2008 World Series: Dropping down with Barry Greenstein

Just a few hours ago, Barry Greenstein was sitting at one of the most elite poker tables in the world, and certainly the most important of the day. Piles of money sat just feet away. As the tournament director read Greenstein's resume over the PA system, the crowd erupted in cheers. Scotty Nguyen doffed his cap in honor. After all, Greenstein is the only person to cash in the $50,000 HORSE event every year since its inception. There was no doubt about Greenstein's importance, both at the micro moment and in the big picture.

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Big money, big deal

Just a few hours before that, Greenstein had bought into the the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha World Championship, a planned multi-table excursion with the $50,000 HORSE event. A flopped set of kings outrun by quad queens ended Greenstein's time there.

After earning more than $300,000 in the HORSE event and busting early from the $10,000 PLO event, most people would probably take an evening--or at least a few hours--to breathe. Not Greenstein. He walked immediately to the other side of the room to play...a $1,500 event.

It's hard to relate it to anything. Playing the Masters and then dropping down to play miniature golf? Flying an F-16 followed by a flight simulator? Getting dumped by Angelina Jolie and hooking up with Abe Vagoda? It's impossible to equate. Is it possible to take a $1,500 seriously after the week--the Series!--Greenstein has had?

In a word, yes.

I know this, because as the $1,500 HORSE event resumed after dinner break, Greenstein walked in the door and realized he was about to miss the first hand.

He ran to his table.

If there was a picture of how seriously Greenstein takes poker, it was watching him hot-step across the carpeted floor and slide into his seat before his last card came off the deck. That's where he sits now, in a field of more than 800 players and playing for a prize pool of roughly what first place in the $50,000 paid.

Nobody can truly get in Greenstein's head and know for sure why he does it, but he makes no real secret about the most basic of his intentions. There's quite a bit of money involved. He has side bets on who wins bracelets. He knows people are betting on him. He bets on himself, too.

At the beginning of the World Series, a poker forum poster suggested it was likely Greenstein wouldn't make a final table here. Greenstein responded promptly, offering to take action on himself and telling everyone he would carry money around in $5,000 increments if anyone wanted to bet. Four final table appearances and a Razz bracelet later and the original forum poster is eating some serious crow.

There's something else at stake here as well. Greenstein's performance in the 2008 WSOP has put him in contention for the Player of the Year here at the World Series. It will take a strong finish, but at this hour, it's not impossible.

Over the past couple of years, I've probably spent more time around Greenstein than any member of Team PokerStars Pro. As I look back and try to figure out why, it's clear there are a couple of reasons. First, he's been expectedly successful and due coverage on this blog. Second, he's intriguing beyond my ability to explain. I want to understand, but it may be on the outside edge of my ability to do so.

But, that doesn't mean I won't keep trying.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker