- Nickname: The Robin Hood of Poker
- Twitter: @barrygreenstein
- Website www.barrygreenstein.com
- Birthdate: 30th December 1954
- Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
- Residence: Rancho Palos Verdes, California
- WSOP Bracelets:3
- Biggest Win: $1,278,370
- Total Winnings: $7,878,979
- Sponsored by: PokerStars
- Sponsor Site Username: barryg1
Barry Greenstein plays poker for the money. ‘I don’t love poker, it’s my job,’ he has been quoted as saying. Not a particularly unlikely or unusual stance for a professional poker player perhaps but, the fact is, Greenstein’s bank account is merely a conduit for his winnings. For after expenses, one hundred percent of Barry’s tournament profits flow into the coffers of various charitable organisations, hence his nickname, ‘The Robin Hood of poker.’
This gives an insight into the man but his complexities and intelligence make him more than just a simple character with altruism at heart. Greenstein cuts an unassuming figure at the poker table, this makes him devilishly difficult to read. His style of play is precise and methodical.
Barry was born in Chicago in 1954 and taught how to play cards at an early age by his parents. His calmness at the table derives from their mentoring as they encouraged him to use his mathematical skills to take an analytical approach to games. By thirteen years old he was boosting his pocket money, sometimes to the tune of $50 a night, playing in amateur games in local peoples’ houses. But, this didn’t capture his imagination like the thought of becoming a top research scientist or stimulate his intelligence as his burgeoning computer programming talents did. It was in computer science that he gained a bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois before starting to study for a doctorate in mathematics.
All the while, poker remained in the background as a constant source of easy funds. In the early eighties, Barry met and got married to Donna. The couple decided that Greenstein should file for joint legal guardianship of her three children but their attorney told them to forget about it until Barry had got a ‘proper job.’ So, he became one of the five founders of a computer software company called Symantec and began working on a program called Q&A. The new career brought dividends on the custody case but was at the expense of Greenstein’s never completed Math PhD.
The new software was a success, the firm took off and Barry went back to playing poker to supplement the growing Greenstein family which by now had swollen to five children. By 1990 it was clear that the wages from software development at Symantec could not match what Barry could earn playing poker and, with some family health issues requiring extra medical expenses, he quit the day job and the made the casino his office. In 1991 the Greensteins moved again, this time to Las Vegas. Now playing in cash games full time, Barry’s earnings increased accordingly but Donna was not so happy with the change of lifestyle. The pair agreed to divorce with Barry as the childrens custodian.
Greenstein entered his first World Series of Poker tournament in 1992 but despite finishing in the money it was still cash games that had a hold on Barry and his tournament registrations were sporadic during the rest of the decade. While continuing to play side games Barry noticed a new trend, that of a growing influx of players from the Eastern continents. So, when he met Mimi Tran the pair struck a mutually beneficial deal; his poker knowledge in exchange for lessons in Vietnamese. After some time a partnership away from the poker table developed between them.
In the new millennium, Greenstein could no longer ignore the growing tournament prize funds and wanted in on the action. His results improved all the time and in 2003 he won $1 million in Larry Flint’s Poker Challenge Cup. It was a life-changing moment and not just for Greenstein. He decided from then on that all of his tournament cash winnings should go to charity, the main beneficiary being ‘Children, Incorporated.’ Luckily for all the charities involved, Greenstein’s victory was no flash in the pan and he cashed in another fifteen tournaments that year. 2004 was even better as he took first prize in the World Poker Open No Limit Hold’em main event at Binion’s and won his first WSOP bracelet and $1,278,370 in No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball. A second WSOP bracelet came in 2005 followed by a third at Razz Seven Card in 2008.
In 2006 he accepted a bet of $10,000 from the 2+2 Poker Forums to say “lol donkaments” on an episode of High Stakes Poker, which he did on 26th February 2007 after winning a hand against Erick Lindgren. After the initial $10,000, he also received a further $45,000 in donations from other charitable poker players who were said to be amused by the bet.
Greenstein is not one of the most recognized pros on the circuit but his profile has been raised by television appearances on shows such as ‘High Stakes Poker’, ‘Poker After Dark’ and ‘Poker Superstars Invitational.’ Though at first reluctant, he was persuaded to write a chapter for ‘Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2,’ a sequel to the highly influential original book. He had expected it to be a chore but when it turned out to be a pleasure he decided to pen his own book, ‘Ace on the River’ published in 2005, he also writes amusing anecdotes and rates his fellow players on his website. Greenstein’s computer knowledge was in demand too and when he joined Team Pokerstars, it was as software consultant as well as poker professional.
Back in 2006 he changed the way he donates his tournament winnings to charity due to rising playing fees. Now he shares out his yearly net profits to various good causes as opposed to making donations throughout the year. Most of his donations still go to Children Incorporated, to date he has given $1.5 million to them. 13 other charities have had windfalls, they are mostly in the work of enriching children’s lives.
Don’t expect Barry to go broke any time soon. As a regular in ‘the Big Game’ at Bellagio’s, in Las Vegas, he still brings in enough for him and his family from cash games while also managing to keep up with his unique project for redistributing the wealth. In 2011 he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, only 42 players are in this exclusive club that started in 1979, only 20 are still with us today.
High Stakes Poker
In a hand on GSN’s ‘High Stakes Poker’ one of his regular adversaries, Eli Elezra, called his pre-flop raise. Jamie Gold had stayed around to see the flop of 2♣ 3♦ 3♠ also. Greenstein reached for chips and bet 9,000 and Elezra with A♦ 6♦ immediately called. Gold got out of the way at this point and the turn card was a K♦ which Greenstein checked Elezra with a flush draw and an ace high bet 22,000 chips, almost a quarter of his stack.
Greenstein looked at his chips and after slowly deliberating, quietly mumbled, ‘I’m all in.’ Elezra looked across at his opponent but got nothing as Greenstein sat completely still, his head bowed and his eyes focused on one spot, appearing as solemn as a monk in prayer. Finally, Elezra submitted and threw away his hand. Greenstein without showing his cards, flicked them back to the dealer and mopped up his chips. He had been holding J♣ 6♣.
Last updated May 2013