By: Paul Hewson
For Canadian poker fans, Griffin Benger’s seventh-place finish at the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event should be celebrated. Making the November Nine is a feat in and of itself, and Benger (+900 to win) earned just over $1.25 million for his efforts. But that's not what most people will remember about the Toronto native's performance. They'll remember that one hand he played with William Kassouf.
In case you missed what's already been called the “most famous hand” in WSOP history, the Main Event was down to two tables when Benger and Kassouf, an Englishman whose strategy includes putting verbal pressure on his opponents, got themselves involved in a giant pot. Benger, holding pocket Aces, opened under the gun. Kassouf raised from the hijack with pocket Kings. Benger re-raised, then Kassouf started grilling him. Eventually, Benger shot back, calling Kassouf an “abusive person” and telling him to “check his privilege.” Seeing his opponent on tilt, Kassouf shoved – and Benger snap-called triumphantly.
While some were very pleased to see Benger eliminate his abrasive opponent, others see Benger as the villain in this piece. Those people's voices have been the loudest, attacking Benger on Twitter with more ferocity than Kassouf showed on the felt. Even the host broadcaster took not-so-subtle jabs at Benger; when the ESPN cameras filmed Vancouver's own Michael Niwinski (who finished in 15th, two spots ahead of Kassouf) on the rail during Day 1 of the final table, commentator Lon McEachern made a point to call Niwinski his favourite Canadian at the Main Event.
In the end, Benger's November Nine run was brief, as he was dealt mostly trash from the get-go and had to settle for waiting out the two short stacks – Fernando Pons (ninth) and Jerry Wong (eighth). Benger was clearly overwhelmed after his elimination by how much of a negative response he'd gotten for his performance. When ESPN's Kara Scott asked Benger what he'd learned from his experience, he could only smile, and deliver eight wise words: “Be careful what you say on national TV.”