Barry Greenstein, known as the 'Robin Hood of Poker' because he gave all of his tournament winnings to charity, was one of the most popular and visible players during the poker boom.
He was a fixture at the World Series of Poker, a regular on the most popular poker show in history, High Stakes Poker, and played in one of the biggest poker hands ever played on TV, among countless other accolades.
Never much of a traveling tournament player, Greenstein has returned to his cash-game roots at his regular clubs in Los Angeles these days and stepped away from the poker spotlight some.
He's also, interestingly, become one of the biggest play-money champions in the world.
Still, he's one of the most influential poker players ever to play the game and we caught up with him on a rare poker trip to the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for a few words on the return of online poker to the United States, the erosion of American liberties and the bombastic senility of one Donald J.
With the Drumpf spectre looming larger than ever today on Super Tuesday, it's only fitting to post Greenstein's prescient predictions.
On the Return of Online Poker:
"It’ll come back eventually, but I’ve been wrong every time I’ve guessed. I thought it would be back quicker. I went to Washington myself and personally spoke with about 40 different politicians to lobby for poker. That was mainly in the years 2007 and 2008.
"These were both Republicans and Democrats and not one of them disagreed with me. It felt like a slam dunk. Everybody liked the fact that poker creates revenue. Nobody wanted to vote against it, but then things like the Iraq war happened.
"For most of the last 10 years, Congress keeps getting accused of not doing anything, which is pretty much the truth. They’ve been afraid that as there was nothing for them to hang their hats on other than a failed war, a failed invasion and a bad economy at times, people would look at them weird if all they got done was an online poker bill."
On a Blocked Congress:
"Even now most politicians in America feel their main job is to make sure that the other party gets nothing done. All they do is block each other; they don’t care what it is about. There are a lot of bills they could put through, but they don’t."
"Our system is so messed up right now that nothing gets done. It’s absurd. Online poker is just one thing and many people think it’s not that big a deal. For a while I thought it would be back by the beginning of 2016, and at least we’re dealing state by state now, but again, there are elections coming up.
"In these times all politicians in our country really care about is votes for them and money for their campaigns. They don’t care about legislation, they just care about being re-elected, and there’s always the chance that if they talk about poker bills, the opponent could use it against them.
"They could take it out of context and say this guy wants to make you 'gamble' and look at all the bad things that happen through gambling. They have even connected it to terrorists laundering money.
"They just come up with this stuff, and if you have the kind of Donald Trump rhetoric, there will be people who think 'hey, that’s true.' Politicians are afraid to attach themselves to anything they can be attacked on.
"It makes no difference which party is in power. When you talk to politicians one on one you can’t necessarily tell which party they belong to. That only changes when they come in groups. Everyone I spoke to was in favor of poker. Every one of them plays poker. It’s pretty ridiculous."
On Betraying American Principles:
"I once tweeted about how sad it is that war veterans who like to play poker can’t do this in their homes anymore but rather have to move to free countries like Russia and China. I’m only giving these two as examples because they were Cold War enemies these guys were fighting proxy wars against during their teenage or young years for our freedom, and now we don’t live in a free country.
"Poker might be a small thing but it’s representative of how we don’t follow these principles anymore."
"It’s sad. Some people might ask what the big deal is about freedom of online poker, but for example the Republican Party always talks about needing a smaller government and less interference with people’s lives.
"So when I talk to Republicans I say this is right up your alley. That’s exactly what this is about. So are you the party that doesn’t want to interfere with people’s lives or are you the party of 'don’t interfere with people’s lives unless they interfere with what we want and then we’ll move in and control their lives.'
"There is no real excuse for interfering with what people do in privacy that doesn’t impact anyone else. When the US broke free from Europe, one main thing was because they didn’t want the king to tell them what to do. That’s what our country is founded on. The personal freedom to do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt other people.
"This is something that countries from all over the world look up to. Poker might be a small thing but it’s representative of how we don’t follow these principles anymore. The country is not the same as it used to be. Other countries like the Scandinavians are doing a better job of taking care of their people. They might have higher taxes, but people are very happy there."
On Donald Drumpf:
"Donald Trump has no shot at becoming president. It’s a simple mathematical thing. You can’t win an election by alienating as many people as he has - Hispanics, Asians, women, and so on.
"I would love to bet against Trump winning. The funniest thing is that some people say the Democrats are afraid of Donald Trump. The Democrats would love to see Trump win the nominations. I know Democrats who want to work for him just to keep him up there.
"Not only have they realized that he’s unelectable but also that he can bring down the whole Republican Party with him. Even his own party considers him the most unlikable character. Some people like to compare Trump with Adolf Hitler, but he’s really more of the American Kim Jong-Un.
"He says all these ridiculous things, which are almost uniformly not true, but he banks on voters being unintelligent and uninformed and xenophobic. If you’re not educated, you might not be aware that every country in the world that gets into economic trouble blames other people.
"All around the world the politicians will blame the neighbors for taking the locals’ jobs. In our country, some of the problems are blamed on Mexican illegal immigrants. But if we didn’t have these illegal immigrants, the price of orange juice would probably triple. They actually help our economy, every study shows that ...
"Actually, we’re all immigrants, except for the Native Americans who really were there first. Maybe they would agree with Trump that we need to get rid of all the immigrants, of which he’s one of them. He’s German, and his father got arrested for going to meetings of the Ku Klux Klan, so he has a good attachment to Hitler.
"His two favorite books are the Bible and Mein Kampf, of which he has a copy by his bed side. That’s his favorite book. The difference between Trump and Hitler is that Hitler was actually voted into an office, and Trump never was.
"Hitler was self-made and Trump started out with the money of his father. In a way Hitler was more respectful in his way to power than Trump. Trump has the misogynist vote and the KKK firmly behind him, that’s pretty much it ...
"All of this plays on having uneducated voters. So, one thing politicians have done well is cutting the funding for education. The US had the greatest educational system when I was young, and now they’ve successfully managed to keep the population as dumb as possible so they can say these absurd things and no one knows if they’re true.
"It’s funny how well these two things work together – keep your populace uneducated and you can tell them all sorts of lies.
"I thought Trump was senile on that day and here we are, 10 years of senility later, and he’s running for president."
On Trump's Senility:
"I personally met him on the Trump National golf course in Palos Verdes, where I live, about 10 years ago during the poker boom. I was talking to the manager of the golf course who was a big poker fan. Trump walks over to us and points at the blue and pink flowers next to the course.
“'More blue flowers,' he said to the manager. 'Take out some of the pink flowers.' Then he walked away and the manager says to me: 'Last time he was here, he wanted more pink flowers.' I thought Trump was senile on that day and here we are, 10 years of senility later, and he’s running for president.
"Many people don’t know that it’s actually the sixth time that he’s tried running. He’s probably as surprised as anyone that he has so much traction and I think the reason for that is that he’s the most entertaining guy. The media has really propelled him to the top. I mean everybody reads the Trump stories. I read the Trump stories!
"And it’s entertaining, it really is. Some people now say it’s not funny anymore because they take it serious, but they shouldn’t. He’s not going to be elected. He’s still just entertaining. Of course, he’s an idiot. He likes to go round and tell people how smart he is, when he’s always the dumbest guy in the room. He’s not as rich as he says, and he’s clearly not smart at all.
"Smart people don’t tell other people they’re smart. It’s a tell. (laughs) I’m actually rooting for him to get the Republican nomination. It’s not even against the Republican Party, as I am more of an independent, probably. But our system is broken, our politicians get nothing done and maybe it takes a guy like Trump to bring one of the big parties down to fix things.
"We need an overhaul of the system. The rest of the politicians pretty much are just playing the game to keep the status quo, so maybe something good will come out of this. Most of the others are bought politicians, so everything they say they say to please their donors."