Mr. Kotter rips Benza on HSP season finale

Gabe Kaplan

It seems, usually, like playful bantering. But the verbal jousting between hosts Gabe Kaplan and A.J. Benza on GSN's High Stakes Poker also seemed to take a turn for the nasty last week, with Mr. Kotter suggesting Benza knew nothing about poker and didn't belong on the show at all.

A ratings ploy for Season 4, perhaps, or a true devolution of a mildly contentious relationship fostered by seemingly lighthearted jabs over the last three seasons?

Hard to say. But here's how it went down, according to

Kaplan, as per usual, fired off another put-down in Benza's direction, to which Benza replied, "You can't be nice? We're this close to being over for the season."

Kaplan's reply: "Let me say what I feel honestly... I don't think you know anything about poker. I don't think you belong on this show."

TVWeek says it's a bit of pomp and circumstance, claiming "insiders" profess the hostility is disingenuous and Kaplan has, in the past, actually lobbied the network to keep Benza on the show.

GSN President-CEO Rich Cronin, as quoted in the article, says its all part of the game.

"Gabe brings his successful professional poker-playing experience and background as a comedian to High Stakes Poker," Cronin said. "Along with his co-host, A.J. Benza, they mirror the good-natured ribbing that occurs between the players on the telecasts."

Episodes for Season 4 of the popular show start taping in Las Vegas in May, and are scheduled to start airing in the fall.

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