Greenstein: "When People Start Telling Me I'm Senile, I'll Quit"

Barry Greenstein
Barry Greenstein.

Barry Greenstein has watched the poker industry develop from a front-row seat over the last 40 years and, according to the long-time pro, there's still plenty of room for him in today's game. reporter Thomas Hviid caught up with Greenstein while he was filming a segment for PokerStars TV today at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo.

Front-Row Seat for Poker Boom

In this new interview Greenstein gives us his take on US online poker regulation, how the WSOP has changed in the 10 years since Moneymaker won plus an inside look at his son Joe Sebok's recent run-in with a group of sextortionists. What's your take on the first regulated online poker site getting up and running in Nevada?

Barry Greenstein: As you know I represent PokerStars, and obviously we want poker to become legal in the entire US like it used to be. And we want PokerStars to be able to operate there.

The judgment was handed down that it was probably already legal but at some point we were expecting federal legislation where you had to apply for some sort of license to run a poker site. In the interim, individual states are saying that poker is legal in our states and you have to apply for a license.

It looks like Ultimate Poker has a good initial start and what we are hoping will happen is that people will see that there is no scary stuff going on.

Usually, our biggest opponents in poker are people involved in other forms of gambling - even casino operators, they don’t want people to play online, they want them to play in casinos of course.

PL: Was it good news or bad news that Ultimate Poker were first to launch in Nevada?

I can see good news and bad news in it. The bad thing was that we (PokerStars) are not involved, but I think that we have taken a position that is more important.

Eventually, there will be federal legislation and then hopefully PokerStars will apply for a license and be accepted.

Barry Greenstein
"Eventually, there will be federal legislation."

PL: What are your plans for the WSOP?

I've gone every year since 1991 and I will of course go this year and play a lot of events and cash games. I haven’t singled out any special events but once the WSOP starts I just show up and play whatever event is going on and when I get knocked out I go see what else is going on.

So I don't really make plans for the World Series, except for the Main Event and usually the $50k Players Championship.

PL: This WSOP will be the 10 year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker's win. How has the WSOP developed since then?

In the player’s council we have made sure that the WSOP is not totally dominated by No-Limit Hold’em.

I think we’ve done a good job in incorporating new games like a mixed game with Badugi, so we just try to stay current with what the most popular games are. We’ve adjusted to the online poker players where we have more six-handed types of events so we have done that to accommodate the players.

PL: How do you see your role in poker today?

My role in poker is that I am one of the old guys who have seen poker for some 40 years. Hopefully, that means that because of my experience I have some things to offer.

On the other hand, I am sure some people think that I am not in touch or over the hill, and why is this old guy telling us stuff when we know better.

Joe Sebok
The sextortion scheme contributed to Sebok leaving poker.

I do think that I still have something to offer. When people start telling me that I'm senile and all that, then I will stop.

PL: Can you give a comment regarding the sextortion case which your stepson Joe Sebok was involved in?

About 3-4 years ago somebody hacked into his email and went through his personal messages. I guess he had some nude pictures of his girlfriend and stuff like that and they tried to blackmail him with that.

They were really getting mean and threatening him while doing the same to some other poker players, which I will not name.

I do not have nude pictures of myself in my email – people will be happy to know – but we probably all have an email that we wouldn’t want to have out publicly. So pretty much everyone can be the target for this kind of blackmail.

Joe wasn’t going to pay these people money even though others did, and he was fortunate to know someone who knew someone at the FBI. They found out that this was much bigger than they thought and these guys behind the blackmail had been going after a lot of online poker players.

The FBI took it very seriously and told Joe to string these guys along and pretend to meet their demands. The guys were really cocky in the beginning and really violent in their language, but eventually the FBI tracked them down and got them.

One of the guys was really a psychopath where after he got busted he still tried to do it again to someone else. Joe didn’t really want to testify since he felt bad that one of them had a family and was 39 or so, but the FBI told him that they really needed his testimony.

I haven’t read all the stuff online, but Joe told me that people claimed that he blew it all out of proportion, but they don’t realize that the testimony was really relevant and important for this case to put them behind bars.

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