Barry Greenstein

Barry Greenstein

Barry Greenstein is one of the most revered professional poker players in the game today. He’s well known for his charitable contributions, for which he was dubbed “The Robin hood of Poker”, his book Ace on the River, and is a feared cash game and tournament player.

But did you know Barry has hit two people in the poker room? One of which was thrown out because Barry hit him? He also confessed that he isn’t the strictest when it comes to bankroll management. We learned a lot that we didn’t know about the PokerStars Team Pro Barry Greenstein this past weekend when he came to FTR to do an AMA. He ended this monumental event by playing 28 rounds of Open Face Chinese against forum member agnesamurphy, who was given the honor to play Barry by winning the most recent FTR OFC Tournament.

Below is a summary of all the questions Barry answered during his stay. Thanks again to Greenstein for his time!


Today I was playing ofc against givememyleg here on ftr. Drawing A on 7th street, I wasn’t sure where to put it. It ended up going in front, is that were you would have put it? Would you have done things differently with my set or 6th street?


givememyleg (Dealer)

Thanks for doing this ama!

Barry Greenstein
Your initial five cards were set incorrectly and now you’re scrambling. You should have started with K/10/QQ3. At this point, I’m not sure if it seems reasonable to put the Ace in the front with 8 outs to pair in the middle, but I’m not sure.

While OFC Poker is a great game, it has some drawbacks which may limit or even prevent it from becoming mainstream. Such as the recent PokerStars quote that they won’t spread it because they feel it could be “solvable” by algorithms. For casinos, the fact that it has a maximum 4 players per table (which makes it a slow game) makes it unlikely to ever be spread, especially at low stakes.

What do you think could be done to help OFC Poker become more popular and spread more often in card rooms?

Regarding it being played online without fear of it attracting too much programmer attention: Would a fundamental change in the game such as some or all of the 5 cards remaining face down until showdown be viable?

Barry Greenstein
Games like regular Chinese, OFC, backgammon that lend themselves to computer solutions aren’t good for online play between unfamiliar opponents. It would hurt inexperienced players who tend to be good poker game builders.

Thanks so much for your time Barry!

What’s your favourite food?

Favourite TV series?

Is there one hand of poker you’ve played which was particularly memorable, either in a good way or a bad way?

Do you think Phil Hellmuth sets a good example for poker players/a good ambassador for the game or should he tone down some of his outbursts?

Barry Greenstein
Coming from the Midwest, steak and potatoes was often my evening meal. My most memorable dinner was with my sister Sandie at La Foie Gras restaurant at the Loew’s Monte Carlo in 1979. We had Chateaubriand and Grand Marnier soufflé. She shared them with me, even though she was a vegetarian at the time, and was lactose intolerant. She said the soufflé was so pure (whatever that means) that it’s the only time she didn’t have an adverse reaction to dairy.

When I was a kid we watched Bonanza. Since I’ve become an adult I’ve learned to hand over the remote to my girlfriend and watch her crime shows and sci if with her, except when I want to watch some live sports.

My most memorable hand is my AK beating QQ for 70% of the chips in play at the WPT event I won in 2004.

I’m not always comfortable with people who act badly at the poker table but it seems that viewers enjoy watching emotional players on TV, even if it’s so they can root against them.

Hi Barry,

Thanks for tacking some time out of your busy life to spend with us reprobates!
I have a few questions for you:
Do you think that the lack of online poker in the US is retarding the advancement of US based poker players? We’re seeing the Euros and Candians dominating more of the major titles.
Is this lack of Online poker also partly responsible for the massive popularity of OFC?and the
In your opinion, will PokerStars or FTP ever offer OFC games? I know the game is meant to be too bot friendly, but with the addition of “Fantasyland” and the massive popularity of the game, is it something that may be in the works?

Barry Greenstein
I agree with your insinuations. OFC isn’t in the works on pokerstars or FTP.

How have you changed/adapted your game over the years to keep up with the evolution of poker?

Do you see any new trends evolving in NLHE at the moment?

Barry Greenstein
The main change in tournament poker is that the players are on average much more skilled and experienced and bet sizing is much smaller than the old days. Of course I have to keep up, but the main thing that seems to hurt me is I don’t play NLHE in my daily poker play since I’m a mixed game player. Then I go to tournaments and I don’t play as well as I used to. The main trend is it’s hard to find many bad players playing in $5k+ events.

Have you ever punched someone in the face?

If so, how did it go down.

If not, when was the closest you came to it.

Greenstein has hit two people in the poker room.

Greenstein has hit two people in the poker room.

Barry Greenstein
I’m past the punching age now. My punch wouldn’t hurt anyone. I’ve hit two people in a poker room. The first guy kept putting his hands on my wife and I told him if he did it again I would hit him. He was drunk but I had no choice. Now that I’m well known in the poker world, he always shakes my hand and tells people that we’re good friends whenever I come back to the San Jose Bay Area for the WPT event there.

The other guy got barred after I hit him. Security was taking him out and he was screaming, “He hit me. Why are you throwing me out?” The supervisor said, “If Barry hit you, then you must have done something bad enough for us to bar you.”

I’m curious about your charitable pursuits. Which charities/causes did you donate to and why? Why did you start doing this with some of your winnings in the first place?

Barry Greenstein
My main one is Children Incorporated. I started simply because I thought it was the right thing to do.

For years it was touted that Omaha was going to be the next big poker boom, certainly it worked out that way for the nosebleeds, but not lower stakes. What happened to that in your opinion? Did UIGEA kill that? Or is the success in Texas Hold Em that it seems so much easier that people can become falsely confident about the game quickly? or other factors?

Barry Greenstein
Yep. Holdem is easier and much simpler for TV viewers. Players go where the money and fame is. There are lots of big money NLHE tournaments.

What’s the best way to improve? How did you learn to read hands? Did it just come with a lot of experience or was it something you practiced away from the table? Is game theory the future of NLHE or is it unnecessary to get really good? Any thoughts on improving, what’s important to improve and move up stakes, thank you.

Barry Greenstein
Experience is key. Watch the play of players who are successful. Think about hands where you screwed up after the session is over and formulate a better plan.

At about the 7 minute mark of the video you talked about ofc algorithmically. The number of combinations is mind boggling.

Is ofc solvable? Are sites like Stars hesitant to offer it because of this question?

Barry Greenstein
I don’t think it’s perfectly solvable but I expect that we’ll have programs that play better than humanly possible, just like chess. Yes, at PokerStars we think the amateur players would get hurt by professionals with programs. We think they have a better shot at winning playing poker.


The youtube videos make it seem like Shaun Deeb gambles more than you in terms of taking chances going for fantasy land. How can we get him to do an ama like this so we can get a better understanding of his perspective? Would you and Shaun want to play some ofc games here on ftr so we could view the results and check out the decisions made in some hands?

Barry Greenstein
I’m hesitant to do too much stuff live concerning OFC. I think it competes with poker, which is my main game, and I represent an online poker company. In countries where we can’t play, many of us are playing OFC while we wait for online poker to come back.

Is there someone that you haven’t played against, but would welcome the opportunity to compete with?

Have you ever participated in a prop bet? What were the terms? Did you win or lose?

What is the most ridiculous play you’ve ever seen a person make at the table?

Has Phil Helmuth ever criticized the way you play in the same manner that he’s berated others in televised events? How would you handle that? You seem like such a peaceable guy, would it be hard for you to respond to that sort of treatment?

Greenstein can run up a wall in two seconds.

Greenstein can run up a wall in two seconds.

Barry Greenstein
I’ve won and lost many prop bets over the years. Huck Seed and I used to practice hopping, running backwards, rolling on the floor, and other things where we would time ourselves in case the right bet arose. When I was still a good athlete (I was a wrestler among other things), as we were walking to our cars after a poker game, I once bet I could get on a garage roof in 10 seconds without a ladder. It took me 2 seconds.

A friend of mine (Lee Salem) used to bring girls to the casino and give them money to play in a small game. This one nice girl had never played before and Lee sat behind her and tutored her after each hand. On one hand, she had 8h7h and flopped a flush draw. She called all the way including a bet on the river with her eight high after she missed her flush. Lee said, “Honey, why did you call?” She whispered in his ear, “I was bluffing.”

Yes, Phil has criticized me when I beat him, including the first time we ever played together. I was a cash game player and I heard he had won a big tournament. (It was just after he had won the main event of the WSOP, but tournament poker wasn’t big like it is now and winning cash game players played at a much higher level than typical tournament players.) I had fired three barrels at him and then showed him 23o after he showed me he folded top pair. He said, “Buddy, thanks for that information. You showing me your cards is going to help me bust you.” Bobby Hoff said “Phil, you better be quiet. You aren’t in his league.” It ended up being a very profitable session for me. However, in recent years Phil has held over me at Chinese poker so I guess he’s gotten his revenge.

The Bean Counter
Big fan of the way you conduct yourself at the table Barry and the way you play the game. Three questions from me please if not too much trouble:

How good did it feel when you realised you didn’t need to work again if you didn’t want to?

Do you find it difficult being away from your family when travelling the world for poker and do you think it affects your performance?

Why is open faced Chinese just so damn addictive?!

Barry Greenstein
1. I was able to win at poker at a young age but I normally only played a lot if I needed money. Otherwise I liked to do other things.
2. I didn’t travel far until my youngest child was 13. Even still, I spent too much time away from my kids even when I worked near home whether as a programmer or as a poker player.
3. OFC has a good mix of luck and skill.

Do you think Open Face Chinese Poker will ever rival NLHE in terms of popularity?

If you could change one thing about the world on a global basis, what would it be and why?

If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would you choose to join you at the table? What would you want to discuss with each of them?

Barry Greenstein
1. I would guess more than 100 million people in the world have played holdem and fewer than a million have played OFC, so it doesn’t seem close.

2. No more sending our sons and daughters to fight ideological wars against our adversaries sons and daughters while the leaders sit in their towers and give orders.

3. Newton (to share modern advancements), Fermat (to make sure he really didn’t have a solution), and Socrates (although it would sadden him to see that 2500 years have gone by and people are still being persecuted for not believing in the Gods of our time, just like he was).

What do you think about Ryan Riess declaring that he is the best poker player in the world after he won the Main on Tuesday night?

Barry Greenstein
It was amusing since he can’t even know what that means. No one is the best at all forms of poker and even upon winning the biggest NLHE tournament of the year, he can get plenty of cross booking action if he wants to put his money where his mouth is. In the gambling world, it’s put up or shut up. On the other hand, I don’t blame him for feeling like he was the best in this tournament. Winning the WSOP main event is the most exhilarating experience possible in the poker world. After a little more experience he’ll see you don’t usually run well enough to even have a chance to win a 1000+ person event no matter how well you play.

Patrick M.
Do you have any superstitions when it comes to life and/or poker?

What’s the weirdest thing you believe in that may or may not be true?

Barry Greenstein
My only superstition is that I believe if I play poker when I should be with my family, I will lose.

The weirdest thing is every time I play a tournament I only look at what first place pays and I think I’m going to win although it never or almost never happens.

Have you been part of any effort to legalize online poker at the federal level? Do you think it will ever be legalized across the nation with the exceptions of Utah and Hawaii, that is?

Barry Greenstein
I visited with many senators and representatives at their offices in Washington DC. Few are opposed but our government is structured so that very little is accomplished. It will eventually happen. Each year, I think it’s coming next year.

Hi Barry null Really excited you are here …thanks for coming null

– Do you like the tale of Robin Hood (Since you are known as the Robin Hood of Poker) ?

– If you can please name the 3 best websites to play online poker (according to your opinion)

– Do you have any place special for the 3 WSOP bracelets ?

– Do you have any favorite young player? A rising star you think it’s going to be Big?

Barry Greenstein
I live in the US, so I can’t play online. But if I could, I would play on PokerStars!

I haven’t seen my bracelets since I won them. I gave them to my girlfriend. I assume she put them in a safe place.

There are too many good young players to single one out. The public will only know the ones that travel the tournament circuit but that doesn’t mean they’re the best.

Hello Barry null Great Player….cheers !!!

– If you could define yourself as a poker player in only 3 words what would they be.

– What hobbies do you use to get your mind off poker for a while?

– What made you want to write a book? Any special event in your life or was it something that already was on your mind for a long time?

Thanks !!!

Barry Greenstein
“Over the hill” was the first three word description that I thought of.

Bridge and too much OFC. No golf lately.

We all have a book inside us. I had the time and money to be able to write mine.

Do you have a relationship with anyone involved with the FTP fiasco? Do Lederer and Ferguson still play in major and/or costly events? If there was a way to ban them from the game, would you support that?

Barry Greenstein
I’m a friend of many players who were part of team Full Tilt. As for Lederer and Ferguson, I’m not sure how to apportion the blame for them not being involved when Ray Bitar was throwing away their billion dollar company.

Poker Orifice
Do you still travel & play in many of the large tournaments these days?
Do you ever play online?
Do you ever travel outside of the US to play online in some of the bigger series (ie. WCOOP)?

Barry Greenstein
I play about one big tournament a month outside of the wsop.
I haven’t played online since Black Friday.

Greenstein and Chief sharing a moment

Greenstein and Chief sharing a moment


What is your favorite movie ever? What about poker flick? Did you ever see the movie Looper?

Barry Greenstein
I don’t like to say that something is the best or my favorite, but I’ve often listed Rain Main, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Being There as three of my favorite films. I haven’t seen Looper.




When and where was your first poker experience?

What was the funniest poker moment that you will always remember?

Do you have some favorite poker player, or maybe someone against you always want to play?

Barry Greenstein
1. First was at the kitchen table with my dad when I was four years old.

2. I’m not sure. I usually don’t play for fun. I lost at strip poker to some girls when I was in college.

3. No favorite player.

Hi Barry,

Thanks for spending your precious time with us degens here.

With you background in computer programming, do you envision a time when OFC will be played on the major pokersites such as PokerStars? It’s susceptibility to bots has always been one of the factors given for not spreading it.
How do you feel the process is going in the US in relation to states starting to regulate online poker?
Do you have an Goals for the next 12 months? Poker and not Poker?
Have you thought about writing another book?


Barry Greenstein
I already answered the OFC questions.
I have a book mostly written, but it will take a lot more work to get it ready to release. I’ve been writing it since 2008.

What are your views on gay marriage? What do you think of the way the Senate handled the bill about discriminating against gay people?

What about gun control?

Barry Greenstein
I think discriminating against people because they happen to be gay makes as much sense as discriminating against people because they have red hair. That said, gingers have no soul. (I never liked my kids watching that South Park but I didn’t know it would rub off on me.)

There is no way to get rid of guns in the US but I don’t see why anyone needs those assault weapons that have been used in mass murders.

Do you see yourself playing poker until the wheels fall off? Or do you plan on retiring or walking away at some point?

Barry Greenstein
After some of the bad decisions I made on my European trip last month, I was wondering if the wheels had already fallen off. However, tournament poker is a lower level than high limit cash games, so I think I’ll be able to compete for several more years, even if it’s not at the level I have in the past.

Jaime Guedes
Hi Barry, thanks for doing this and for giving us the honor to chat with you about poker and know better such a great player like you….I’m a huge fan!! Congratulations on the great person you are.

I would like to ask which minimum bankroll to play $1 SNG …I’m a newbie and still at “growing stage” (around 400 sit n’ gos played)…do you think I can raise level…?

What are your goals for this year? All the best and lots of cash$$$$$ at the tables. Thanks and big hug.

Barry Greenstein
I’m not great at bankroll management. Someone once said to me when they were railing the big game, “Can you really afford to play these stakes?” I said, “Of course not. If I could, I’d be playing much bigger.”

Greenstein likes to make it rain with his bankroll.

Greenstein likes to make it rain with his bankroll.

Which WSOP events do you traditionally compete in?

Barry Greenstein
Since I play all the games I just play whatever the day’s event is.

Do you have a fitness regimen that helps you withstand the physical challenges of tournaments?

Barry Greenstein
I always bring my gym shoes and workout clothes when I travel, but I’m lazy about finding where the exercise room is.

These answers are really interesting – especially the one about the punching question.

What is your opinion about the situation with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin?

Barry Greenstein
I’ve never been insecure about my manhood so I don’t tend to like Richie incognito types who have to prove they’re a macho man. However, it’s hard for him not to succumb to the environment he has grown up in.

Would you ever consider doing a reality television show? If so, what would it be about?

Barry Greenstein
I’ve been asked to be on several. I’ve never considered being on one. My son Joe had one lined up for MTV with some other poker players, but he got out when they (the producers, not MTV) kept changing the agreements.

Other than the Main Event, what WSOP event would you most like to win?

Barry Greenstein
The truth is, probably the one that pays the most. The politically correct answer is the 50k Players Championship, which also doesn’t pay too badly.

What is the biggest drawback to being a professional player other than the swings in money and being away from your family?

Barry Greenstein
For the most part, you’re just chasing money which is somewhat shallow. I think accomplishments are more important, and winning poker tournaments doesn’t qualify as a life accomplishment in my opinion.

Sorry to any posters whose questions I skipped. Thanks to agnesamurphy for taking it easy on me in the OFC match!

Thanks again to Barry!