finished off his post by stating, “I’m not holding my breath, though.”

Back when the change from Benza to Scott was announced, GSN Vice President of Programming and Development David Schiff told Poker News Daily, “We’re into the sixth season and we felt like it was time to freshen it up. Our feeling was that we wanted viewers to be in the room with the players. Gabe and A.J. did a good job, but they were disconnected from the action.” With the addition of Scott, who handles floor interviews, GSN has apparently achieved that goal. Whether viewers stick with future episodes of “High Stakes Poker” without Benza in the booth remains to be seen.


  1. Jeffrey says:

    Just because you have a woman doing interviews down there, asking the same old questions and getting the same old answers. It doesn’t FRESHEN up the show. It takes away from the action. Gabe and AJ were great together and we miss them being there to banter off of each other.

  2. Bryce says:

    Can’t imagine why Benza wants to be Kaplan’s spittoon.

  3. dtacow says:

    Why is it men cant have thing in this world without someone thinking a show has to appeal to women also. If women are going to learn poker they are not going to learn by watching a female interviewer. Maybe its me.

  4. Annie Nonemus says:

    I love HSP and I love Kara Scott … just as I love prime rib roast and chocolate cake … doesn’t mean the two should ever be mixed together. TV exec types make me laugh, they don’t have the talent to act or produce or write or direct but they still like to meddle in things best left alone. Correct me if I’m wrong but in all the clamor to have a season 6 of HSP … did the phrase “oh ya, and freshen it up a little will ya” ever get posted anywhere by anyone?

  5. John says:

    I watched all the seasons of HSP up to this one. The first episode of this season was very odd without both in the booth. I don’t really care to hear from the floor like they are doing. They already had brief interviews with the players on other players, that was enough. I don’t think it needs a ‘Hey Phil, you just lost 200k how does that make you feel?” Bring AJ back, put the chick in the booth just get that stuff out of my poker show!!

  6. Dave says:

    I loved Kaplan and Benza together on the show. There was a dynamic there that worked and now that dynamic is gone. Kaplan by himself is awful and I now fing myself watching the show on mute and listening to music, which takes away from the action. Poker is huge right now, but if this show continues down this path, it will not be long before another poker show is created and leaves GSN in the dust.

  7. Rick C says:

    The show really misses kaplan and Benza’s repartee!! Kara’s okay but, do we really need the” how did u feel losing thousands of dollars” question?? The show was perfect just as it was!! It’s unforttunate that Benza got the boot over a question of gender!!! That the perception i get…. I really miss the humour aspect, Gabe doesn’t cut it alone….. I have another beef i’d like to share if i may…….

    Just picture Mike Sexton without Vince Van patton!! WPT broadcasts are going in that direction also! Instead of a 2 hr show they are cut in half to 2 1 hr shows… 20 minutes of poker and 40 min of mindless full tilt and poker star commercials… Remember when they were on the Travel channel? Even on the Game show network, they had a classy look, staging, female presenters, time to develop!! Now it has a carney feel, two guys sit behind a cheesy desk telling us there’s not enough time, join us next week to the conclusion of blah blah blah…… Remember when they shared a toast of bud and all??
    Well as they say, may all your pot’s errrrr just give the money,,,,please……

  8. delores a says:


  9. Don Sparrow says:

    Can’t believe GSN would break up the incredibly entertaining duo of Kaplan & Benza..I just loved the comments of Gabe and AJ’s reactions….I love the show ( have watched all previous 5 seasons) hope this change does not cause the cancellation of the show .. I will continue to watch but boy; something sure seems to be missing. Gabe’s insight about the hands and play is the best there is. I really think his humor though needs someone like AJ to react to it.

  10. Joe says:

    What I liked about high stakes poker was that the commentary was at a minimum and we can watch the high stakes players in there true environment… a glimpse of what it would be like to be in a high stakes poker game. I would even bring back prop bets because that’s what the players would be doing if there were no cameras. GSN does not have a clue in what their audience want, they are just copying the other crappy poker shows out there. Instead of not allowing prop bets, incorporate them into the show by explaining how they work. I believe most people want to watch lions in the wild rather than in a zoo. Good job GSN… HSP will now be just like all the other boring poker shows out there.

  11. Randi Mercurio says:

    What a travesty! Taking a show that was worthy of watching with Benza and Kaplan as comentators…then shuffling…..and winding up with 52 card pick-up! My favorite poker show is ruined. Now I record it, and edit out the gratuituous interviews and commercials so my time is not entirelly wasted. I miss Gabe and A.J. together.

  12. Joris says:

    Oh c’mon… Gabe’s comments are so lame without co-host. They are a team, together they are funny, I love AJ laughing at Gave’s jokes etc. New show is silent, it’s a bit boring..

  13. Poker Jung Kee says:

    This was once the best poker show of all time. Season 6 is boring and unwatchable. They must bring AJ back for season 7.

  14. Birscuit says:

    Poor gabe looks so lonely in the booth. He’s not as funny this season and you can almost feel he’d rather have AJ there!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Gabe’s jokes are not funny without AJ to tag along. Personally, I thought AJ was a great commentator on the action in the game and Gabe did even better analysis. With Gabe trying to do both, it’s not very fun or effective.

    This sucks.

  16. Chris says:

    Great job GSN! “If it ain’t broke, let’s break it.” Gabe and AJ were a big part of the entertainment value. Now it’s gone. GSN execs wanted to freshen up the show? This isn’t the way to do it. Worst part about all of these poker shows are the ‘sideline’ interviews. First episode of Season 6 was very awkward to listen to without the chemistry that Gabe and AJ brought in the previous 5 seasons.

  17. abcpoker says:

    The show misses A J Benza and the repartee b/w Kaplan and Benza.. there was good chemistry and added to the interest of the show!!!

  18. Lakota42 says:

    Bring AJ!! The show was enjoyable listening to both of them play off of each other. Just not the same and show is not as good. Terrible decision.

  19. roxanneface says:

    BRING AJ BACK….PLEASE!!! The chemistry was fantastic and just plain funny!!!!

  20. Usman says:


  21. Doug says:

    Just watching the 6th season of HSP. Sad to see AJ has gone. Strangely not surprised though. There seemed to be some genuine tension between the two, toward the end. That said, AJ always let the “average guy” play the straight man to a talented poker player who also was a terrific comedic talent in his day. We really felt a part of the excitement – like we could be in the booth with Gabe.

    Poker seems like a game where anyone can win. Gabe Kaplan alone, without AJ Benza has let the game really fall down a notch or two. So much of the HSP experience was the banter between the two of them.

    I’m sure there is more to this than simply freshening up the format” and perhaps some of it was true tension between AJ and Gabe. I really hope that those with the power can objectively see the loss created by dropping AJ. Even better, it would be GREAT to see him brought back.

    What a way to encourage loyal fans to stay connected and so, keep those revenue dollars coming in! Entertainment is about dollars and (in some cases) sense. It makes sense to gracefully return to the old format. It worked and god knows – Gabe needs someone to act as his foil. If Gabe stays in the booth “talking to himself”, even with pretty and talented interviewers on the floor, High Stakes Poker will have “jumped the shark”. Sad…

    Take care guys.

  22. Ken says:

    AJ was great bring him back!!

  23. Brian says:

    Gabe Kaplan is great–and remains so solo. But the genuine rancor between he and AJ was excellent. AJ is not a great commentator, nor does he belong at a poker table, and clearly Gabe didn’t like him, yet somehow it worked.

  24. uzas says:

    Bring him back!

  25. karen says:

    can’t understand why we need more interviews isn’t there enough already put the jokes and commentary back into this show and give us more of the table banter and comments who needs more interviews and pretty girls

  26. Greg says:

    GSN Brass are idiots.

    Why would anyone in their right mind take the best poker show on t.v. and mess with it?
    A.J was not a poker analyst and thats what Gabe needS, he is gabes setup man.
    Imagine Jerry Lewis without Dean Martin. Costello without Abbet, Rowan without Martin?

    Guys if we wanted Poker After Dark we would be watching Poker After dark. And this new segment where the pros are talking to the audience explaining to us what a straddle is like we are all retards, is not anything of value, this is where gabe explaining to aj what a straddle is comes in handy and it doesnt look scripted, please don’t treat the audience like we are all noobs.

    NEWSFLASH HSP was the most popular because it was real, not scripted, not heavily edited and we see what real high stakes games are like. We dont want to watch a SHOW, WE WANT TO SIT IN ON THE GAME!

  27. GCL says:

    Big mistake sacking AJ – Gabe and AJ were one of the best teams on TV.

    It was never about small chuckles with them – there were so many instances when I would break into a loud guffaw after listening to their inspired banter.

    Why do TV execs and suits have to be such boobs?

    Bring back AJ – NOW!!

  28. DON CARPENTER says:

    While I like Gabe very much explaining the game and the strategy. AJ seems to bring out the best of Gabe and I enjoyed their bickering. Gabe by himself bores me, you need a straight man to setup Gabe. The show is ok now but was great with both of them.

  29. ROSE says:

    High Stakes Poker is just not the same without A.J. The bantering back and forth between them really kept the program interesting. I agree we do not need more interviews with the poker players…….it just slows the game down. Come on GSN admit you made a mistake and bring A.J. back and get back to the interesting commentary there use to be

  30. christmasvalley says:

    Without A.J., re-runs are the only answer. GSN, you really blew it.

  31. dibe says:

    Without A.J. on the show I find it quite boring. He and Gabe added something more than just an analyst of the hand being played. If that’s all I wanted I could shut the tv off and read a book. What they added was entertainment, and without A.J. is just another instructional video. Maybe I’ll just shut the tv off and read a book.

  32. Willie Girl says:

    Gabe and AJ were THE BEST and I enjoyed their banter. It’s just not the same without AJ. BRING HIM BACK!!

  33. Tony says:

    HSP needs to realize that people tune(d) in to the show for more than just the poker. Gabe and A.J. have a chemistry that added a LOT of entertainment value to the show. I am very disappointed.

  34. kamaslo says:

    I truly miss AJ. I’m sure Gabe does, too. I won’t reiterate what others have already said, but just want to be counted as one more viewer who urges HSP to bring back AJ next season. It’s the first HSP season that I’ve not bothered to record the series … the charm is gone. Without AJ and Gabe together in the booth, the season fell flat for me. I miss it.

  35. Mazzula says:

    David Schiff apparently doesn’t understand how television works, or at least his comment missed the mark. The fact that Gabe and AJ were not in the room actually helped bring the viewer into the action. The viewer’s perspective is from behind the camera, not of anything the camera sees. Interviews can be good, if they provide an insight into the frame of mind of the player, and Kara Scott can be a good interviewer, but they are a break from the vicarious experience of being in the room with the action. We can identify with the off-screen dialog and have fun with that. A great poker player with a great sense of humor doesn’t need the commentary, because that player will provide their own advanced internal dialog. But for the rest of us, the banter provided a nice way to experience being there as though *we* were at that next level. Without AJ, we still vicariously experience “being Gabe Kaplan”, but the experience is being Gabe Kaplan sitting by ourselves talking to the TV, without another person to charm with our wit. Schiff took away the vicarious social experience.

  36. shooter says:


  37. jezebel1 says:

    Kaplan is a good commentator and poker player for that matter, but alone in the booth, he is childishly UNFUNNY! Listening to AJ laugh at Gabe’s comments, made the sometimes not-so-funny comments funny anyway. His laugh was genuine and I just loved the two of them working together. I thought at times that Gabe was mean to AJ, trying to make him look like a fool. AJ would just laugh and it made me like him all the more. If you want to change the show a little bit, why not have Gabe shave and look a little less scruffy.

  38. Keith says:

    Gaah! Why do producers always have to mess with things! The success of the show was POKER and table conversation, mixed with great chemistry between Gabe and AJ. If we want “interviews and insight” we can tune in to every other poker show on TV. Thanks, Schiffy, for ruining one of my favorite shows.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Bring back AJ now and get rid of those executives who have ruined the show.

  40. alnbarb says:

    its still not too late to bring back aj- but please hurry!

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