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There has been a change of guard in the broadcasting booth of PokerGO’s High Stakes Poker as three-time WSOP bracelet winner Nick Schulman has stepped into poker legend Gabe Kaplan`s shoes.
This isn’t the first time there has been a change in commentators for the popular poker television program. A. J. Benza hosted the first five seasons alongside Kaplan. In the sixth season, Kara Scott replaced Benza as Kaplan’s co-host, with Scott conducting interviews from the poker room floor. In the seventh season, Norm Macdonald replaced Kaplan as Scott’s co-host. In the eighth season, Benza and Kaplan returned as hosts.
However, this time the change is of a more permanent nature, as Kaplan announced his retirement from the show last week. PokerGO disclosed the news in a press release that the legendary voice of one of poker’s most iconic shows was immediately stepping down from his role. Making one last hurray, Kaplan and his partner Benza announced the Season 10 premiere on Tuesday night.
For me it isn’t High Stakes Poker without Gabe, but I’d like you guys to know I received his blessing. The Don himself. It will never be as good as Gabe and AJ, Farha, and young Daniel dressed like he runs a strip club in Romania. pic.twitter.com/C6bAf7jrQb
— Nick Schulman (@NickSchulman) February 1, 2023
Schulman made his debut appearance in the broadcast booth on Tuesday night, paired with Benza for Episode 2 of High Stakes Poker Season 10.
Benza eased Schulman into the booth, introducing his new co-host off the bat, ushering in the next era of High Stakes Poker.
“I’m doing great, AJ,” Schulman said. “When I got the call from the Big Guy it was a little bit surreal, and can’t believe I’m sitting next to you on High Stakes, but I’m happy to be here.”
“Oh, listen, we’re all Brooklyn guys. Me, you, and Gabe – never bet against Brooklyn guys, we’re gonna be fine,” Benza responded.
Benza, Schulman, and Kaplan were all born in New York City.
PokerGO announced that Schulman would take over the color commentary role for the 10th season of High Stakes Poker. And presumably, beyond.
The now-retired poker announcer, 77, is also a successful actor and comedian. He played the eponymous teacher in the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.
Kaplan became involved in financial markets and poker during his acting career. He made his first appearance at the WSOP in 1978. In 1980, Kaplan joined the ranks of poker’s elite by taking down the Main Event at Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker and was presented with “a loving cup that was so enormous it made the gaudy gold bracelets given to the winners at the World Series of Poker look understated.”
Over the next five years, his reputation was solidified as he made the final table at the Super Bowl’s Main Event two more times.
Kaplan was a joint TV commentator for the 1997 and 2002 WSOP. In 2007, Kaplan won on NBC’s Poker After Dark in the episode “Queens and Kings” after defeating Kristy Gazes heads-up and outlasting Howard Lederer, Ali Nejad, Vanessa Rousso, and Annie Duke in a $20,000 buy-in NLHE (6-Max) Winner-Takes-All SnG.
Kaplan won again on Poker After Dark during “Cowboys” week that first aired in February 2008, against Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Chau Giang, Hoyt Corkins, and Doyle Brunson. Kaplan’s Poker After Dark victory in the first week of the 2010 season (the “Commentators III” episode) was the most incredible comeback in the show’s history.
Schulman is extraordinarily accomplished on the felt, accumulating over $15 Million in live tournament winnings, a WPT title, and three WSOP bracelets before age 40. Alongside his tall poker accomplishments, he has become one of the industry’s most respected on-air commentators over the last several years.
He is arguably best known to the general poker public for his time behind the mic at WSOP Main Event final tables, but he has a lengthy broadcasting resume in just the past decade. In addition to the WSOP, Schulman has contributed to loads of PokerGO streams like High Stakes Duel, PokerGO Cup, Poker Masters, the Super High Roller Bowl, and the U.S. Poker Open.
“Nick represents the modern era of poker as one of the most knowledgeable, dignified minds in the game, and we are thrilled to welcome him to High Stakes Poker,” said PokerGO president Mori Eskandani. “When Nick first started working with PokerGO, it quickly became apparent that he had a bright future on this side of the felt. Nick’s fresh, insightful perspective has added immense value to PokerGO over the years, and we believe he is the perfect fit to carry on the legacy of poker’s most iconic cash-game show.”
Kaplan and Schulman are two different talents from different eras. Although Kaplan is a longtime poker player, he’s better known for his work as a comedian and an actor. An entertainer, first and foremost. His commentary over the years reflected that he was always on the ready with a joke to keep things light.
Schulman’s appeal stems from his longtime success as a high-level pro. He can take viewers inside the players’ minds and has won over the poker community since his debut commentary at the 2015 Super High Roller Cash Game. Since then, he’s been featured on the World Series of Poker, Super High Roller Bowl, and other PokerGO broadcasts.
While it is unfortunate to see an iconic talent like Kaplan step down, it will be interesting to see Schulman in the upcoming episodes.
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