Each of us look in the mirror every day and hope we like the person staring back at us. We look for something good, something right, something that can get us through the day in a world that isn’t always so nice. We don’t always like what we see, but each day brings new hope that we’ve improved since the last time we looked. If the poker world had to look in the mirror each morning, it would do well to see Barry Greenstein in the reflection. A poker player’s player, a philanthropist’s best model, and the brain among brains, Greenstein is one of the good guys. Now, the “Robin Hood of Poker” will join the ranks of the poker world’s most-honored players. This afternoon, the Poker Hall of Fame revealed that Greenstein, a Team PokerStars Pro, and Linda Johnson will be its 2011’s inductees.
As a matter of full disclosure, I have an admitted personal bias. Greenstein was among the first big-name players to open up to me during my early years in poker reporting. He was always the first to take time to answer my questions and give me a peek inside the world of high stakes poker. During his marathon World Series sessions, it wasn’t uncommon for Greenstein to leave me voicemail at 3am with a status report on his day. Among my favorite pieces I’ve written for the PokerStars Blog was a 2007 WSOP preliminary event story titled, Seventeen Steps with Barry Greenstein, an in-game report of Greenstein multi-tabling live tournaments back before all the kids started doing it. In short, Greenstein was good to me when he didn’t have to be, and for that he’ll always have my gratitude.
It should go without saying, Greenstein’s worthiness of the Hall of Fame goes well beyond all that. In the early days of the World Poker Tour, Mike Sexton dubbed Greenstein the “Robin Hood of Poker” in recognition of the millions he gave and helped raise for children’s charities. That is to say, Greenstein may be better known among general public for his giving than he is known for his winning. You won’t find many poker players with that kind of reputation.
At 56-years old, Greenstein can claim $7.5 million in live tournament winnings to go along with his countless online and cash game profits. Born in Chicago, Greenstein spent his early years in the world of software and Silicon Valley. Twenty years ago, he made poker his fulltime profession. Since then, he’s won three WSOP bracelets and two WPT titles. What’s more, he’s the noted author of “Ace on the River,” a book he signs for anybody who knocks him out of a tournament.
In the official release from the Poker Hall of Fame, Greenstein said, “I’m happy to be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside my friend Linda Johnson who has been the most fervent ambassador for poker for as long as I can remember.”
Johnson, like Greenstein, is revered in the poker world. She has a WSOP bracelet (Razz, 1997) and seven WSOP final tables to her name. There is very little she hasn’t done in the poker realm. She’s been a player, a teacher, a publisher, and player advocate over her many years in the game. I can’t claim I know her as well, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many people to talk bad about the woman known as the First Lady of Poker.
Today, as we celebrate both of the ambassadors’ inductions, I find myself thinking of a day in 2005, long before Barry Greenstein became a member of Team PokerStars Pro.
Back then, we in the poker blogging world were a small, ragtag group still finding our way around the poker community. Among our ranks was a writer named Jason Kirk (a man who still writes for the PokerStars Blog from time to time). In 2005, his best friend Charlie Tuttle was dying of cancer. At the same time, Barry Greenstein was on his way to winning a WSOP bracelet. Through other members of the poker blogging community, Greenstein learned of Tuttle’s illness and gave him a phone call of encouragement.
Later that week, we all stood and watched as Greenstein won his bracelet. Afterward, he stood and faced the crowd. He didn’t jump up and down. He didn’t scream and yell. Greenstein, instead, offered an emotional speech about a young man he’d only spoken to on the phone. Seconds later, he dedicated his WSOP bracelet to Charlie Tuttle.
Barry Greenstein is more than a good player player. He’s more than a good philanthropist. He’s more than a good ambassador for the game. Barry Greenstein is a good man, one completely deserving of a place in the Poker Hall of Fame.
Congratulations to Barry and Linda on a much-deserved honor.