PCA 2012: Probing the brain of Greenstein
Dragging yourself out of bed before midday to play poker is hard enough for many poker players, getting up an hour earlier to sit in on a Q&A is harder still but, believe me, it's worth the effort.
At 11am this morning, equipped with 40oz of hot coffee and the flaccid remnants of a chicken Caesar wrap, I entered the Adonis room, feeling pretty far away from being a god of desire as I wiped the sleep from my eyes. Barry Greenstein, Poker Hall of famer, Team PokerStars Pro, high stakes legend, well known beard wearer, was already talking to some twenty-five rapt audience members.
"All the other kids were older and already didn't like me because I'd won both times I'd played. Some kid said, 'You've won all my money' and started chasing me," said Greenstein, reminiscing on how it all started way back when.
Greenstein had his winnings crammed into his pockets, some $30 in quarters, as the 17-year-old, some years his senior, chased him down.
"I was actually a good athlete when I was young and I was able to stay ahead of him but finally the quarters weighed me down and I went to the ground. He faked that he was going to hit me but didn't. He just walked away." said Greenstein.
That started a 40-year poker career for Greenstein, one that has taken him around the world playing the highest games and biggest tournaments. Most certainly a life less ordinary. And if you were in the Q&A room you could ask him anything about it, or anything else for that matter, just as you can to any of the other Team PokerStars Pros that are taking part over the next week.
And when we say you can ask them about anything, we mean it. Ask them about poker, ask them about what car they drive, find out what irritates them most about reality TV, whether they'd prefer to be a werewolf or a vampire. Really it's open season. And just to prove it I asked Barry the following question: "If you had to choose, would you fight fifty duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?"
Greenstein paused, but not for long.
"I get that asked all the time," he said, raising a communal chuckle from the audience, "I'd be kicking those duck-sized horses to the kerb. I used to take my kids to this place where they had a duck pond, those ducks are ferocious...
MC Joe 'Stapes' Stapleton, who you may know as Nick Weallthall's co-host on PokerStars radio, cut in, "This was actually a test to see if Barry could come up with an anecdote for anything."
"I'll tell you what you find out about ducks is that when they're protecting their young you've got to run. Those are vicious so maybe I'd be better taking my shot with just one horse-sized duck," said Greenstein.
The Q&A was not the dry and dusty affair my pre-caffeine infused brain had feared. It was interesting, engaging and at times - often helped by Stapleton, another bearded devotee - laugh out amusing.
The session lasted some 45 minutes with Greenstein covering everything from his youth and ambition to become a pro golfer - he was scratch by the time he was 18 - through poker strategy and playing for $1,000,000 with Larry Flynt to debunking the myth that he has an Asian obsession or that he had made his millions starting a computer company (Greenstein had semi-bluffed his way into a job in Silicon Valley to help win custody of his step-children but always earned more playing poker).
Get yourself along, you might, like me, even win an oatmeal and raisin cookie from Stapes for asking a question. The schedule is as follows:
January 9: WSOP bracelet winners ElkY, Eugene Katchalov and Max Lykov
January 10: WSOP bracelet winners Pius Heinz (Main Event champion), Andre Akkari and Jason Mercier
January 11: Randy 'Nanonoko' Lew from Team PokerStars Online
January 12: Daniel Negreanu
January 13: Vanessa Rousso, Vanessa Selbst and Liv Boeree
The Adonis room is located on your left-hand side as your walk down towards the rotunda that leads to the tournament room. Q&A's begin at 11am. The schedule is open to changes, tweaks and additions.