As part of PokerStars’ 10-year Anniversary, FlopTurnRiver has been given the chance to interview two of the biggest names in online poker today – Barry Greenstein and Chris Moneymaker. They share their experience with PokerStars over the years and touch on other subjects like regulating online poker in the USA and their predictions about the future of poker.
As people very close to the company, what would you say is the biggest contributing factor to PokerStars becoming and maintaining their position as the largest and best poker site in the world?
Greenstein: PokerStars has done a great job of improving their product over the last ten years and much of the improvement has nothing to do with the software. They have been the number 1 site as far as security and customer support for as long as I have been associated with them.
Moneymaker: Their customer service is top notch. They pay attention to their customer base and treat their players very well.
Barry, what is your favorite thing about being part of Team PokerStars? Least favorite thing?
Greenstein: I initially joined PokerStars instead of other sites because I was able to have a large role in the software and determining what games are spread. My least favorite thing is not being able to play at the moment because of the Black Friday shutdown.
Chris, what is your greatest poker accomplishment since becoming a PokerStars pro?
Moneymaker: Revamping my game to be a winner in today’s poker climate.
Barry, what would you recall as your greatest moment as a PokerStars Pro?
Greenstein: I don’t think it has occurred yet. PokerStars has a habit of signing up WSOP Main Event winners, sometimes after they win and sometimes before. Why not me?!
Before being a PokerStars Pro, did you ever envision yourself as one?
Greenstein: Several sites including PokerStars has asked me for a few years before I signed on. I liked my independence, but eventually I decided that I would have the most influence with PokerStars.
Moneymaker: Not in a million years.
Chris, what are the advantages to being a PokerStars Pro versus a professional player that just plays without sponsorship?
Moneymaker: Sponsorship money obviously and marketing that Pokerstars puts behind you.
Do you consider poker to be a job or is it more of a fun hobby?
Greenstein: It’s fun to make money to pay the bills.
Moneymaker: Can it be both? I enjoy what I do, but it is also a job.
If you had to choose between only being able to play live or (legal) online poker, which would it be and why?
Greenstein: Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a choice at the moment because I have chosen to stay in the United States. Fortunately, I expect I will not have to choose in the near future and I will be able to do both.
Moneymaker: Online, the game moves faster and you can play so many different forms of poker, not just no limit holdem.
Chris, do you still play poker online (for fun or real money)?
Moneymaker: Not at the present time, hopefully when they change the laws in the USA.
Barry, do you think the US will legalize online poker within the next few years?
Greenstein: I expect it will be legalized in 2012, but I have been overly optimistic and wrong in the past on this issue.
What would you consider to be the best argument for legalizing online poker in the United States?
Greenstein: We shouldn’t legislate against adult behavior unless it causes direct harm to other people. We should allow people to do what they want in the privacy of their own homes. The arguments against online poker like compulsive gambling and underage gambling have been greatly exaggerated.
Moneymaker: The government should have no right to tell me what to do with my money.
If the United States were to legalize/regulate online poker, do you think there will be another “poker boom?” Why or why not?
Greenstein: I think this would cause a second poker boom. Online poker was huge in the United States even without government regulation and protection. We expect that when online poker becomes officially legal in the United States, there will be alliances with brick and mortar casinos so that the entire poker playing public will have incentive to play online.
Moneymaker: Yes, a lot of players went away when poker was restricted. TV shows would return as well.
Barry, you’ve made yourself famous as the “Robin Hood” of poker. As the game has so rapidly evolved in the past ten years, and so many questions on its future have been raised since Black Friday, how important are philanthropic endeavors to the game’s growth and acceptance?
Greenstein: I don’t think it has a big impact on growth when we do it on a personal level. It’s just the right thing for anyone who has become financially successful to do, no matter what line of business they are in. I am happy that I’m connected with PokerStars because they have been involved in many philanthropic projects around the world. They even made large donations to my main charity, Children Incorporated, at each one of the stops on the Latin American Poker Tour.
Chris, you haven’t found much success since your WSOP Main Even title in 2003. How do you respond to players who call your win a one-time fluke? Do you think you have the poker skills to repeat your win?
Moneymaker: I don’t respond. I am confident in my poker skills and have had a lot of success on the tables, just not the big win. I have won over 500k this year, pretty good for one-time fluke.
Barry, what poker game do you see taking off in the near future (similar to how Omaha took off recently)?
Greenstein: Where I play in LA, Badeucy is the most popular form of poker in the mixed games.
Chris, what do you think of the November 9 format and the way everyone has to wait months? Are you glad there was no delay the year you won the championship?
Moneymaker: It is good for promotion of the 9 players but bad for the actual game. No one remembers who got 3rd the year I won but everyone remembers Dennis Phillips. He did a great job of marketing himself in the lead up to the November 9.
Barry, do you play in any of the Los Angeles card rooms and if so, which ones? Do you have regular games there? How would you compare the Vegas card rooms to the LA ones?
Greenstein: I mainly play at the Commerce Casino these days, but I’ve gone to a few others when a good game is arranged there. The Vegas games are not as reliable except during the WSOP or the Bellagio WPTs.
Having your car stolen from the valet lot must have been crazy. Do you still think about it when using a valet service or are you over it?
Greenstein: I’m over it, but I’ve stayed at that same Marriott a few times since that incident and they are very protective of my car and I get my valet parking comped.
Chris, since you have become a PokerStars Pro, what are some of the biggest changes in poker you have seen over the years?
Moneymaker: Poker has completely revolutionized since my victory. The game was very primitive in 2003 and now it has been studied and written about so much that it is a very difficult game today. The games are much bigger now than in 2003.
Barry, how have you seen the overall skill level of poker players change throughout the years?
Greenstein: Obviously, there are tools to learn poker that didn’t exist when I was growing up as a poker player. When I was young there wasn’t even a good poker book. In addition, the number of poker players has grown exponentially and social media and interaction software allows players to discuss strategy in groups.
Technically, no limit holdem tournament strategy has undergone a huge leap in the last ten years. Betsizing used to be pretty random but now it’s rare to even have one person at your table in a large buy-in event who drastically overbets.
Barry, how does it feel to be inducted of the Poker Hall of Fame? And congratulations!
Greenstein: It’s always nice to get some recognition from the public and my peers, but as my girlfriend reminded me, “At least you finally won something again.” I would like to get back to winning things the old-fashioned way: across a poker table.
Barry Greenstein has been playing poker professionally since 1991. He has notable success in cash games and in the WSOP and WPT. He has three WSOP bracelets, two WPT titles, thirteen WSOP and six WPT final table finishes, and more than thirty large WSOP cashes. He can be seen playing on High Stakes Poker or The Big Game. His book, Ace on the River, details poker strategy for players of all levels. Greenstein has also earned the nickname “Robinhood of Poker” by donating significant portions of his winnings to charity. Over the past 20 years he has observed many industry changes, including the online poker boom, the passing of the UIGEA, and Black Friday.
Chris Moneymaker, whose win in the 2003 WSOP Main Event sparked the online poker boom, began his poker journey just by playing in his spare time. One of the tournaments he decided to play was an $89 WSOP Main Event satellite on PokerStars. The rest is literally history and started a phenomenon deemed the “Moneymaker Effect.” Since that well-remembered win in 2003, Moneymaker has kept himself busying playing in poker circuit tournaments all over. His latest successes include an 11th place finish in the 2011 PCA Main Event and 2nd place finish in the 2011 National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
*Photos courtesy of PokerStars.com.