Griffin ‘Flush_Entity’ Benger is a 27-year old professional poker player from Canada who was recently ranked as the world’s greatest online MTT player on Pocketfives. After winning over $3 million playing poker in the virtual world he has decided to step outside of his front door to try his luck in the brick and mortar card rooms. He hopped on a plane, flew to Europe and tried his luck playing at WPT Vienna and EPT Monte Carlo and he is now playing in the biggest game of them all – the WSOP Main Event. We managed to drag him outside the back of the Rio for a quick chat and we are glad we did because Griffin Benger is a top bloke.
The first time I met you was in Vienna when you were playing in the PartyPoker Premier League qualifiers. There was a huge buzz about your presence in the field. How did you become so good?
It’s weird because I am really competitive and dedicated. Once I have a goal in mind I will try to do everything I can to achieve it. When I discovered MTT poker and I met a few people in the Toronto community it was a very inspiring moment. It was amazing how much information I didn’t have. I was playing mid-stakes sit n go’s and I was exposed to this whole new way of seeing the game and this really excited me. I put in an incredible amount of hours whilst still going to school. I was going to school from 10:00 to 14:00 and have my friend late-reg me into the $100 rebuy and I would be playing until 01.00 in the morning and then rinse/repeat for a year and a half. It was all I would think about. I would talk to my friends about hands and was consumed by it. I am one of the few people who were really fortunate coming out of Black Friday. I woke up one morning and I was one of the best players online. I would say I was a bit above average before it happened but post Black Friday I started doing really well and separated myself from everyone else because there were fewer people to compete with. There are some great European poker players like Nicolas ‘PokerKaiser’ Fierro and Mickey ‘mement_mori’ Petersen but it was a lot easier and it built my confidence a lot. I was a bit of a boss, a lot of people started to get intimidated and I had some fear equity because I had been put on this pedestal through my success. But I am very mindful that this success happened due to Black Friday.
So your number one world ranking was post-Black Friday?
Before Black Friday I was about 40th or something like that. Then I cashed for $112,000, a month after Black Friday, when I finished 2nd in the $750,000 Guaranteed on Full Tilt, then last SCOOP I finished 3rd in the $500 rebuy for another $95,000. I was really figuring out the game. I love my job but it was definitely because of Black Friday. The Americans rib me about it once in a while. I know that in some sort of context I am a bit of a fraud but I am ok with that. But at the same time this game is all about being humble. I am confident but I recognise that I can learn so much from all of these fantastic players. I have been backed all of my MTT career and I have always surrounded myself with players who are better than me so I can improve. Technically I could go alone and earn twice as much money as I do now but I wouldn’t learn as much and it’s not as fun to me. I feel like I am getting better every day.
You said you came out of Black Friday well, but did you have money tied up in your Full Tilt account?
I only tied up about $15k, which is obviously a lot of money, but nowhere near what everyone else is going through.
Who were the players that helped improve your MTT game so much?
S_dot111 on Full Tilt and g’s zee on Stars. S_dot111 was one of the biggest winners on Full Tilt and I found out that he lived just around the corner from me and he took me under his wing. For the next two years I played with him, learned from him and I owe all of my success to him. I eventually changed backers when I first came to Europe but I won this package under his backing so he has a 40% stake in this. I am really happy about that because if I was able to give him a few million dollars through this it would mean a great deal to me.
Where did it all start for you?
I was in the Counter Strike gaming community. A five on five first person shooter. I was absolutely obsessed with the game as a teenager and eventually became one of the best players in the world. But a lot of people were making the transition from Counter Strike to poker.
You got paid for playing Counter Strike?
Yeah! The top prize for one of the biggest tournaments was approx. $50,000 divided between five guys. So it was peanuts in poker but excellent money outside of the game. I was making a few thousand per month, through gaming, and it was enough for me to live.
So you were making a living doing something gazillions of us love to do for fun…you played games?
Basically, I have never had a real job in my life. I have the ultimate Peter Pan syndrome. I have never had to grow up and hope I never have to.
What is your favourite ever-video game?
I loved the Mass Effect series and the Uncharted games. Those games were great.
So when you started playing poker was it all just a game to you?
It was…that’s how I view it. A lot of my friends give me a hard time about it because I don’t care about the money. For me it’s about how many points I can get. Then at the end of the road and I see this money I am like, “wow, look at this money,” but I am always figuring out the best way to get as many points as possible. Points equal chips.
So tell us a little bit about your emergence on the live scene?
I wasn’t going to go to the EPT. I told myself that I could do it next year and then my friend said, “you don’t know where you will be next year. Do it now.” I am so glad that I did it. I mean it wasn’t a successful trip and I lost money with all of the spending, having my girlfriend out there and everything, but I learned a lot. Playing live is such a different animal and I had a huge learning curve and struggled a lot in the beginning. But I am learning more and more and hopefully this is the one where it all comes to fruition.
What do you do when you are not playing poker?
I am a huge TV and movie fanatic. I have a sports broadcasting degree so I am huge into sports also. I am a huge hockey fan. I used to play five days a week and I want to start back playing again when I get back.
Who are the guys you respect the most online?
There are a lot, Jamie ‘pokerjamers’ Armstrong and Taylor ‘ambiguosity’ Paur are two. I also have tremendous respect for Jason Koon. He is one of the guys who has really figured it out. He is a very charismatic guy, keeps in tremendous shape. I was able to play two full days with him in the four-max and he is definitely someone I aspire to be like for sure.
What about the live scene?
Faraz Jaka completely destroyed me in a hand at WPT Vienna, so he really impressed me, Kyle Julius is a guy I am really impressed with, Dan Smith…I have no idea how he has been able to accomplish what he has accomplished but he is fantastic…Marvin Rettenmaier…so many guys you can learn from and are an inspiration.
I was talking with Jamie Sykes about the fact that a lot of poker players criticise so many poker players and he told me that you think everybody is great…why is that?
I am very open-minded. There are many players I think do atrocious things, but if you try to categorise them as so bad then that’s wrong. They could be doing so many things much better than me, so you need to keep an open mind. The biggest mistake that poker players make is thinking there is one right way to do things and if you are not doing it that way then you are just bad. That’s a silly approach, Look at Andy Frankenberger for example. He does thinks very unconventionally and things that people think are wrong, but he is winning all of the money. I would love to spend the week talking strategy with Frankenberger because I guarantee you there are aspects of his game I could take away and make me an even better player.
What’s next for Griffin Benger?
I am going to play at EPT Barcelona and then I am going to have some time off. I spent the past year in Europe, Mexico and Vegas and I am due for a rest.