Online poker multimillionaire. Highly sought-after high-stakes CardRunners coach. Well-read and controversial blogger. Famous former housemate of Tom "durrrr" Dwan.
If not for a sick beat deep in this year's personal CardRunners blog - has made more than a few waves in the poker forums over the last few years.
The result has been a heavily warped image of Benefield as a somewhat petulant kid with little appreciation for the old guard that paved the way for his online poker success.
That image, of course, couldn't be further from the truth. Grounded, thoughtful and just plain smarter than most, at only 22 years old David "raptor" Benefield has accomplished more in poker than most of us will in a lifetime - and set himself up financially for the rest of his own in the process.
Benefield graciously took the time to chat with PokerListings.com over AOL Instant Messenger this week to answer some questions, including what might have been at the 2008 Main Event, some of his famous friends and his plans for the future.
First part of the results below:
Daniel Skolovy: For the people that don't know about it, can you give a brief synopsis of your poker career thus far?
David Benefield: Well, I started playing with friends at 16, playing 25¢/50¢ No-Limit with a $20 buy-in. I did well there. Eventually I found a live game in Arlington and started playing $1/$2 NL there and had pretty good results.
When I was 18 I made the switch to online sit-and-gos. I had dabbled in cash games but never got serious about it and then I finally made the switch full time to cash 2.5-3 years ago, I guess.
I have been doing that ever since, with random live multi-table tournaments thrown into the mix.
About a year ago I started playing PLO and now probably 80% of my income comes from that. The online sit-and-gos have been deadish and only occasionally do the nosebleeds run. So most of my attention goes to PLO.
DS: PLO is a hot game these days; why do you think that is?
DB: It's where NL was at 3-4 years ago - nobody really knows how to play it properly. Also, it is much easier to trick yourself into believing you are good at than NL [is]. The variance is so sick it's not that hard to run up 30-40 buy-ins just running hot.
There are so many spots that you can pretty much turn into coin flips. I mean there are ways to play hands where you increase variance and bring everything close to the middle as far as EV goes, but ultimately you will never gain an edge playing that way.
DS: Can you give an example?
DB: Yeah ... something like having a pair and a gutshot and a crappy flush draw. If you continuation bet that, get check-raised, and then just shove all-in with the No-Limit mindset of " Oh, I am a favorite vs. aces and have fold equity."
Well, that is partially true, but you can also be crushed. But if you do it every time with an average of 38 to 40% equity it's not hard to run good in the short term - win like 10 more than you should and all of a sudden you are up a million at $200/$400 and you think you have the game mastered, when in reality you are just running hot.
There is someone new like that every other month.
DS: Did poker always come naturally to you and what was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
DB: To be honest, poker always came relatively easily for me. As far as obstacles I honestly have had a pretty smooth ride. I've never gone broke or even been close. I have always been a bit of a bankroll nit and always game selected whenever I took shots or played extra-high stakes.
I guess my biggest obstacle was not letting downswings affect my nonpoker life. It's just too easy to merge the two and let your results carry over onto your friends/family and take it out on them.
Well, not really take it out on them, but just not be as friendly in general. A lot of times I just wouldn't go out or hang with friends because I was pissy about a loss or if I had plans that night I just wouldn't play during the day because I knew that if I lost I would be shitty company.
DS: And how did you eventually overcome that?
DB: The biggest fix to that was I guess just having more money, where the day-to-day swings don't really matter that much. Also time, meditation and experience really all help.
Who knows really? I still get a little upset when I have a really bad day. But I am tons better than I used to be.
I think it's mostly just experience. Poker isn't real life; it's a fantasy world. We are just kids that should be getting drunk in college and hoping to find a job that pays $40,000 a year when we graduate.
But $40,000 isn't even a big pot. It is retarded.
DS: With all of your success how do you manage to stay grounded at such a young age?
DB: I guess it's a "product of your environment" thing: my parents were always very conservative with money and I am just not flashy. I mean some guys will go out and buy ridiculous diamond watches and bling or whatever.
You see it all the time on the tourney circuit, all the young 20-somethings do it. That's just not me I guess. I mean, the friends that I still hang out with for the most part don't have any money; it's just a completely different world. It's hard to explain.
DS: What about your poker-playing friends - durrrr et. al. How did you meet them?
DB: I started talking to Tom online and met up with him at online sit-and-gos a few years ago. We had always gotten along well.
Most everyone I met through AIM [AOL Instant Messenger] and 2+2. I have always been friendly and talkative at the tables. When someone is good I want to get to know them and pick their brain. So I was always chatty and got the AIMs of people from asking them at the table.
2+2 has always been a great place to get to know how people think as well.
DS: It seems like most players at the top have friends also in the game - Krantz, Whitelime, FWF, the Dangs, etc. Is that because good players use other good players as a resource and develop a friendship, or is it coincidence that you guys are all at the top?
DB: The most important thing in becoming successful these days is having a good group of people to discuss strategy with. It's almost impossible to be supersuccessful being a hermit trying to do it all by yourself.
The people I talk to the most about poker are Phil [Galfond/OMGClayAiken], Tom [Dwan/durrrr], Z [Di Dang/Urindanger], and Hac [Hac Dang/trex313].
It is definitely not a coincidence that we are all some of the biggest winners in online poker.
DS: Those are like the gods of online poker.
DB: Not quite, but they are all supersmart and have all worked incredibly hard to get where they are in poker.
DS: So with so many great players at the top, where does your edge come from?
DB: Patatino, LadyMarmelade and those guys, lol. I mean c'mon, those accounts are down like $20 million in high stakes. Everyone that plays nosebleeds except those accounts are winning players, literally.
I mean occasionally there are a few others. And some players are just worse at some games. Like Benyamine is epic bad at O8 but stomps PLO. So it just passes around until a big fish sits.
I don't even bother playing without them. I play like 15 hours a month now. Occasionally I'll 12-table $5/$10 or something to make sure I'm sharp.
I mean poker is an awesome thing. But it isn't something I can do forever. It's pretty limited as far as what it allows you to do.
DS: Which is why you are planning to go back to school?
DB: Yeah, I really like writing, but don't do it anywhere nearly as well as I would like.
Continue to Part 2 of our interview with David "raptor" Benefield here.