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PokerListings.com gets to know David Benefield after he made the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event final table. Benefield is a 27-year-old poker player from Arlington, Texas who has been making a living for years playing high-stakes poker online. In 2009 Benefield took a step back from poker and is now studying Chinese and Political Science in addition to playing cards. David Benefield is known as Raptor online and as part of the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event final table he's got a chance at $8 million.
I never thought I would be here with this opportunity. I remember when I was 17 hanging out with my friends watching the World Series main event, we watched Moneymaker win it and it the coolest thing ever. We were just started playing, we'd watch Rounders and were figuring out about this no-limit Texas Hold'em game and we thought it was something really cool. We started watching the tournaments and I would record the W.P.T. final tables they used to air all the time and I never thought I would have this opportunity. I have said before that I think there is a ton of luck in tournaments and I was super lucky to get here. I think even if your ten times better than the rest of the field it's very unlikely, statistically, that you can make the final table. So yeah, it's really been a crazy experience I can't believe I have gotten this far and it's pretty cool to have the opportunity to play for the World Series main event bracelet.
When I started playing in high school I had a pretty good group of friends, maybe 5 or 6 guys, we always played poker together. They were all super intelligent guys that went on to do great things and I was one of the ones in the group who pursued the poker thing. These guys went to med school and law school, and all these traditionally successful careers, and I was just playing poker. So when I dropped out of school originally at 18 my parents were probably a little unhappy about that decision. My mom is a college professor, my dad is a military guy for 25 years and so I think they were pretty skeptical, I'd say at best, of that decision but pretty quickly they realized it was something that was viable. I was supporting myself, they didn't really have to worry about me and I think after a year or two, so maybe by the time I was 19 or 20, they saw that I was having some pretty reasonable success and they were really happy for me and very supportive the rest of the way through. My friends from high school, I have actually gotten a few texts over the last few days, they're like "Wow I can't believe this happened, we used to dream about this." Yes, so it feels pretty great.
I don't think getting a lot of money early in life is necessarily adversity, I think it's just a really phenomenal opportunity. I think a lot of people blow it, I think I kind of blew it a little with some bad investments along the way. I never really had a lavish lifestyle and spent a lot of money on $20,000 to the club or things like this but I bought some real estate at a time when there was a real estate bubble and that was all a disaster. I invested in a couple of companies that didn't work out too well. I was young and had read a lot about investing and I was trying to diversify my resources and try to make some good things happen. Do I wish I did things differently? Well yeah, sure, but I think I made the best decisions I could've made at the time with the knowledge that I had. I've still been very successful overall, I'm not unhappy in my situation and having made money early on I gave myself the opportunity to pursue a lot of things that I wouldn't have otherwise. If I went to school originally when I was 18 and completed the traditional track I probably would have done finance and accounting or something at my original school and been an accountant or something right now, I don't know. But I had the opportunity to figure out what I wanted to do, focus my goals a little bit better and have a more mature approach to the education process which I think is really important. Really what success in poker has given me is the freedom to choose what I want to do. And I'm still trying to figure out what that is but what I'm trying to do now is just maximize my opportunities. In school I'm studying political science and Chinese, I don't necessarily know if I'll use that, but I want to have as many doors open as possible.
The motivations going into this final table are I guess there is a few, obviously the money is gigantic, winning would be life changing. I have been pretty successful financially already in poker. I have played high stakes for a long time and so I don't think it would change my day to day life, but it would be pretty darn nice to have 8 million extra sitting in an investment account somewhere that I don't really have to worry about. So yeah that's a big motivator. It's a dream of every poker player, I think, to make the final table. It's really exciting I would love to do well not just for me but it would be some kind of validation for my friends that I played with in high school, for my family and whoever supported me along the way and thought I was making a good decision. It would just be unbelievably cool, I think it's just really a neat thing. It's not something I ever, I didn't ever expect to be here so I feel really lucky and I'm really happy to have made it this far.