Poker Legend Barry Greenstein shares his story with us here at RTR

Posted on by RTR Dennis

Barry Greenstein - The Robin Hood of Poker

Barry Greinstein is one of the most accomplished and respected players in the poker world. He has battled the best players and played the highest stakes for many years as well as accumulating tournament winnings of over $7,000,000! Barry is now not only a full time player but also part of the PokerStars Pro Team and serves as one of the best ambassadors for the game. He sat with us here at RakeTheRake to share some of his wisdom.

1) Could you begin by telling us what you have been up to recently in both life and poker worlds?

I’ve been playing a lot of live poker. February is poker month in the LA area where I live. There was a month long tournament series at the Commerce Casino, overlapping another big tournament at the Bicycle Club. I didn’t play many events but tournaments bring in players from out of town who also play in the cash games. I have a chance to make as much money during February than the rest of the year combined because I play every day in games that are the best and biggest of the year.

2) We’ve been following the new season of High Stakes Poker and enjoying it very much. Can you tell us aanything interesting about this season? Did you enjoy playing the games?

These were the best televised cash games I’ve played in. I usually get put in the toughest lineups because the producers know I won’t flake out no matter who’s at the table. Viewers have no idea how many pros are no-shows when they find out they’re in a tough lineup. We often get promised as many as two businessman, but they also frequently pull out at the last minute. This year I had as many as three at my table each time I played.

3) When playing in such a line up with a combination of seasoned pros and also very rich businessmen do you tend to adjust your strategy to try and play pots with just the amateurs?

I definitely like to play more pots against the amateurs and weaker pros, even if it means isolating by raising them preflop. It’s a better way to make money.

4) Do you think sometimes that the amateurs actually hold an edge over some of the pros as the money is less meaningful to them that they can then make unorthodox plays? We’ve noticed a lot of funny plays on this season such as huge overbets, min bets, big calls and big folds. It seems to cause a lot of confusion for the pros and they are either losing value or losing pots.

I got fooled by a couple of the amateurs because I was unfamiliar with their games, but a good professional should make necessary adjustments as the game goes on.

Barry Greenstein

5) There had been some talk on the forums recently about your strategy of playing a shorter buy-in or a shorter stack than others. Can you tell us about this, the reasons behind it and why you think it is effective?

It always amazes me how clueless the forum community as a whole is about making money at poker. I think their strategy is geared for beating play money and micro-stakes games. The way to make money is at least as much about minimizing losses than maximizing gains. That strategy of keeping enough money on the table to cover the fish would be fine if there weren’t other good players at the table and your bankroll was huge compared to the limit. But even in that case, you may intimidate the weak players into tightening up or quitting. And if they win one big pot, they’re often gone. You don’t fell a tree with one blow of an axe. You do it little by little.

And of course there is a large mathematical edge to being able to play a short stack all-in, not to mention the psychological disadvantage most of us endure after we’re on tilt after losing a big pot. My strategy is geared to protect myself from losing big. I play in the biggest cash games on television every year. I have rarely lost and I don’t think I’ve ever lost more than one buy-in.
I know this response is going to get some people riled up about my arrogance, epsecially when they see some of their young heroes show their “ballerness” by always playing deep-stacked. Those ballers often go broke once the competition gets tough because their losses are bigger than their wins. My children wouldn’t be consoled if I couldn’t pay the mortgage, put food on the table, and send them through college if I told them that everyone was impressed with what a “baller” I am.

I asked some of the young players whose games I respect why the forums are so weak. I’ve been told that I’ve been looking in the gossip and televised forums too much, but also when players get good they spend their time making money rather than posting. Also some players don’t want to share their best strategy advice.

6) Can you tell us about your strategy for playing against the new breed of ultra aggressive oppentns, not just online phenoms but also players like Viffer? Do they cause you new difficulties or do you have a plan for them too?

Of course, aggressive players can make it tough on you. Having a good buy-in strategy so you’re normally playing deeper against them when you’re ahead and they’re stuck is helpful as I’ve already mentioned. But you also have to be good at diagnosing their betting patterns and mannerisms when they’re weak.
It takes some maturity in one’s game to recognize that certain opponents can outplay you so you might want to avoid playing big pots with them where you can’t call a raise. However, if you feel this way about most of the players at the table, you’re playing over your skill level.

7) Could you share with us a story behind the most memorable hand or session you’ve played in your career so far? Do you have any memories that really stand out?

Tournament wins give positive memories, but cash games are more the “work” of a professional. Many of my memories are about mistakes I’ve made because those often provide valuable lessons in what not to do.

I remember having record wins and lucky pots but they’re are also the days when no amount of skill could have compensated for bad luck.

8) Do you think if you had to start over from scratch tomorrow with a $100 bankroll you could get back to the high stakes fairly quickly? What would you do and how long do you think it would take?

I would have no trouble starting with a small amount of money and building back up, but it would obviously take time and careful management. However, at this point I don’t have the time to do that and still pay my bills that are naturally larger as I’ve gotten older and taken on more financial obligations.

9) Would you have any advice or tips to amateur players out there thinking of turning poker into a full time occupation? If they are dead set on it what do you think would be the correct approach in order to both achieve and maximise long term success?

I wrote a book full of advice about how to become a poker professional. It’s sold online on the client , website and at Sorry to cop out, but the answer to that question is not short.

Barry Greenstein

10) We remember a few years back you played some high stakes challenges against Daniel Negreanu. Really they planted the seed for many of the challenges issued by the new tops guns today (e.g. the Durrrr challenge). Would you ever consider playing some of the newer players in their challenges, e.g. Isildur1? Or perhaps even issuing your own challenge?

I have a challenge that I submitted to PokerStars management last year. It involves some advances in game offerings and technology so I don’t want to give other sites advance notice.

11) Can you share with us your opinion on Isildur1? Do you think he has the skills and discipline to still be a major player in the years to come or do you think he needs to make specific adjustments?

Obviously, Viktor Blom is already one of the best short-handed NLH and PLO players in the world. He may need to get better at full ring games or learn to play other forms of poker because he may become so good that he may run out of willing challengers he can beat.

12) Who do you think wins over the long run between Isildur1 and Durrr, say over a million hands? And why?

It would be disrespectful to either of these great players to choose one over the other. It may depend more on the hunger to succeed and stability in their lives more than current ability in order to determine who will be the favourite in the long run. And that’s not taking into account the chaotic effect of some short term bad luck in the early going.

13) We were a big fan of your poker media work over recent years, in particular, your exclusive access to The Life of Ivey. Can you tell us about your relationship with him and how you came to be such good friends? Also, do you have any other interesting media plans in the works?

Phil was trying to break into the bigger games when we became friends. I was doing very well at the time so he often asked me for advice. Phil never forgets people who helped him on the way up, so he reciprocates by doing favors that he would never do for only money.
Recently he asked me and some of his poker friends to help him with a project he has been working on. I still hope to get a few more editions of Life of Ivey for during this year’s World Series.

14) Aside from Ivey, who would you consider to be the best players in the game right now? Also, where would you rank yourself in the top 100?

I don’t like answering questions about ranking players. Everyone’s game fluctuates. Also, most of the good young players are either short-handed NLH and PLO specialists or tournament specialists. For me to consider someone a really great player they have to be able to play all forms of poker and heads-up, six max, and full ring. A good poker player should only need to know the rules of the game and he should then be able to adjust from there by emulating what other successful players are doing, and he also may come up with some novel ideas on his own.
I’m still easily in the discussion of the top players using my definition, but I certainly can be criticized as making a definition that is self-serving. I have the advantage of being older and having had the time to learn different games.

Barry Greenstein

15) Did you consider going to Macau to play any of the high stakes games there recently? Do you think we might see a Asian based version of Andy Beal issuing a nosebleed stakes challenge to the pros again? If so, would you play?

Phil asked me to go with him to Macau last year and I probably should have, but it’s hard for me to take off for a month or two and be away from my responsibilities to my family and my commitments for PokerStars.

I’ve talked to Chau and Phil about going over there sometime this year. I would probably not be able to play in the biggest games because I’m not rolled for them and I don’t like piecing myself out. I’m not afraid to start smaller and work my way up. It’s probably a prudent approach since I haven’t played straight NLH cash games on a daily basis since the early 1990s.

I also think it would be helpful if I brushed up on my Cantonese. I worked on computer projects with some guys from Hong Kong when I was 18, but that was almost 40 years ago.

There are a couple Asian versions of Andy Beal out there. Tom Dwan has played some heads up matches in Macau. I don’t think I would be able to crack the starting lineup in a corporation of the best NL players at the moment unless I got some quality time beating those games and familiarizing myself with the players.

16) Could you share with us a story about a hand that really got your blood flowing? Have there been any particularly big pots you’ve been involved in that stand out in your memory, be them winners or losers?

There is extra adrenaline with some of the big televised pots because they’re out there for the world to see. I’ve lost three huge pots on High Stakes Poker even though I wasn’t an underdog in any of them: Aces against Sammy Farha’s Kings for 380k the first season, Aces against durrrr’s pair and flush draw for 920k two seasons ago, and a set of Fours against Antonio’s double-gutter and flush draw for 600k this season. I did draw out on durrrr with J9 against his Aces, so it hasn’t been totally one sided, but I am overall the most negative in all-in EV in those games.
And of course, my mental coin came up on the wrong side when I couldn’t decide whether to call durrrr’s bluff two seasons ago when Peter Eastgate and I got in each other’s way.

17) We are a big fan of your player profiles on your website. Could we expect to see it updated with some of the newer names soon?

I wrote a profile of durrrr and picked a song to go with it. Unfortunately, I lost my web guy so my personal site has been left dormant.

18) If you could swap jobs with anyone else in the world who would it be and why?

I’ve never been one who wanted to be someone else. I’ve had a good life and anything I haven’t accomplished is not because I didn’t have the opportunity. However, I have great respect for people who are able to change the world in positive ways.

19) What does the future hold for Barry Greenstein?

My future still contains a lot of poker playing and representing poker players in different areas. I’m in a race against time to see how high a level of competence I can maintain as I get older.

20) Can you leave our readers with some parting words of wisdom related to both poker and life success?

I’ll leave you an opposing view since I talked so much about playing poker in this interview. It’s a quote from my book: “When all is said and done, if I spent most of my time sitting at a poker table, I would feel that I was a loser in the game of life.”

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