Griffin “shaGuar” Benger has reached the final table of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. He is guaranteed to win at least $1 million, with a first prize of $8 million awaiting the eventual champion.
Of the 6,737 players that entered the $10,000 buy-in Main Event, nine remain. The final table, also known as “The November Nine,” will reconvene in November to play down to a champion.
The remaining nine players have played six near-consecutive twelve-hour days of poker to reach this point. They can now enjoy a three-month break while the beginning stages of the tournament air on ESPN, after which they will return to Las Vegas for a live-streamed final.
Benger will be in sixth place in the chip counts at the start of the final table.
Poker and “shaGuar”
Before retiring from Counter-Strike, Benger won almost $1 million across 22 tournaments as part of NoA, Team 3D and Chicago Chimera. Since then, he has amassed over $5 million in prizes playing online poker tournaments.
“It’s a pretty natural transition,” Benger said in a poker interview back in 2012. “Once I got into poker I became really obsessed with it. It’s one of those games where there’s always room to get better, and… with Counter-Strike, I got to a point where I really couldn’t get much better.”
Benger began playing poker on Full Tilt Poker in 2006, and quickly became an aficionado of the “Sit & Go” tournament format, wherein a group of players will pay an entry fee and then play until one player has all the chips and the lion’s share of the prize pool.
He won some of online poker’s major titles for six-figure prizes before moving to the live poker arena. Before the 2016 WSOP, he had won over $2.3 million dollars in live poker tournaments, including a first-place finish in the 2013 EPT Berlin €10,000 High Roller event. In 2014, he won a million dollars in the poker TV show “Shark Cage.”
Benger isn’t the only former esports professional to make the move to poker. PokerStars-sponsored French player Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier played StarCraft before becoming one of Europe’s most successful tournament poker players.
Why do esports champions play poker?
Benger and Grospellier aren’t the only esports pros who have since made the transition to poker. PokerStrategy founder Dominik Kofert found poker through StarCraft, as did Dutch poker pro Lex Veldhuis.
The similarities between esports and online poker are obvious. Both involve prolonged sessions at the computer and require incredibly quick tactical decisions.
Many online poker players will play as many as a dozen or more tables at the same time, so a high APM (actions per minute) is a useful skill.
The money is the main draw of poker versus esports. While there are many esports tournaments offering six-figure prizes, this is routine in poker, where many millions of dollars can be won every week.
About the World Series of Poker
The World Series of Poker is the oldest poker tournament series in the world, dating back to 1970.
The Main Event is the most sought-after title in the series of over sixty tournaments, with prize pools dwarfing even The International. It carries a buy-in of $10,000 and this year, the 6,737 entrants created a prize pool of more than $63 million.
This is the fifth-largest prize pool in the history of the tournament, and the largest since 2011.