Barry Greenstein, often referred to as the “Robin Hood of Poker,” was officially inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. His ceremony took place on the WSOP Main Stage, just prior to the start of the world championship finale. Greenstein was introduced by poker legend Doyle Brunson, a fellow Poker Hall of Fame member.
What follows is Greenstein’s acceptance speech as he delivered it to the capacity crowd assembled inside the Rio’s Penn and Teller Theatre, plus a viewing audience much larger who were able to watch the ceremony through the live stream at WSOP.com:
(Photo Caption: Barry Greenstein poses with those closest to him following his official induction into the Poker Hall of Fame, as part of the "Class of 2011.")
As a poker player, I’m not accustomed to having things handed to me. Most of my accomplishments are the result of successful battles across a poker table. So, I normally wouldn’t be thrilled to be handed an award as the result of a vote. However, after seeing what a great year Erik Seidel had since being inducted into the Hall of Fame, I’m looking forward to some Hall of Fame run-good.I’m especially pleased to be inducted alongside my good friend Linda Johnson. As a result, I won’t have to keep informing some of the younger players about her impact on poker. She has been an incredible ambassador for poker for the last thirty-five years.
The criteria for the Hall of Fame have remained the same since its inception in 1979, with the exception of the new Chip Reese rule requiring that candidates be at least 40 years old, which made it easier for me to be voted in this year by eliminating from contention some top players who are still in their thirties. Now that I have been a member of the Hall of Fame for an entire minute, it won’t come as a surprise to people who know me that I have some changes to recommend.
Each year there is a debate about which candidates have played consistently well at high stakes, which is supposed to be a requirement for induction. Several players are now in the Hall of Fame, as they should be, although they may not have met this requirement, because the criteria need to be altered to reflect the many changes poker has undergone, especially in the last ten years. The business side of the poker world has become extremely diversified resulting in many contributions to poker from people in various poker-related occupations. The public judges poker players primarily on their tournament results, even though there is no mention of that in the criteria. Internet poker has become the world’s home poker game, and future Hall of Famers may be inducted solely based on how they fare online. Well, that’s if we ever have a functional congress in the United States, but that’s a discussion for another day.I have read some of the reasons why people thought I should be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Some mentioned money I’ve made playing poker. Others mentioned money I’ve given away. However, my proudest poker-related achievement has nothing to do with money. I’ve corresponded with young players explaining why they should stay in school and learn things other than poker. At least once a month, someone writes to me or comes up to me and says he graduated from college because of my advice. That is my proudest achievement, and one that meets the definition of success I was raised with: making a positive difference in the world.
To those who think it’s a better idea to play poker than to get an education along with the maturity that comes during that process, I can only say: I’ve never had anyone come up to me and tell me, ”Because of you I stayed in school, and it was a mistake!"
It has become somewhat traditional for new inductees to the Poker Hall of Fame to mention players whom they feel should be considered in the future. There are several people who I think have been overlooked. Some cash game players who don’t travel the tournament circuit don’t seem to get consideration. Two who are currently among the best mixed-game players in the world are David Oppenheim and John Hennigan. Another player, Ted Forrest, was an innovator in seven-card stud, but he often gets judged on his no-limit hold’em skills, even though it’s not nearly his best game. At least that’s what I once told him, and then he won a WSOP bracelet, the NBC heads up, and a WPT title, all in no-limit hold’em.Another neglected group is foreign players.
Thor Hansen and Chris Bjorin are still great players and have been competing at the highest levels in tournaments for many years. Also, two players who don’t get enough respect because they weren’t born in America, though they have been among the best all-around players for the last thirty years are Chau Giang and Freddy Deeb. And there is one guy who is one of the most important pioneers in the history of poker, but his name has never been on that top ten list that gets voted on. When he moved to Las Vegas, poker was a shady game here. He, along with Doyle Brunson, opened and managed what was probably the first honest high-stakes poker room in Las Vegas at the Silverbird Casino. He was the first tournament director of the World Series of Poker. He also introduced satellites, which significantly increased tournament prize pools. He works behind the scenes on many of the poker shows we now see on television, including the WSOP final table that most of you have come here to watch. That man is Eric Drache.
I want to thank everyone who thought I was worthy of entry into the Poker Hall of Fame, the poker fans who voted me onto the top ten list, the media, and the Hall of Fame members who selected me. Most importantly, I want to publicly show my appreciation for my beautiful partner Alexandra who has traveled on the tournament trail and absorbed the inevitable knockouts with me.I also want to thank my poker friends I have played with along my journey here.
First in Chicago playing five-card stud, then at college in Champaign, Illinois where I learned high-low split games, in Decatur and Monticello, Illinois where I learned that recently invented gambling game no-limit hold-em, on to the Cameo Club in Palo Alto, California where I learned no-limit lowball. Next to Garden City and Bay 101 in San Jose for limit lowball and limit hold’em. Down to Southern California to Larry Flynt’s house and the Hustler Casino for my seven-card stud education, over to the Commerce Casino for mixed games, and on to PokerStars where I could use my knowledge to compete against the entire poker world.
No matter how long you play poker, you still keep learning and modifying your game, yet I haven’t forgotten my first lesson on the rules of draw poker when I was four years old or my second lesson when that same teacher, my father, watched quietly while I hosted a poker game in our basement when I was thirteen years old.
Afterward, his advice was, “You’re playing too many hands. If you don’t learn to fold, you’re going to lose all your money.” Thanks Dad. Apparently, I folded enough to make it all the way to the Poker Hall of Fame.
(Audience applauds, followed by standing ovation)