Barry Greenstein

Re-printed courtesy of our content partner Ante Up Magazine.

The Bear, as he’s known in the poker world, found a few moments during a break at a recent tournament to chat with Ante Up’s Chris Cosenza about some of the basic questions our readers wanted to know about him and his life. Barry is always a fun interview and never is one to give you a boilerplate answer. Here are his thoughts on poker advice, heroes and IOUs.

What’s your favorite poker game and why? I just like to play mixed games, with as many games in the mix as possible, because usually people have weaknesses in some of the games and I’m pretty even in all of them.

What’s the biggest pot you’ve ever won? Hmmm … I don’t remember. (laughs) I probably remember more of the bigger bets I’ve lost. I know on High Stakes Poker I lost that $900K pot to Durrrr. That’s probably the biggest pot I ever lost. But I don’t remember the biggest pot I ever won.

Who’s the best poker player in the world? Well, you know, I usually don’t like to talk about the best because it changes all the time. Not everyone is always playing their “A” game. But we can all see the guy with the best results has been Phil Ivey, and what else do we have to go by than results?

Best poker advice you’ve received: I’ve been pretty self-made at poker so I haven’t gotten much advice. But I remember when I was young, for some reason it always sticks out, a professional poker player told me when you’re around a poker table believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

What does poker need? I think poker is doing really well. The only thing holding it back are the arcane laws. We need the UIGEA overturned and online poker regulated.
If you weren’t a poker player you’d be a … Today there’s not much else I could do because I’m over the hill. But if I hadn’t gone into poker I might have gone into medical school and done some research.

Who’s is your hero? I admired people like Gandhi and Malcolm X.

What’s your poker dream? I think the only thing you could consider a dream at this point for me is winning the (WSOP) Main Event. And in lieu of that at least making the main event final table.

How much money do you have on you right now? I have a few IOUs in my pocket so I think it’s negative right now because of all the prop bets I’ve lost in the World Series. (laughs)

Main Event Charity Games and Windy City Poker Championship teamed up to throw the biggest poker party in Chicago history. On Friday and Saturday, December 18 & 19, 2009, 180 tournament players, and a host of cash game players, spectators, and sponsors made history at the Irish American Heritage Center, raising funds for two worthy charities in the process.

The tournament kicked off at about 8pm on Friday, after tournament organizers scrambled to accommodate their largest field to date. The play went until 1AM, when the 140 remaining players bagged their chips, and headed home for the night. Play resumed at noon on Saturday.

The publishers of Ante Up, Florida's Poker Magazine, Chris Cosenza and Scott Long were on hand to kick off the event and handle emcee duties. They could be seen throughout the event representing their business, and playing plenty of Chinese Poker and mixed cash games.

The television crew at Windy City Poker Championship, of which this author is affiliated, did an incredible job of converting the lounge area of the facility into a TV set, home to the "featured table", and when the field was down to 8, the Final Table.

At the start of day 2, there was a buzz of discontent in the crowd as the tournament organizers announced a change in the tournament structure. This author had estimated that we were about an hour short of the time required to complete the tournament - as the State of Illinois does not permit charity games to be played after 2am. The tournament organizers, concerned that we would run out of time for the conclusion of the tournament, particularly given the overhead of the televised final table, announced that levels would be temporarily shortened from 30 minutes to 20, and that 3 levels would be removed from the structure over the course of the day.

When the next few levels brought a host of bust-outs, the organizers returned the structure back to normal, having made up the one hour via 10-minutes off of three levels, and the removal of one, single 30-minute level. The event was back on course.

The event feature a number of notable attendees, including Chicago's own Richard Roeper, 2008 WSOP Main Event Final Tablist Dennis Phillips, host of ESPN Inside Deal Bernard Lee, and author of Eat Professional Poker Players Alive Frank Wiese.

I had the good fortune of playing between Roeper and Lee at the featured table on Day One (at left).

Day Two saw the field shrink from 140 remaining players down to 20 when the tournament went "hand-for-hand". Some players tightened up, trying to eek their way into the payouts which were awarded to the top 18 finishers. About five hands in to hand-for-hand the field narrowed to 19, and the then three hands later, the field celebrated making it into the money.

The event played with two balanced tables until this author (yeah, me!) found Ah Qc at our five-handed table. With a reputation for being a loose, aggressive player, and only 9 big blinds remaining, I happily shoved all of my chips to the middle. The player immediately to my left, on the button promptly called, and when the blinds folded, showed me two Kings. My hand did not improve, and the remaining players combined to a single table.

Once the field eliminated two players, the remaining eight, including the Windy City Poker Championship Executive Producer David McDermott, moved to the televised final table.

After a battery of player interviews, television preparation, and several introductory takes and re-takes featuring WCPC hosts Kirk Fallah and this column's author, the televised final table was under way. The players competed for over two hours, until an eventual champion was crowned.

Leroy Carver was crowned the season finale Windy City Poker Champion, followed by Marty Masar in second, and Ken Felten in third place.

[Featured at left, Windy City Poker Championship's Creator and co-host Kirk Fallah, Chicago Poker Club author and WCPC co-host Jason Finn, and previous WCPC co-host Michael Lapidus.]

The event will be televised on Chicago's Comcast Sports Net and Florida's Bright House Network in late February/early March 2010.

Last Filming of Season One

The final filming of Season One for the Windy City Poker Championship TV show will be a two day spectacular event

$55,000 Guaranteed Prize Pool *

Probable Payouts

Blind Structure

Dennis Phillips

Poker Pros and Celebrities Who Are Coming!
Dennis Phillips
is Scheduled to Attend
Bernard Lee is Scheduled to Attend
Richard Roeper is Scheduled to Attend
Tai Streets (former NFL player) is Scheduled to Attend
Scott Long and Chris
Cosenza from Ante Up magazine will attend

December 18th and 19th.

Irish American Heritage Center
4626 N. Knox Ave, Chicago 60630
Plenty of
FREE parking

Tournament will begin on Friday Dec 18th at 7:00 pm and will go until 1:00 am. If you pre-register without pre-paying you must arrive 1 hour before the start of the event.

Tournament will continue on Sat Dec 19th at 12:00 sharp for those players still in the tournament

There will be a Feature Table on Friday night, at the start of the tournament, with players moving in and out of, at the discretion of Main Event Charity Games. The Feature Table, along with the Final Table will be filmed for broadcasting on
Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Bright House Sports Network. **

Friday 7:00 PM

Buy In: $300
Entry: $60 ($10 discount when paying with cash)
Add On: $10
Starting Chips: 20,000
Add On Chips: 5,000

It is highly recommended that you pre-register.
You still come here? I mean, you still read this page? Thank you, and apologies. I've been a bad poker blogger this year - posting infrequently and promising updates that never come.

Secondly, happy holidays! 'Tis the season to frustrate your family - they want to spend time together and share the holiday spirit, you're taking advantage of friends in town to get a poker game together - and THIS YEAR, you're a favorite to take all of their money. (Yes, that is a picture of the No Limit Texas Dreidel game embedded at left.)

Lately I've been reflecting on my play over the course of the year, and in recent months. Two phenomena have taken place this year. First, I think my understanding of the game has continued to expand. I think about certain aspects more than I previously had, I am thinking about and applying new concepts. I've expanded the number of games that I play regularly just a bit, and it has helped me with the games that I play more frequently (i.e. the number of PLO hands I played this year has improved my No Limit Hold 'em play). Second, and conversely, after having a really strong September and early October, I got cocky, and started to neglect the many things that were contributing to my success. I began trying to outplay my opponents on every hand, trying to win every pot, stopped paying close attention to my opponents and their betting patterns, and finally, berated them (mostly in my head, I hope) for playing badly, when in fact, they were playing ME beautifully. THEY knew what I was doing wrong long before I did. That is a recipe for disaster. After playing my best poker ever, I spent two months playing some of my very worst.

In my last couple of sessions, I have changed my approach to the game, and re-adopted several tenets, which I believe are the key to any poker player's long-term success:

  1. Let the game come to me. Don't try to win every pot, don't try to outplay my opponents on every hand. Look for opportunities to get value on your big hands, and pick up orphaned pots. Having a winning session doesn't mean winning the most pots, it means winning the important pots, and winning them big.

    In my most recent session, I employed a gimmick. I'd been playing so unruly that my opponents never believed me. What's more, when they didn't, it reinforced my behavior - "they don't believe that I'm playing good hands, why shouldn't I see every flop?" Sure, I could get equity on my big hands, however rarely they came (I literally didn't flop a set in hold 'em for 8 weeks), but I had zero bluff equity. I was winning disproportionately large pots with strong hands, but losing tons of medium pots by people calling me down with third pair and the disproportionately large number of suck outs on the turn and river, because they NEVER gave me credit for a good hand.

    The gimmick? I told my opponents I was only betting with the best hand, and that I would show it to them every time I won a pot (by attrition or at showdown). And I did. I showed them, I told them that I knew second pair was good, or that I knew they were on a flush draw. After a couple hours of winning with the best hand, things returned to equilibrium. I was able to get them to fold just enough. By next session, they'll forget that I'm not a maniac 100% of the time, and I'll have to make big hands and kill them with 'em, or look for a new gimmick.

  2. Respect the competition. The players at your table will have varied ability, but if they've played a dozen times previously, and they're back, they have some idea of what they're doing. Apply your energy to learn what they do well, and what mistakes they make. Don't assume you'll win every, or even most, hands against them - and don't try. When you do get involved, exploit their leaks, look for value; you'll come out ahead in the long run.

  3. Observe, study, absorb. Remember your best sessions? Remember how you knew what your opponents held, knew when they were bluffing, knew when you had to lay down a big hand? You were observing their movements, even subconsciously. You were watching how they put their bets in, what types of hands they held, how they reacted to board cards, how they were sitting... you observed everything. It takes practice, and I was out of practice. When you observe on this level, you cannot help but win.
That's it. Three steps to success. Think you can do it? I know you can.