The Session: David "raptor" Benefield Part 2

9 November 2008, Created By: Daniel Skolovy
Part 2 of 2 of's interview with David "raptor" Benefield, one of the most successful high-stakes online poker players in the world.

If you missed Part 1, blog is so popular?

DB: Honestly, I'm not sure. I used to put a lot more heart into it. I don't really know what to write about anymore. At first it wasn't that popular so I just wrote my true feelings but now everyone reads it.

Craig Marquis
Marquis: Raptor's horse in the Main Event.

My parents read it, my assistant reads it. So I have to be more careful, which kinda sucks because that's what made it good to begin with - the truth, the emotion - and I have to suppress that now.

DS: The [WSOP 2008 Main Event] final table is around the corner (live coverage here); you gonna be ringside for your boy Craig Marquis?

DB: Oh god, hell yeah. I have had ridiculously good results staking people recently and am always there to sweat it out. I mean I watched the entire last two days of Joe [Commisso]'s six-max event.

I never watch poker on TV, and it bores me to sit there and one-table a live tourney, but I was sitting there watching him play.

DS: Is it more stressful or less than playing?

DB: Heh, yes. Way more because I don't have any control over it. When I'm playing I'm not stressed at all really. I have 100% confidence in my game and my decisions.

DS: Did you guys get together to talk strategy for the final table?

DB: No, I have a weird philosophy on that. I think that if we fill his head with too much to think about he will put himself in a situation he isn't comfortable with and make a bigger mistake.

I want him to just go out there and play his game his way and trust his feelings.

DS: You came 73rd, due to a sick beat from one Brandon Cantu, so it could have easily been you in his shoes.

DB: Sigh, yeah. But that's tournament poker.

Brandon Cantu
Cantu: The bane of raptor's 2008 Main Event.

DS: How would you approach the final table if you were in his spot with his same chip stack, around $10 million at $120k/$240k?

DB: I don't know; I don't normally make plans in poker. Whenever you do it never works out the way you plan. I try to look at every situation individually when it comes up and figure out what the best play is from that point.

I could go in and be like, "OK, I'm gonna be super aggro and try to build a big stack," because that's what most would say here. But that might not be the best.

If everyone else is going nutso I would just sit back and wait for a hand before getting it in. If everyone was nitty then I would raise every hand. You just have to be able to adjust to the table and what is going on in their heads.

DS: Knowing what you know of the players, how do you think it will start out - aggro or supernitty?

DB: I think it will start out and stay pretty aggro at least at first. The bigger stacks will be putting on a lot of pressure, opening a lot of pots. Nobody is going to want to finish ninth, and with Kelly Kim having only 10BB the bigger stacks have a huge edge in that regard.

It is another bubble of sorts and one of the bigger ones in my opinion since everyone wants to get the extra face time. Nobody is going to want to make a mistake and end up ninth.

So, if I had a big stack I would be going nuts and opening/reraising every hand. But in Craig's spot he can just chill. He has 41BB; that is plenty. I think the rest of the table, Eastgate, Montgomery, etc. will be doing that [going crazy].

Peter Eastgate
Eastgate: Likely to go crazy.

DS: OK, let's talk about your tournament game. You've had decent success but nothing seems to go right when you get deep. I know you could probably make more from cash so why do you continue to one-table grind these events? Are you a glutton for punishment?

DB: lol, that's one way to look at it. I mean I really want to win a tourney and I'm not even sure why. I just think it would be awesome and I've been in such good spots in the last few months and just got unlucky deep.

That's tourney poker though and it's something that people fail to realize - that [it's] soooo much luck in tournament poker.

Everyone thinks they are the nuts but you really just have to run hot and it doesn't really matter how great you are. I mean to a varying degree there are things that you can do to lower variance and keep your tourney life alive, but once you get chips it's usually best to just flip it up.

A lot of guys will just reshove 20BB stacks with anything because its +EV. So what if you take a +.01% EV shot and lose? You pass on tons and tons of higher +EV spots, and that's what a lot of people miss. Why not run up a stack?

This is a very hard-to-explain concept: if you have three times the average stack, then go for it. You can afford to take some flips in an attempt to get massive chips and put yourself in a spot to win. But I mean lose three flips and you are out, and that happens all the time.

That's what tourneys are - whoever runs the best wins the day; that's all there is to it. There is no long term. I mean, look at the upcoming Main Event final table. It will be what, like 200 hands? Maybe 300?

That's nothing. The worst player in the world could be the biggest winner in a $500/$1k NL game in a random 200-hand sample. Of course there are things you can do to increase your chances but ultimately it comes down to who runs hot. That is who will win the Main Event this year.

DS: Very true. I've taken up enough of your time. To end it out, who are your top three NLHE and PLO players?

DB: Bah, that is such a hard thing to answer. I mean, Phil [Galfond/OMGClayAiken], Tom [Dwan/durrrr], Z [Di Dang/Urindanger], and Hac [Hac Dang/trex313] are all great at both games.

As to who is better at which I can't really say. Ivey is, of course, sick at everything, Patrik Antonius, and Benyamine at PLO is without a doubt the best. He is up $11 million online in PLO - that should say something about him.

DS: Thanks a lot for doing this, I appreciate it.

DB: Anytime.

DS: And good luck with the sweat.

DB: Thanks.

For live coverage of the 2008 WSOP Main Event final table, jump to our 2008 WSOP page here.

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