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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – David Benyamine

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

For the second time we are profiling a successful poker player that had previously found success at a previous game, tennis.  It gives me pause for a moment to look back on the stories I’ve done and realize that a good portion of successful poker players were well on their way to succeeding in another field, be it a sport or a business, before turning those energies to poker.  In turn, it seems that a large portion of people that have succeeded in the world of poker would have, cliché’s aside, done well in anything they tried.  David Benyamine surely fits this description, as he took the dedication he had learned from becoming a successful tennis player to becoming one of the most feared poker players in the world today, particularly in cash games.

David Benyamine was born in Paris, France on July 5, 1972.  Benyamine was taught poker around the age of 12 from family members but during this time he was more focused on a budding tennis career.  Benyamine took up tennis around eight years old, and by the time he was a teenager he was one of the top amateur players in the country.  A professional career followed as a young man, and just like in the amateur ranks, Benyamine worked his way to near the top of the ranks of the professional circuit in France.  However, before he could jump onto the world scene, a back injury caused him to hang up his racquet.

The lack of competition left a void in Benyamine’s life.  At first he took up a job as an au pair, which is the equivalent of a personal assistant in America, only you live with the family you work for.  That obviously didn’t quench his thirst for competition, so he eventually started playing pool.  In short order, the hard work he displayed at tennis turned him into a highly successful pool player.  Benyamine worked himself all the way up the ranks into the top ten players in his country.  It was while playing pool that he began to play poker during breaks and in between matches.
Benyamine began playing at the Aviation Club in Paris, which is one of the most respected, and nicer, casinos in the world.  Benyamine started playing at lower stake cash games and smaller buy-in tables, and like his other two career choices of tennis and pool it wasn’t long before he started inching towards the best in poker as well.  At the time Isabella Mercier, who is a fantastic poker player in her own right, was the poker room manager at the Aviation Club.  She noticed the success Benyamine was having and asked him about some of the books he was reading in order to improve his game.  Benyamine told her, and to this day tells people who ask, that he has never read a book, or even a magazine for that matter.  In other words, he’s a natural.

Benyamine may have never had the chance to test his tennis skills against the very best in the world, but when the opportunity arose for him to take on the very best in the world in poker he acted upon it.  In 2002 he traveled to Las Vegas, and has since called it home, having bought a house in nearby Henderson, Nevada.  

One of the things that took Benyamine a while to get used to was the way the players acted in casinos in America.  In France, and many other European Casinos, poker is played in a quiet setting where the players are polite to each other and not very boisterous.  As you can imagine there was a bit of an adjustment period, but once he settled in he continued to do well in America just as he did in France.

Later in 2003 Benyamine proved you can go home again, when he won the World Poker Tour’s Grand Prix De Paris, winning $410,886.  Tournament success would come in the USA as well.  In 2004 he finished in 6th place at the WPT, winning an additional $132,355.  It would take a few years, but 2008 would be a huge tournament year for Benyamine.  It started with a $120,000 victory on NBC’s Poker After Dark’s “Love at First Raise,” which featured power couples in the poker world.  Benyamine’s fiancé Erica Schoenberg was the first eliminated.  At the World Series of Poker Benyamine scored his first WSOP bracelet when he took down the $10,000 World Championship of Omaha Hi/Lo Split for $535,687. Of the four WSOP final tables he has made, three came this year, quite the amazing feat.  While Benyamine of course enjoyed that victory, he said he really wants to win another $10,000 buy-in WSOP event - The Main Event.  With all the success he’s already had, we shouldn’t put it past him.

The tournament money has of course been nice, amounting to nearly four million dollars in career winnings, but there have been nights where Benyamine has won or lost that while playing at “Bobby’s Room” at the Bellagio, home of the biggest cash games in the world.  “Bobby’s Room” doesn’t keep track of money won or loss, but it is believed that in 2006 Benyamine was the big winner for the year, an accomplishment that most likely resulted in tens of millions of dollars.  Stories from “Bobby’s Rooms” are stuff of legends, and Benyamine’s 2006 fits the mold of those stories.

On top of appearing on NBC’s Poker After Dark, Benyamine has also appeared on Game Show Network’s High Stakes Poker which features the highest pots ever recorded and made public.  Benyamine exudes a confidence without being cocky, and is polite to his peers, win or lose.  Benyamine’s successes have also led him to become a sponsored player at Full Tilt Poker, where he plays under his real name. 

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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