Barry Greenstein Talks Leaving PokerStars

Barry Greenstein playing poker

Barry Greenstein made his third appearance this year on Joe Ingram’s “Poker Life Broadcast” — this time a 4-plus hour stint on the show. The Hall of Fame poker player explained why PokerStars ended its longstanding relationship with Greenstein last month.

PokerStars continues purging its list of Poker Ambassadors. The site ended it relationshipw with Jason Mercier, Bertrand Grospellier, and Vanessa Selbst leaving Team PokerStars in the past two years. Greenstein departure is part of a pattern, so it was no surprise to anyone when PokerStars ended the relationship.

The Hall of Famer card player paid compliments to the world’s largest poker site. In fact, he said the move made sense from both sides. He said, “At these things, I get paid less than a couple hundred thousand a year.”

Saying he was giving up more money by staying with PokerStars, Greenstein added, “At this point, I was getting paid less from PokerStars, because what do I do for PokerStars anymore? I don’t do that much.”

California Online Poker Bill

One of the reasons Barry Greenstein stayed on the Team PokerStars roster so long involved a commitment to California online poker. Bill that would have established legal California iPoker appeared on the legislative docket every year from 2010 to 2017 — with multiple bills some years.

Several state lawmakers sponsored bills in the California legislature: Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Sen. Lou Correa, and former Sen. Roderick Wright. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians backed those bills, because they (and the Bicycle Club) signed partnership deals with PokerStars.

Knowing they faced domination in California online poker, rival tribal casino operators like Pechanga Band of Luseno Indians, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and the the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians opposed iPoker bills. They called for PokerStars to be banned as a “bad actor”, due to the Black Friday allegations.

Greenstein: Online Poker Advocate

As a native Californian, Barry Greenstein served as one of PokerStars’s top voices in the online poker arena. Until 2017, he had legislation he could champion. Greenstein told Ingram, “For the last several years, I always thought it [online poker] was a year away.”

When Reggie Jones-Sawyer chose not to introduce the “Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act” in 2018, it marked a new era. Jones-Sawyer said at the time he thought all sides needed a cooling off period. A new bill might happen in 2019, but it didn’t. With California online poker shelved for the near future, Greenstein’s main purpose for staying with PokerStars ended.

The nearly 5-hour conversation ranged over many topics. Barry Greenstein provides a lot of poker wisdom and is a good storyteller, so the podcast is entertaining and pithy.

Greenstein on Loaning Money to Poker players

Greenstein gave advice on loaning money to losing players. He said, “Try to limit your relationships. If you’re a winning player or if you’re loaning, the collateral that person have is their playing ability. You don’t loan to losing players….I don’t loan to losing players and I don’t get into new relationships.”

He added that a card player can loan money to high rollers who are successful in another field. It’s often a good investment in high roller games, because it’s a networking opportunity. But with a person who relies purely on skill, you don’t loan money to a losing player.

Of course, when dealing with well-funded, skillful players, the answer is always “Yes”. Barry Greenstein told an anecdote about Phil Ivey’s generosity and beneficience to undescore his point.

Barry Greenstein on Phil Ivey

In the biggest cash games, million-dollar swings of fortune are not uncommon. Anyone can be down a million and unable to access more funds, so borrowing among high rollers happens often. Barry Greenstein mentioned that a friend of his,

David Kemp, a friend and San Francisco-area high roller, called Greenstein once and discussed a game in Macau where he turned down a loan request from Phil Ivey. As Greenstein told the story, “In Macau, he’s playing the big game there and I think it might have been a million-dollar buy-in and he lost the money he had.”

Knowing that Kemp was a friend of Greenstein’s, Ivey asked to borrow a million dollars to keep the game going. Kemp called Greenstein the next day to ask whether he’d done the right thing. Kemp told Greenstein that he had just played with Ivey a couple of times, but didn’t know him well, so he turned him down.

Phil Ivey’s Generosity

Greenstein said Kemp asked him, “Do you think I made the wrong decision? And I told him, ‘Whatever happened in that session, you made one of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made in your poker career. Not only should you have loaned Phil the money, but you have to realize something about Phil.’

Barry Greenstein compared himself to Phil Ivey and said Ivey’s generosity is far greater. Without denigrating himself, Greenstein said, “When someone tries to do me a favor, I try to do them a favor back. When you do Phil a favor, he tries to do it ten times back. You can’t match Phil. Phil is one of these people who will never let you get the best of doing favors.”

“It’s like protection. When you see Phil lose, because he’s a proud person. He’s never going to ask you again, now that you turned him down. You offer the money. It’s the best thing you can do for your poker career. “

That’s just one of the many stories people will hear on the “Poker Life Broadcast” podcast. Those who want poker advice — or simply want to hear stories about card players — Barry Greenstein appearances are always a highlight.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for more than a decade. He worked for Small World Marketing for years, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. He's covered US and international gambling news on,, and since 2014.


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