EPT11 Malta: Benger on the bubble
You wouldn't think Griffin Benger would be terrible at anything poker related, what with that Shark Cage thing and those tournament wins. But it turns out he's terrible at stalling. Then again in this case I think that was the point.
Benger should be immune to running down the clock, with a bank balance sturdy enough to withstand the tremors of burst bubble. But that didn't seem the point. For Benger was out to have a little fun.
It's difficult to say whether he played up to the cameras or the cameras came to him because he was playing up. It's a chicken and egg thing that leaves you to draw your own conclusions. But play up he did, with a little help from his accomplice Connar Drinan, whose own second place in the €25k Special High Roller event meant his temporary stalling could only be ironic as well.
So what happened? Well, Benger, still the only man in the tournament room to chew a toothpick, performed several elaborate stalls as the bubble in sight, imitating, or maybe paying tribute, to some of the great stallers of our time.
Players like Dmitry Ivanov at the PCA, whose shameless delaying in the Bahamas was so bad as to be almost heroic. Then there was that guy in Prague a few seasons ago who brought new levels of belligerence to the table, refusing to even look at his cards.
So Benger has some big shoes to fill. But while we willingly vilify the unknown foreigner trying to eek into an enormous payday with gratuitous time-wasting, there was something more to Benger's performance. Besides, he was too busy laughing to care about whatever anyone thought.
Instead he rubbed his cards together, grimaced, winced, asked questions of anyone he could find and dallied as much as possible before folding, proving himself a masterful mimic.
On the next hand, two off the bubble, he called over Luca Vivaldi of the floor staff to ask a long protracted question about whether the bubble got anything in consolation.
"A poker seminar with Negreanu? No dinner with Miss Finland?" he asked.
The answer was no and would he please hurry up. Another minute burned off, Benger finally folded.
He'd admit to Drinan that he'd actually had king-queen, a legitimate hand to pause on, even with a raise before him. While they giggled and back-slapped there was an all in some way away and hand-for-hand play began, but not before a few announcements.
Tournament Director Toby Stone made them, detailing what would happen in various scenarios, and that in any case cards should be kept face down if an all-in was called. Then he told players to stay in their seats during the bubble to enable tournament staff to do their jobs, which happens to be the only poker expression that doesn't translate into any language. Including English.
By now Benger was bored of his ironic stalling, having turned the fine art of slow playing into a session of finger painting. Suddenly there was an all-in. Atanas Kavrakov was in trouble and would exit empty handed.
Benger joined the applause, then got back to work just as before. A camera came up to him, chased by a man with a microphone on a big stick. They looked directly at Benger as if to say "talk!" Benger talked. He's still talking.
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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.