By: Paul Hewson
There are plenty of fine poker players in this year's November Nine, but if there's one person you know, it's Griffin Benger. He's been all over Twitch this year, commentating on the first season of the Global Poker League. Two years ago, Benger won the first season of Shark Cage for $1 million. And now he's going to be at the final table of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Benger was born to do this. The 31-year-old Toronto native is the son of Nicky Guadagni, a two-time Gemini Award-winning actress who did Shakespeare at Stratford. Benger is already a World Champion at Counter-Strike; under the username shaGuar, he was a member of the Chicago Chimera, who won first place at the CGS 2007 World Championship. Now Benger can become the second Canadian to win the WSOP Main Event, after Boucherville, Quebec's own Jonathan Duhamel in 2010.
E-sports can be a rewarding pursuit, but the $250,000 that the Chimera won in 2007 pales in comparison to the $8-million top prize at this year's Main Event. And while $8 million would certainly be the largest cash on Benger's CV, he's already won more than that playing poker. His lifetime earnings, online ($6.49M) and live ($3.40M) together, add up to nearly $10 million.
That's including the minimum $1 million Benger will get if he somehow crashes out in ninth place at the final table. But that’s pretty unlikely; Benger goes into the first day of competition on October 30 with a healthy stack of 26,175,000 chips, or about 52 big blinds. That's only seventh among the remaining nine players, but he’s comfortably in the middle of the pack, and ahead of the two short stacks: Jerry Wong (20BB) and Fernando Pons (12BB).
Shyam I Am
It's been quite a ride for Benger since he started playing poker online in 2006. After cutting his teeth on sit-and-goes, Benger finished fourth in the first MTT he ever played. Then he started learning poker from Shyam Srinivasan, a fellow Torontonian who went on to finish sixth at the 2014 PCA Main Event. Benger's background in sports journalism (he has a degree in broadcasting) shows he's not afraid to put in the hours to learn what poker's all about.
By 2011, Benger was making money at the WSOP. His first cash was a modest $2,676 for finishing 255th out of 4,576 players at the $1,000 No Limit Hold'em event. But it only took one year after that for Benger to cash at the Main Event. Then he did it again in 2014. With any luck, the third time will be the charm in 2016.