Gabe Kaplan net worth WPT Choctaw

Gabe Kaplan: How Mr. Kotter Became a Poker Pro

73-year-old Gabe Kaplan has had quite the storied life. From baseball to comedy and acting to financial investing to playing poker to commentating, is there anything this man can’t do?

The early years

As a child in Brooklyn, NY, Gabe Kaplan aspired to be a professional baseball player. He was even invited to the San Francisco Giants’ spring training camp. However, after two years and not having made a minor league roster, he moved on to bigger and better things.

While working at a Lakewood, New Jersey, hotel as a bellboy, Kaplan became interested in the standup comedy acts performing there and decided to give that a try. His material relied quite heavily on his Brooklyn upbringing, and, before long, he was on the road performing in coffee houses, bars, and clubs—including the Playboy Club circuit—across the country.

Gabe Kaplan’s big break occurred when he was invited to perform on The Tonight Show—his first of five such appearances—which acted as a springboard to the hugely successful 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter where he starred as high-school teacher Gabe Kotter. It was also during this time that Kaplan released his first off-color comedy album Holes and Mello-rolls.

Gabe Kaplan net worth Welcome Back Kotter

Acting career

ABC aired Kotter between 1975 and 1979. Gabe Kaplan also appeared in Police Story, Lewis & Clark, and Murder, She Wrote, as well as several made-for-television movies.

Always the overachiever, Kaplan was not content to stay on television. Soon thereafter, he starred in three films: Fast Break (1979), Tulips (1981), and Nobody’s Perfekt (1981). He also toured with the Broadway theater company Doubles.

Financial prowess

While acting and playing poker, Kaplan became a successful financial investor. He succeeded in developing a host of unique investment and stock strategies that led him to be featured in a number of financial publications. He focused on private placements—quite a risky enterprise during the wild speculation of the 1980s and 1990s. As a result, Gabe Kaplan’s net worth increased dramatically. And, of course, in true Gabe Kaplan fashion, he took his experiences and turned them into comedy material

Thanks to his savvy business sense—as well as acting and poker incomes—estimates of  the Gabe Kaplan net worth is between $30 million and $50 million.

Note: Want to upgrade your poker skills? Get free preflop charts and start playing like a pro before the flop. Download now!

Gabe Kaplan on the felt


Kaplan first appeared at the WSOP in 1978 when he decided to enter the $10,000 Main Event on a very expensive whim. Sadly, he only lasted a few hours. However, this experience made him that much more determined to hone his poker skills. Kaplan suffered a similar fate in the 1979 Main Event, further fueling his desire to improve. He played in high-stakes side cash games with $10,000/$20,000 limits and did quite well.


By 1980, Gabe Kaplan was considered among poker’s elite players when he won the Main Event at Amarillo Slim’s 2nd Annual Poker Classic—later renamed the Super Bowl of Poker—and pocketed a respectable $190,000 prize. He made the final table in this series two more times over the next five years and solidified himself in the poker world.

During this time, Kaplan’s confidence had skyrocketed and he challenged the 1979 WSOP Main Event champion Hal Fowler and the 1978 champ Bobby Baldwin each to $200,000 heads-up freezeouts and won them both.

During the 1986 WSOP, Kaplan finished 6th in the $5,000 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event, winning $10,650 and 21st in the $10,000 Main Event, pocketing another $10,000.

In June, 1987, Kaplan won the Knights of the Round Table $10,000 NLHE tournament in Atlantic City along for a respectable $108,000.

At the 1988 WSOP, Gabe Kaplan finished in the money twice, placing 3rd and winning $39,500 in the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud event, and finishing in 8th place for $3,850 in the $1,000 Seven-Card Razz event. The following year, Kaplan again finished in money at the WSOP $5,000 Seven-Card Stud event, this time earning himself $23,100.


Over the next few years, Kaplan excelled at the L.A. Poker Classic. In addition to winning the 1993 $2,500 NL Deuce to Seven event and $25,250, he also won the 1995 $1,000 Deuce to Seven Draw event and $34,925.

In 1996, Gabe Kaplan placed 3rd in the WSOP’s $5,000 NL Deuce to Seven Draw event and pocketed $48,750.  However, his best WSOP finish was in 2005 at the $5,000 Limit Hold’Em even where he earned a hefty $222,515.

Gabe Kaplan

2000s and Poker After Dark (PAD)

Beginning in 2005, Kaplan’s emergence in Poker After Dark tournaments—as well as high-stakes cash gamesushered in a period of success and allowed viewers to witness his skills. Over the next three years, he won many PAD events. One of his most notable victories occurred during “Cowboys” week during February, 2008. Here, Kaplan beat the likes of Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, and Hoyt Corkins. However, his epic victory in the “Commentators III” episode that aired during first week of the 2010 season marked the greatest comeback in PAD’s history. You can catch all of PAD’s action and fun on PokerGo.

Here’s an entertaining little clip from PAD in which Gabe Kaplan takes full advantage of his reputation and hands Tom Dwan a killer bluff.

Kaplan has also participated in the National Heads-Up Poker Championships as well as various Super High Roller events. His most recent tournament win came in June, 2014, at the $100,000 NLHE event in Las Vegas where his 8th place finish earned him his largest single cash—$258,390.

Today, Gabe Kaplan’s total live tournament winnings are nearly $2 million. His total cash winnings are, undoubtedly, as high if not higher.


Along with his long-time stint on High Stakes Poker, Kaplan was the television commentator for the 1997 and 2002 WSOP. Here’s a great clip of Kaplan interviewing the legendary Stu Ungar after Ungar won the 1997 Main Event.

In addition to High Stakes Poker, you can hear Kaplan’s distinctive voice and expertise on the National Heads-Up Poker Championship, various WSOP events, and Intercontinental Poker Championship. In 2011, Kaplan was replaced by Norm MacDonald as the host of High Stakes Poker.

You’ve got to admit, listening to Gabe Kaplan—and his distinctive Brooklyn accent—is definitely entertaining.

Today, Kaplan—who, interestingly, has never married—lives in Los Angeles, California. He still plays poker, dabbles in the finance world, and occasionally performs at comedy clubs.

Until next time.

Note: Want to upgrade your poker skills? Get free preflop charts and start playing like a pro before the flop. Download now!

Read more from Upswing Poker:


Poker Player Profiles


Griffin Benger: From E-Sports Guru to Poker Champion & “Check Your Privilege”

Parker Talbot Poker Pro: 5 Unforgettable Moments

John Hennigan: From Pool Shark to Poker Pro

Stu Ungar: A Legendary Poker Player and His Demons

William Kassouf: “King of Speech Play”

Why Was Justin Schwartz, aka Stealthmunk, Banned from the WSOP?

Who is Cliff Josephy? Meet the Poker Playing & Staking Juggernaut

The Charismatic Scotty Nguyen Defined in 6 Hands: That’s Poker Baby!

How Did Jungleman Daniel Cates Become So Successful?

The Top 20 Female Poker Players of All Time

Who is Poker Pro (and MMA Fighter?) Olivier Busquet?

Who is Dan Colman? Meet the Live & Online Poker Legend “mrGR33N13”

Kelly Winterhalter: Beauty and the Brat

Who is Lex Veldhuis? Meet the Dutch Poker Player Behind “RaSZi”

Isaac Haxton: On Poker and Refusing PokerStars’ Olive Branch

The Wild, Crazy, and Unconventional David Peat (Viffer)

Poker Pro and Media Darling Jamie Kerstetter: Tournaments, Sarcasm, and Twitter

Fedor Holz’s Legendary Tournament Run: How Did a 22-Year-Old Kid Win $21 Million?

Ali Imsirovic: Profile of a Rising Poker Star

What Has Jerry Yang Been Up to Since His WSOP Win?

The Poker Brat’s 12 Brattiest Moments at the Table

Why Does Shaun Deeb Like to Slowroll his Opponents?

How Did Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly Meet? A Poker Love Story

Antonio Esfandiari’s 9 Most Entertaining Hands

Shannon Elizabeth Isn’t Just an Actress: She’s a Poker Player Too

Justin Bonomo: The Biggest Winner in Poker History

Jennifer Tilly: Life and Times of the Unabombshell

Gabe Kaplan: How Mr. Kotter Became a Poker Pro

David Peters: The Silent Assassin

Haralobos Voulgaris: Poker Pro, NBA Bettor, Future GM?

How is Brandon Adams so Successful?

Jeff Gross: Poker Pro and Social Media Sensation

Who is Jared Bleznick, and Why is He Controversial?

Kevin Martin: Big Brother Canada Winner and Twitch Sensation

Lacey Jones: Poker Barbie and so Much More

Sammy Farha: Fashion, Finesse, and Felt

Huck Seed: The King of Prop Bets

David Williams: Master Poker Chef

Sam Grizzle: The Poker Brat’s Arch-Nemesis

Joe McKeehen: A Tale of Two Bracelets—And Twitter

Andrew Robl: Profile of a “Holla Balla”

Gaelle Baumann: How She Climbed the Ranks to Poker Success

Chino Rheem: Poker and a Mountain of Debt

Paul Phua: Bookmaking, Organized Crime and Poker

Ray Bitar: Full Tilt Poker Ponzi Scandal and Happily Ever After?

Gus Hansen: 7 Hands that Epitomize “The Great Dane”

Who is Eric Baldwin? Meet the Poker Grinder Extraordinaire

Melanie Weisner: Meet the Multi-Talented and Fierce Poker Pro

Did Dan Bilzerian Win His Money in Poker?

Bryn Kenney Becomes #1 in Tournament Winnings with $20,563,324 Score

Who is Mike McDonald? How “Timex” Became a Poker Legend

Who is Matt Kirk and Why Did He Sue Leon Tsoukernik?

Joe Cada’s Extremely Eventful Poker Career

Prahlad Friedman: Poker Results & Memorable Hands (Plus Rapping)

How Much Money Has Patrik Antonius Won in Poker?

Nick Schulman: Poker Results & Memorable Hands

Annette Obrestad: Poker Results, Hands & Playing BLIND?!

Eli Elezra: Poker Results, Memorable Hands & Unpaid Debts

Phil Hellmuth: Poker Results, Memorable Hands & Top BLOWUPS

7 Hands That Sum Up Mike Matusow Perfectly

The 10 Best Poker Players of All Time (Earnings-Wise)

Home > Gabe Kaplan: How Mr. Kotter Became a Poker Pro
Home > Gabe Kaplan: How Mr. Kotter Became a Poker Pro
About the Author
Natalie Faulk

Natalie Faulk

Natalie Faulk is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer/blogger and the author of several books. She is an avid low-stakes (for now) poker player and huge Vegas Golden Knights fan.

Put Your Skills to the Test with Quick Poker Quizzes!