WSOP Event #47: Barry by the book

June 26, 2009


Barry Greenstein does not have a reputation as an unconventional player. That is, while his style and game are by no means rote and predictable, he doesn’t play the Gus Hansen or Tom Dwan style of poker. He will gamble when he needs to, but you won’t see him getting out of line a whole lot.

By now, most everybody knows Greenstein wrote the book–or, at least, one of the books–on poker. He has one sitting near his chair every time he is in an event and if you bust him, you an autographed copy. The last time Greenstein didn’t have to sign his own work was the 2008 WSOP Razz event. Even for one of the best in the world, first place finishes are few and far between.

Today, Greenstein’s “Ace on the River” sits within reach at the final table of the $2,500 Mixed Hold’em event. He sat down as one of the shorter stacks but managed to double up in an early limit hold’em round when his K♦K♥ managed to hold up against A♥Q♥. It was simple by-the-book poker.

A few hands later, Greenstein came in for 45,000. John McGuiness sat on the button and pushed all-in for 301,000. Matt Woodward sat in the big blind and tanked for a couple of minutes before announcing he, too, was all-in. Both players had Greenstein covered.

Now, ask yourself what hands you would call with in this situation. How strong would you have to be to get it in three ways? Would you do it with 9♣9♠?

That was the question Greenstein had to ask himself as he sat there. He could call off the rest of his stack and end up being behind both players. He could finish ninth and wander over the $50,000 HORSE event. Instead, he folded, because…really, how many times is he going to be ahead?

Well, this time, he was ahead–of both players. McGuinness held 7♣7♦ to Woodward’s A♥K♦. To stick the knife further in, the board ran out A♠9♦K♣7♠2♦. Greenstein would’ve tripled up…if he made what in most other circumstances would’ve looked like a pretty terrible call. Instead, he played it by the book and waited for a better spot.

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Just a few minutes later, play folded to him in the blinds. Both he and Hasan Habib were short. Greenstein, in the small blind, looked down at A♠6♥. It’s an automatic push situation, and that’s exactly what Greenstein did. This time, Habib woke up with Q♥A♥ and doubled up.

An orbit went by and found Greenstein sitting in the big blind with 87,000 and A♣8♥. Zachary Humphrey had 10,000 more chips. He hemmed and hawed in the small blind before announcing all-in. Once again, the decision was a no-brainer for Greenstein. He made the call to see Humphrey’s J♦10♠.

Greenstein must have sensed something. He reached out his hand and laid it on the copy of his book. He smiled when the flop came out A♥A♠5♠. Then it looked as if Greenstein should keep his hand on the book. The turn was the 2♠.

Really? After all the right decisions, was it really going to be an 9th place finish because of running spades?

“Ace on the river!” a fan called from above.

Greenstein smiled. It wasn’t an ace.

It was the 8♦, good for the full house and the win.

Since then, Greenstein has survived the elimination of four players. With five people remaining in the event, the Team PokerStars Pro has worked his way up to a better than average stack. With Ylon Shwartz still in action, there is the off-chance we could have a Team Pro heads up match for the bracelet.

I’ve never asked Greenstein what he does with the book if he wins. Maybe we’ll have that chance today.


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