Hibernation Ovarrr!!!: Barry Greenstein Wins Razz

Barry Greenstein
Barry Greenstein wins Event 26 at the 2008 WSOP

It's been just three years since Barry Greenstein won his last bracelet, but ask any poker player and they'll tell you three years can feel like an eternity.

Barry Greenstein is one of those guys who's been around for quite a while. For a long time there was a rumor going around that he had made most of his money in the software industry.

Read his book, though, and you'll learn that he won his money from pokarrr! Tonight he won some more cold hard cash ($157,619 to be exact).

He still had chips in the Limit Hold'em event so he took off at a run right after his win in the Razz to try and make something happen in his other event. There was no interview time set aside so PL.com had to make it happen. I pulled up a chair next to him while he was playing Limit and asked him some questions.

This is your third bracelet win. Does winning them keep getting sweeter?

No. Actually this one didn't give me that much emotion. I would've had a lot of frustration if I didn't win. I'm still frustrated from a couple of days ago when I came in third when I had over half the chips in the 2-7. I'm still frustrated from that one.

Actually, in my case, since I was originally not a tournament player - I was a cash-game player. The first year I played a lot of events I was fortunate enough to win a bracelet in 2-7. It really didn't seem as terrific as if I had been trying for many years.

The one that was most important for me was the second one, surprisingly enough, because there was a gentleman, Charlie Tuttle, who was dying of cancer. I told him the day before that I was going to win a bracelet. To be able to say that and go out and do it was very emotional. That was actually the most special one for me. The only thing special about winning this one is I had side bets that I would win a bracelet.

Did you win more in the side bets than you did in the event?


What kind of bets are we talking about?

I have different people give me odds of winning a bracelet of various amounts. Some were better than others so there is really no reason to quote the numbers because after all when you make bets like that for next year, I want to get as high odds as I can. This was a pretty good deal for me because they have some of these $10,000 events that, although I didn't win it in that, make the fields shorter and that give me a better chance.

Other than that, I've never until this year played any of these tournaments rested. I would often come in from straight from the cash games to play the tournaments. I've played the World Series for the last five years in my sleep! This is the first year I'm getting five hours of sleep every night. For me getting five hours of sleep before playing a tournament is a luxury.

Five hours is all you need?

Yeah. Like I hear a lot of people saying "Oh, playing poker every day in these tournaments is exhausting." To me [it's] restful! I used to play in the cash games all night and then come to the tournament and maybe try to sleep during the dinner break. That was my normal schedule during the World Series. To actually get to sleep ... that makes these things pretty easy to play.

You're a machine!

I've been playing poker all my life so it isn't as taxing mentally for me as it is for some of the younger players that have to sit and think about the problems like it's the first time they saw them. I've seen many of these same situations before. So for me it's pretty easy.

You looked like you were having a great time. Do you even like Razz?

Yeah, I actually do like Razz. I think it's a subtle game. There's a lot more to it than people think. I got to make some plays that someone not as experienced would not be able to make. To tell the truth, I think I had better cards. I had some good situations toward the end where I had 7-6-4 against 7-6-5. A lot of times you fool yourself in a tournament into thinking that you outplayed your opponents when really you just out-held them.

I think especially for a game like Razz having the best hand at the end is the key. I noticed at the start of the tournament I had three to a wheel lots of times, I had ace-deuce lots of times, and I wasn't the bring-in as much as the rest of the people.

Not trying to minimize what you did here, but I wrote a blog last Saturday about how I felt that Razz was the simplest game on offer here at the World Series. What do you think of that?

It is, but people play really badly too. The game can be simple but Hold'em is kind of a simple game in that there are only two cards, which makes it great for television, but there are also lots of tricky things. I had a very key check-raise bluff the first day that was the springboard to get chips. Most people wouldn't know to make a play like that in Razz. I was representing a draw to a good hand. I had like ace-deuce on board and two face cards. The other person had a pair and three to an eight. I checked to him and he bet. I knew he was just betting me for value but I check-raised him even though I had a queen low. He showed me an eight low and folded. So, there are some very subtle bets to make and I made a couple of good plays.

As the money approached I noticed a lot of players stalling and one at your table in particular. What do you think can be done about that?

The players should police other players. When you gamble there is an understanding that you're not going to cheat, you're not going to do things you're not supposed to. This isn't exactly cheating but it's kinda like one of those things you were taught in kindergarten. If everyone does this one thing - you know if everyone throws a candy wrapper on the ground, it makes a mess. It's the same thing. Here everyone stalls and the tournament isn't really playable.

Even in a home game we agree we're not going to bring in marked cards, we're not going to collude with each other. In a tournament we all have to agree to just play in tempo when it's our turn to play. It's a very hard thing to police but there just has to be an ethic to the game just like in other games.

There's no reason poker can't be a gentleman's or gentleperson's game. In our games if someone does something wrong, someone has to step up and say "Well, you're not supposed to do that."

You used to give all your tournament winnings to charity. What changed that?

I did initially because I used to not play many tournaments, so it wasn't difficult for me to do. Poker has changed over the last years where now there are tournaments all the time. I really don't get to make the money in the side games I used to make. Now I have to, like the money I won here, I have to use it to pay bills. I use money like that and money I get from endorsements like PokerStars, for instance. That's how I make my income now. At the end of the year, if I have extra money I'll give some away but I can't guarantee how much. I have kids to support - two kids in college right now and lots of bills.

Last thing and I'll let you get back to your game. Who gets your book when you win?

I wasn't sure about this one. I let my girlfriend decide what to do. Because the tournament director did a really good job this time we decided to give it to him. He ran two final tables [simultaneously] and he did a great job.

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