It’s just like the good old days of the poker boom, now that “High Stakes Poker” is back on TV. The iconic poker show has been relaunched by Poker Central and its first new episode streamed on PokerGO. Old-time fans will be excited that both AJ Benza and comedian Gabe Kaplan are back as hosts and commentators.
Classic Poker Fun Returns
The classic show debuted during the peak of the poker boom, in 2006. The show’s appeal was due to not only the clever banter by the players, who usually knew each other, but also because it’s a high-stakes cash game. The show had a fast and fun pace, driven by audacious play and huge bankrolls.
Most poker programs disappeared when Black Friday shut down poker websites in April 2011, and the show’s sponsorship money in the US dried up.
Mori Eskandani, the show’s creator, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he’s wanted to relaunch “High Stakes Poker” for a while, but the COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions scuttled that plan.
The good news is, despite the never-ending coronavirus restrictions, the players will not wear masks. The show’s producers recognize that the table talk is important, and that the show’s fans want to see human faces, with human emotions and expressions. However, players are required to remain isolated in a hotel room, and must be tested for the virus before sitting at the table.
Old Fans Loved Seeing Familiar and New Faces
On the first episode of the New “High Stakes Poker,” we’re thrilled to see familiar faces like Bryn Kenney, Tom Dwan, and Jean-Robert Bellande. But there were lots of new players as well, like former Major League Baseball pitcher Michael Schwimer.
During Episode 1, Poker Central placed a lot of focus on Schwimer; Schwimer said that he could not be more excited to be on the iconic show. “I grew up watching Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, all those old shows. It’s been really cool to have the opportunity to sit down and play with some of the greatest poker players in the world.”
Schwimer also had an interesting take on his appearance, saying that even though he was up against the best poker players in the world, he felt much less nervous on “High Stakes Poker” than he felt on the pitcher’s mound. To him, it was all about having fun, while pitching was his job.
“If I go sit down at that poker table and lose everything, it’s not a problem at all for me. But at the time, the Major Leagues were my livelihood. That was a lot more pressure.”
Schwimer believes poker is not about the money, but instead, the game itself. The fact is, poker is a game of skill and Schwimer wanted to prove that he had what it takes. He’s happy that he played well on “High Stakes Poker,” but attributed losing money to bad luck. However, in baseball, he was OK with having an off day, but considered it lucky when hard-hit balls ended up in his teammates’ glove.
Welcome Back, Gabe Kaplan, High Stakes Poker Superstar
Old-time fans of “High Stakes Poker” probably also remember Gabe Kaplan from the wildly popular 1970’s situation comedy, “Welcome Back Kotter.” In that show, Kaplan starred as a high school teacher, with a class full of unruly, dysfunctional students known as the Sweathogs.
Kaplan began his poker career while still on that show, and by 1980, he was considered an elite player. It wasn’t long before he had completely transitioned away from acting to poker, and over the next few years, he made it to the final table at the Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker main event three times. He’s also seized titles at the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker.
Without a doubt, a new generation of poker enthusiasts will be enthralled not only by the high stakes play, but also Gabe Kaplan’s dry wit and laser-focused humor.