Gabriel Weston Kaplan (born March 31, 1945) is an American comedian, actor and professional poker player.[1] He played the named teacher in the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. He later became a professional poker player, and commentator for the series High Stakes Poker on GSN.

Gabe Kaplan
Gabe Kaplan.jpg
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
BornGabriel Weston Kaplan
(1945-03-31) March 31, 1945 (age 74)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
World Series of Poker
Money finish(es)10
Highest ITM
Main Event finish
13th, 1991
World Poker Tour
Final table(s)1
Money finish(es)3

Early lifeEdit

Kaplan was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family.[2]

He graduated from New Utrecht High School.[3]

Acting careerEdit

As a kid, Kaplan had aspirations of being a Major League Baseball player. However, he was unable to make the roster of a minor league team and decided to pursue other interests. He began working as a bellman at a hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey. Touring comedians would sometimes perform at the hotel, and Kaplan began to work toward his own career as a stand-up comedian. Gabe honed his standup routine in 1964 in places such as the Cafe Tel Aviv at 250 West 72nd Street, New York City.

Kaplan's comedy was successful, and he toured the country with his act based on his childhood experiences in Brooklyn. He appeared five times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from May 1973 to December 1974. During that time, he also recorded the comedy album Holes and Mello-Rolls, which included long routines about his high school days, among other topics. The sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, whose central characters he helped Eric Cohen and Alan Sacks create and whose core format he helped them to develop, was in part based on his comedy act. In the sitcom, Kaplan played Gabe Kotter, who returns as a teacher to the dysfunctional high school where he had been a student. The series ran from 1975–79, and Kaplan bought a home in Palm Springs, California with his earnings.[4] "Up your nose with a rubber hose!", sanitized from the original album line "Up your hole with a Mello-Roll!", became an unlikely catchphrase from the show. It became so popular that a comedy record by Kaplan, Up Your Nose, was released by Elektra Records. The record, co-written and -produced by Kaplan, dented the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1977, peaking at #93.

From 1976–78 and again in 1981, Kaplan participated in the ABC celebrity athletic competition Battle of the Network Stars. For the first five competitions, Kaplan was the captain of the ABC network team. In the very first competition, Kaplan defeated Robert Conrad, who was participating in the event representing the NBC team as its captain, in a race much to Conrad's chagrin. Kaplan, who was 31 at the time, passed Conrad, then 40, with a strong sprint to the finish line, giving ABC television network the win with 175 points. In 1981, Kaplan returned to the competition as the team captain for the NBC side, as he was appearing in the NBC TV show Lewis & Clark.

Kaplan in a scene from Welcome Back Kotter, with Marcia Strassman and Ron Palillo

After Welcome Back, Kotter, Kaplan continued with his stand-up act and was in several movies, including a starring role in Fast Break in 1979; and portrayed comic Groucho Marx in a one-man show.


Kaplan became involved in financial markets and poker during his acting career. He made his first appearance at the World Series of Poker in 1978. In 1980, Kaplan was considered one of poker's elite, as he won the main event at Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker and was presented with "a loving cup that was so enormous it made the gaudy gold bracelets given to the winners at the World Series of Poker look understated."[5] Over the next five years his reputation was solidified as he made the final table at the Super Bowl's main event two more times.

In July 2004, Kaplan finished third in a World Poker Tour no-limit Texas hold 'em event, earning more than $250,000. He also finished second in the 2005 World Series of Poker $5,000 Limit Hold 'Em event, winning $222,515. Kaplan was joint TV commentator for the 1997 and 2002 WSOP events. In 2007, Kaplan won on NBC's Poker After Dark in the episode "Queens and Kings" after defeating Kristy Gazes heads-up and outlasting Howard Lederer, Ali Nejad, Vanessa Rousso and Annie Duke in a $20,000 buy-in, six-person No-Limit Texas Hold-Em winner-take-all Sit-and-Go.

In the 2007 World Series of Poker, Kaplan finished in ninth place in the $50,000 World Championship HORSE event, winning $131,424. As of June 2017, Kaplan's total live tournament winnings were $1,991,248.[6] His eleven cashes at the WSOP were $539,159 of those winnings.[7]

Kaplan won again on Poker After Dark during "Cowboys" week that first aired in February 2008 against Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Chau Giang, Hoyt Corkins and Doyle Brunson. Kaplan's Poker After Dark win in the first week of the 2010 season (the "Commentators III" episode) was the greatest comeback in the show's history.[8]

Later activitiesEdit

Kaplan resumed performing stand-up comedy and worked on adaptations of Welcome Back, Kotter. He still plays poker frequently and became a commentator for poker events and televised poker shows, including the National Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC,[9] High Stakes Poker on GSN,[10] and the Intercontinental Poker Championship on CBS.

In 1995, his name was mentioned in episode 21, "The PTA Disbands", of the sixth season of The Simpsons as a substitute teacher in Bart's class.

In 2007, he appeared in Zak Penn's improvisational comedy The Grand as Seth Schwartzman, father of brother-and-sister poker players. Also in 2007, Kaplan published a book titled Kotter's Back: E-mails from a Faded Celebrity to a Bewildered World.[11] In the book, people react to absurd e-mailed claims by Kaplan, such as that he:[11]

The book also describes his e-mails:[12]

In January 2011, GSN announced that Norm Macdonald would replace Kaplan as host of High Stakes Poker.[13]


Film and Television
Year Title Role Notes
1975–79 Welcome Back, Kotter Gabe Kotter Main role (95 episodes)
1976 The Love Boat Stan Nichols TV movie
1977 Police Story Paul Cazenovia Episode: "One of Our Cops Is Crazy"
1979 Fast Break David Greene
1981 Nobody's Perfekt Dibley
1981 Tulips Leland Irving
1981–82 Lewis & Clark Stewart Lewis Main role (13 episodes)
1982 Groucho Groucho Marx TV movie
1984 Murder, She Wrote Freddy York Episode: "Birds of a Feather"
1984 The Hoboken Chicken Emergency Anthony DePalma TV movie
2001 Jack the Dog Richie
2007 The Grand Seth Schwartzman
2018 BoJack Horseman Abe Ziegler Episode: "Head in the Clouds"


  1. ^ US Search "Gabe Kaplan"[permanent dead link]
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lynch, Dennis (October 28, 2015). "Old school: New Utrecht High celebrates centennial". Brooklyn Paper. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  4. ^ Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 99. ISBN 978-1479328598.
  5. ^ Reback, Storm (March 5, 2009). "From the Poker Vaults: Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker, Part I". PokerNews. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  6. ^ "Gabe Kaplan". The HENDON MOB. Mediarex Enterprises Ltd. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  7. ^ "WSOP Player Profile – Gabe Kaplan". Caesars Interactive Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  8. ^ "Poker After Dark: Commentators III recap – Poker on NBC- NBC Sports". Archived from the original on December 7, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
  9. ^ "NBC's 'Heads-Up' aces ratings", retrieved April 15, 2007.
  10. ^ "High Stakes Poker Season 3 Premieres on Monday, January 15 at 9 PM" Archived May 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine retrieved April 15, 2007.
  11. ^ a b Kaplan, Gabe. Kotter's Back: E-mails from a Faded Celebrity to a Bewildered World (Simon and Schuster, 2007).
  12. ^ Zerschling, Lynn. "A prank that will pay off", Sioux City Journal (July 3, 2007).
  13. ^ Slagter, Josh. "Not funny, GSN: Gabe Kaplan out as 'High Stakes Poker' host, replaced by Norm MacDonald", Grand Rapids Press (February 8, 2011).

External linksEdit