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Hostile 'High Stakes Poker' Hosting

April 16, 2007 12:00 AM

The rivalries between poker professionals jousting over hundreds of thousands of dollars on GSN's "High Stakes Poker" is nothing compared to the mounting tension between co-hosts/commentators Gabe ("Welcome Back Kotter") Kaplan and A.J. (former gossip columnist and E! host) Benza.

Throughout the show's three seasons, the insightful yet smug Kaplan has mocked his amicable yet poker-dim counterpart during their on-camera segments with increasing hostility. But last week's season finale hit a new level of squirmy discomfort when Benza, after yet another Kaplan put-down, protested, "You can't be nice? We're this close to being over for the season," and Kaplan replied, "Let me say what I feel honestly, ... I don't think you know anything about poker. I don't think you belong on this show."

Insiders say the hostility is somewhat disingenuous, and that Kaplan has lobbied the network in the past for Benza to stay on the show. And GSN said it doesn't mind the duo's random animosity.

"Gabe brings his successful professional poker-playing experience and background as a comedian to 'High Stakes Poker,'" said GSN President-CEO Rich Cronin. "Along with his co-host, A.J. Benza, they mirror the good-natured ribbing that occurs between the players on the telecasts."