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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Barry Greenstein

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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.

If you’ve kept up with our “Where Are They Now” series you may have noticed that as the topics keep coming, I sometimes surprise myself when I realized I haven’t written about “so and so” yet.  That feeling once again came as I realized I had yet to write about Barry Greenstein, who is far from just a “so and so.”  Greenstein is far and away one of the most recognizable faces in the game along with the most recognizable beards in the game.  If they were ever creating a Mount Rushmore of poker, Greenstein would almost certainly make the cut.  His generosity is known the world, and has garnered him the nickname, “The Robin Hood of Poker.”  From an early success in computer technology, to success in just about every form of poker known to man, Greenstein has had the Midas touch in just about everything he’s tried.
 
At a very young age Barry Greenstein, born on December 30, 1954 in Chicago, IL, was taught a variety of card games by his father.  Greenstein’s father believed that if he taught his young son a calm and analytical approach to the game it would give him an advantage over those that may not know as much about the game mathematically and also let their emotions get the better of them.  It has taken some pros years, if not decades, to master this calm approach to the game, but by the time Greenstein was a teenager he was making use of it.  In home games with his friends he would routinely leave the big winner, earning himself $50 dollars a night, a huge amount for a 12 year old in the 1960’s.  Of course Greenstein would try to put on as many home games as he could, but his friends were quickly becoming tapped out for funds, and the games dwindled.  Nevertheless, Greenstein felt that he could have a future in the game.  He was right of course, but maybe not in the path he expected.

Greenstein excelled in mathematics and computers in school, and when he wasn’t busy at the poker tables with his friends he was earning great grades in high school.  He was able to earn a scholarship to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue a degree in computer science.  While in college Greenstein started playing poker again, in much the same capacity as when he was younger, only for a little bit more money now.  Nearly every night Greenstein would find a poker game, either on campus or in the city, and once again usually left as the winner.  It’s unknown just how much Greenstein won while pursuing his degree, but the rumors are it ranges in the tens of thousands.  Unlike a lot of the poker professionals, Greenstein didn’t let his poker player get in the way of earning a degree, earning his bachelor’s degree in just three years.

While earning his Master’s degree, which took ten years, he met a woman who would become his wife (since divorced).  They had three kids, and Greenstein wanted to have joint custody of the kids, but at the time all the money he was earning was a result of gambling.  Greenstein was advised by his lawyer to seek a “normal job” as a judge wasn’t likely to give full custody to a full-time poker player.
 
Greenstein, computer science degree in hand, moved the family to Silicon Valley, and took a job at a start-up software programming company called Symantec.  The company, at the time, only had four employees, but they weren’t too far from doing big things.  Greenstein was also awarded custody of the children.  In 1986, the company created a product called Q&A, which would go on to win product of the year in the eyes of many.  In just a few short years Symantec became the hottest programming industry in the country.  The success of the company allowed Greenstein more time to play poker.  After a few more years of success at the poker table Greenstein made the tough decision to retire from the business in order to pursue a full-time career in poker.

Greenstein was a successful cash game player almost from the start, while only occasionally playing in tournaments.  In 1992 he played in the World Series of Poker Main Event for the first time.  While he only finished 22nd in the tournament, it still gave a glimpse of some of the success he would have in the future to come.  However, during the times between this tournament and 2002 Greenstein remained focused on cash games, and he did very well indeed.

Greenstein had done so well in cash games that when he started playing in more poker tournaments with the arrival of the “poker boom,” he announced he would donate all of his money to charities, earning the nickname “The Robin Hood of Poker.”   Greenstein has done this for the majority of the money he’s earned from tournaments.  It’s been reported that he’s donated all of his money from tournaments, but Greenstein has stated in interviews that at certain times he’s had to cut back on his charity donations because of some financial concerns of his own, like during this current economy for example.  Regardless, his donations to charity are in the amounts of the millions.

In 2004 Greenstein started to become well known by fans of poker because he started appearing on seemingly every televised poker show, and did well.  In January of 2004 he won the $10,000 Main Event at the Fifth Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open on the World Poker Tour.  The win earned him $1,278,370.  Two months later, he made another WPT final table and finished 5th for $194,763.  One month later he won a second major tournament, taking down the $2500 Bellagio Five-Star World Poker Classic for $215,969.  The next month he won his first WSOP bracelet, in the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Lowball event.  Less than two weeks later he nearly captured his second bracelet at the WSOP, finishing second in the A-5 Draw Lowball event.  He finished the 2004 WSOP event with five cashes.  Not bad for a guy who considers himself primarily a cash game player.
 
To date, Greenstein has won three WSOP bracelets and two WPT events.  He has also continued to appear on a number of television shows, including Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament, Game Show Networks’ “High Stakes Poker,” and NBC’s “Poker After Dark.”  Greenstein is a sponsored member of PokerStars, where he plays under the name “barryg1.”  Unlike many players, Greenstein usually chats with the railbirds who come by and see him play.  Greenstein’s stepson Joe Sebok is also a professional player and together they run the poker strategy website and radio show PokerRoad.

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