Re: AJ Benza Fears Being Bounced by GSN

Benza Confirms Being Replaced

by , Oct 11, 2009 | 6:58 am

An update on a story from last month, but AJ Benza confirmed earlier this morning on 2+2 that he has been replaced on High Stakes Poker (taping for season 6 starts in November) by a woman cohost.

Unconfirmed reports name Vanessa Rousso as his replacement.

AJ has more on the decision at his blog.


23 Comments to “Re: AJ Benza Fears Being Bounced by GSN ”


  1. DanM
    says:

    If it is Vanessa Roussa, you gotta wonder how much PokerStars and/or GoDaddy advertising we’ll see. I have 0 information to make such an assertion anything more than wild speculation … but his canning is yet another example of a so-so poker personality getting squeezed out, and you gotta think business realities may have factored into the decision.


  2. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    When the original rumor came out a few weeks ago, I said the worst possible choice would be Vanessa Rousso (mainly because she’s not really liked by the forum community). As long as she doesn’t um, er, and like her way through the show, maybe it won’t be so bad.


  3. DanM
    says:

    With all due respect, do you think the forum community really matters that much? I realized the relative insignificance of ANY website’s opinion when it became apparent that UB/AP was going to survive and even thrive post-scandal.


  4. wendywendy
    says:

    My understanding is they are making the change to bring in more female viewers. The real question is: Who thinks women who like poker and therefore watch the show CARE if there is a girl co-host? I want to watch poker. You don’t see the hosts you only hear them.


  5. DanM
    says:

    good point, wendy … but for that matter, does anyone really CARE about Benza? i mean i’m sure HSP was thinking, hey, how can we mix things up just for the sake of change … because really, they do need to keep evolving. Changing a host seems to do more toward that end than changing the blinds.

    (Though I really would love to see them add some Omaha!)


  6. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    “With all due respect, do you think the forum community really matters that much? I realized the relative insignificance of ANY website’s opinion when it became apparent that UB/AP was going to survive and even thrive post-scandal.”

    In the case of one moderating a forum that’ll be handling comments, yes. When the show started, plenty of people didn’t care for AJ, who’s admitted he knew little about poker at the start. But he and Gabe made a great team together.

    GSN is a network dedicated to an older female demographic, except for the Sunday night block of poker. Dunno if adding a woman is really going to improve the female demo, but I guess they’ll find out soon enough.


  7. DanM
    says:

    If they want to appeal to an older female demographic, I’d think Gus Hansen would make a better co-host.


  8. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    KevMath: “As long as [Vanessa Rousso] doesn’t um, er, and like her way through the show, maybe it won’t be so bad.”

    It’s not a live telecast, so conversational pauses and stalls shouldn’t be a problem. Those things can either be edited out or just scripted or reshot. Also, while she’s been the subject of a lot of interviews, I believe this is her first time in the announcer’s/commentator’s chair — she’ll receive feedback from the director and producers, and likely improve quickly.

    As an example, the first few episodes of “The Poker Beat” had a lot more ums, errs, and stalls than more recent episodes. And that’s without anyone providing constructive on-the-fly feedback.


  9. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    Vanessa has done commentary on Latin America Poker Tour events.


  10. DanM
    says:

    I like her in those creepy godaddy commercials (you know, where the godaddy CEO who looks like the Bunny Ranch guy insinuates she needs to shed her clothes for him) … and she does have experience in the high stakes world, including playing against the people likely to be on the table …

    If it turns out to be Vanessa, gotta say, sucks for Benza, but I’d be looking a little extra-forward to the new season, with presumably a higher-level poker banter.


  11. DanM
    says:

    ***the first few episodes of “The Poker Beat” had a lot more ums, errs,***

    Funny, I just re-listened to the last episode and realized I had regressed um- and uh-wise.

    So anyone else in the rumored running for the position? Assuming their not just gonna go with a second not-too-pokery hostess-hottie, I can’t really think of any other female who might make sense.


  12. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    If they were going toward “eye candy” that AJ mentioned in the original post, Lacey Jones would be a better fit.


  13. JaKat
    says:

    Lacey is great as eye candy and knows poker, but I think she’s more of a hostess than a commentator. Just my opinion, of course. I don’t know about Vanessa’s commentating skills, but I’d be surprised to see her talking about the game rather than playing. I think her competitive nature would make it hard for her to sit on the rail.

    Anyone care to guess if Tiffany is auditioning?


  14. Mean Gene
    says:

    Why would they have Rousso as co-host when it’s Gabe who provides the insight and analysis? Benza’s job was to call out the cards, ask Gabe what he thought of the situation, and play off Gabe’s comments and jokes. And this he did very, very well. Listening to them on HSP was like listening to two pals BS-ing, and it worked really well. I don’t understand putting a poker pro (be it Rousso or any other pro, male or female) in Benza’s spot because it’s Kaplan’s commentary on the poker that makes HSP so great.


  15. Huston
    says:

    The banter between the two made the show interesting. This will limit Gabe also and the show will be less appealing for this decision.


  16. yestbay1
    says:

    Maybe they will just bring in a “female AJ,” i.e. someone with limited poker knowledge who can banter with Gabe (as well as look good on camera). I too am not sure what the point of adding a poker pro would be, unless the producers want some debate between Gabe and the co-hostess about what the right play was.

    I thought that AJ and Gabe made a good team. I hope AJ lands on his feet, and that the show doesn’t suffer from this shift.


  17. DanM
    says:

    I think Gabe will do great with any of the Sweathogs as his co-host.


  18. Vinny B.
    says:

    I thought Benza did a good job on the show.


  19. Curt
    says:

    I guess I’m in the minority, but not only did I start out not particularly caring for Benza, I never thought I saw any “chemistry” develop between them. All the way to the end, Benza seemed to me like an awkward straight man who does not really get Kaplan’s kind of humor, and I would be surprised to find out that Kaplan harbors any genuine affection for Benza.

    That being said, I cannot stand Rousso. My gut tells me that sticking with Benza is the safer bet… but supposedly she is smart and good at poker, so I’d love to be proved wrong and see her add something great to the show.


  20. Carol Thoma
    says:

    My opinion: GSN took away the magic (A.J. Benza). The program wasn’t broke, so why did you feel compelled to fix it?
    Carol Thomas


  21. Phil McCrakin
    says:

    I agree w/ most of the comments, Benza is good for the show, now its not as “upbeat” w/just Gabe. I’ve been watching this game since it’s inception,and have recorded most episodes, for the game knowledge of how they play. I also think they need to show more “recent” shows, I.E. from 2010, most are waaaaaay to old and the luster has faded. Bring back Benza, you’ll pick up more viewers again, women just want to be men, they have fouled up this entire state,w/ all their B.S., take heed, nothing like the “real thing”. Get with it while you still have some “sparse” viewers left and salvage it w/ Benza returned…………P.M.


  22. Phil McCrakin
    says:

    P.S. That Russo broad would be a total disaster, scuttle it immediately ! She sucks !


  23. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    Kara Scott was the co-host last season on HSP. Any plans on if people are going for the upcoming season haven’t been revealed yet.