It’s a funny old life.
One minute you’re sitting in front of your Nintendo using the NES Zapper to shoot ducks like Dirty Harry shoots bad guys, and the next minute you’re winning a million dollars on a TV poker show called the Shark Cage.
One minute your father tells you that you are doing nothing more than ‘wasting your potential,’ and the next minute he’s strutting around like a peacock telling anyone who wants to listen that his son is the best in the world at not one, but two things.
That funny old life belongs to Griffin ‘Flush_Entity’ Benger. The winner of the PokerStars Shark Cage and $1 million the richer.
I love the story of Griffin Benger. It’s the closest thing you will get to a testosterone-charged version of a fairytale. Benger has managed to make millions of dollars without ever having to grow up. He is living proof that you can spend all of your time playing video games and still amount to something.
His only ‘real job’ was working at a little comic book/gaming store. He didn’t get paid for it, and instead he worked the hours off so he could have a PlayStation as his reward. Benger would take games that nobody liked down to Wal-Mart and use his cherubic ways to con them into exchanging the game for better titles that he could sell in his boss’s store.
He didn’t realize it back then, but when he was managing to exchange piss poor games for copies of Metal Gear Solid, he was learning an important lesson. Anything is doable, you just need to figure out how to get it done.
That ideology has followed him through life and continues to create a trail of fairy dust everywhere he steps. He reached the pinnacle of the Counter Strike community, and did the same when he hit the top spot in the PocketFives online tournament poker world rankings.
He is a great example of why online poker players should leave their bedroom doors. He is also a great example of how to make the most of a bad situation. Earning a professional sponsorship in the world of poker is akin to getting a date with Kylie Minogue. Even world number ones don’t get recognized by online poker rooms anymore.
That didn’t stop Benger though. He got involved in the European Poker Tour (EPT), he never turned down an interview, always gave good value when he did, and he eventually got his reward – he was selected to appear in the biggest freeroll of his life: The PokerStars Shark Cage. A funny old road trip in the modern day Dan Colmanesque way of doing things.
Benger was selected because there was something marketable about the young man. We are living in a poker community where there is a real belief that the players get nothing from anyone anymore. Here was PokerStars giving away a million bucks, but you had to be on the list. If you weren’t on that list then you didn’t stand a chance.
So how did Benger get on that list?
In a word, he was smart.
Like I said earlier, he played the game. He was the loyal poker servant. Each time a magazine asked for an interview, he was there. Stick a video camera in his face and he would smile. Ask him a question and he gave you a solid, in your face, straight answer. It was like he was back home shooting those ducks all over again.
Benger won the fifth of eight heats and was soon playing heads-up against the former English rugby captain, Mike Tindall, for a million dollars. He was Dirty Harry all over again.
“Go ahead, make my day.”
And he did.
The crucial hand was a flip. A million dollar flip. Benger held pocket tens, Tindall held ace-jack, and five cards later Benger had nearly every single chip in play.
Tindall is a fighter though. The queen didn’t bestow him with the MBE because she liked the shape of his nose. The man who calls the Princess Royal his mother-in-law doubled up several times before Benger eventually eliminated him, holding A-A on a board of #10s#5h#4c, with Tindall moving all-in holding #5s#2d for middle pair.
“It’s the ultimate cliché but it doesn’t really feel ‘real’ right now. It was just a lot of fun and I’m just grateful. This is why we all play and this why I came to play the Shark Cage. Poker has been a big gift for me in my life. I think that that’s really the right attitude to have when you have something like this. I feel very, very blessed,” Benger said after his victory.
A million bucks for winning two Sit n Go’s, and just think, if he would have listened to his Dad he would probably have ended up sending little kids to Wal-Mart with orders to turn crappy little video games into Grand Theft Auto.
At least now he can afford a PlayStation.