Monday, June 16, 2008

WSOP Day 17: Pros Continue Dominance as Barry Greenstein and Kenny Tran Win Bracelets

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

What do you do moments after you win a bracelet?

If you're Barry Greenstein, you take down the Razz event then nearly run over to the other side of the Amazon Ballroom to attend to your stack in another event that had been getting blinded down since it began at 5pm.

Greenstein is never a man for many words and you'll never see him mug for cameras. On one hand, the folks at PokerStars would love to have a nice publicity photo of Greenstein and the bracelet, especially since it happened a couple of days after fellow Team PokerStars member Daniel Negreanu's bracelet victory. And yeah, there were plenty of media around waiting to get an interview and a winner's photo. But with 10K of his money in play at the Championship Limit Hold'em event and undefended stack getting poached by his tablemates, Greenstein didn't have time to waste feeding the media machine. He had another tournament to win.

With Greenstein's victory, you can chalk one up for the pros and another one up for one of the good guys in poker. I always rag on poker players for being complete souless degenerates who would slit throats for buy-ins if it ever came to that. But there are a few altruistic individuals who see compassion beyond the tables. For many years Greenstein dedicated all of his tournament winnings to charity. His policy has changed as of late since some of the biggest cash games in Las Vegas have dried up which had been his major source of poker income. Although he doesn't give away 100%, Greenstein continues to donate a large portion of his tournament winnings. He fleeces the donkeys and the sharks and feeds the poor.

There are dozens of Vietnamese pros like Kenny Tran who grind away at the tables and send a percentage of his winnings to their family in Vietnam. Pros such as Liz Lieu, John Phan, Scotty Nguyen, and Tran literally feed entire villages back in their native country. Those are the rare glimpses of positive energy stick out in a city of excess.

Perhaps karma was in play tonight. The poker gods knew that the money won on Sunday would go to good use since Greenstein and Tran would be sharing the money with those less fortunate. If a young kid won it, he'd blow it all on strippers and blow and other material items. If a guy like TJ Cloutier or Archie Karas won, they money would get lost at the nearest craps table.

Yeah, Archie Karas made the final table of the Razz event. He once had $40 million and blew it all. Only casino owners and other poker players got to feast on that insane $40 million bounty that Karas coughed up due to his morbid addiction to action games like craps and baccarat. If Karas won, it would have made for a compelling story... a comeback of sorts from the guy who had everything and lost it at the tables. America loves a great rags to riches to rags to riches story. Karas was in the process mounting his comeback. Yes, a final table in Razz is definitely a good start, but half of Karas' winnings would end up in his backers hands and the rest of his winning might get pissed away in the pit.

I'm glad that Greenstein won. Almost four years ago to the day, June 20, 2005 was the last time Greenstein won a bracelet. I was sitting in the front row for that final table as a clean shaven and beardless Greenstein won a bracelet and dedicated it to a terminally ill Charlie Tuttle. Here's what I wrote on Tao of Poker four years ago...
9:35pm... PLO Final Table update: During one of the mini breaks, I walked up to Barry Greenstein and thanked him for calling Charlie Tuttle, who's been battling cancer. He told me that he was going to dedicate the win to Charlie. At the time he was in the middle of the pack in chips and right away I began to root for Barry. He came back and won two big pots off Toto Leonidas and then beat out Paul Vinci to win this year's event. It was special because he was doing it for Charlie. He told the audience that he did it all for Charlie. He couldn't really speak much more because he was playing in the other Pot-Limit Hold'em event and he was overwhelmed with emotions. I think a lot of us were.
Tragically, Charlie would pass away a day later, but four years later Greenstein's gesture is still spoken about.

"It's very easy to do a good deed," was something that Greenstein told me four years ago that has alway stuck with me.

Here's an excerpt from my column in an upcoming issue of Bluff Magazine, when I wrote a flashback piece about the 2005 WSOP and Barry and Charlie...
Sometimes life can be as fragile as a house of cards and the littlest movement or vibration can make it all tumble over. But sometimes, a good deed can zip through the cosmos and illuminate our desolate universe. Anyone who has spent an inordinate amount of time on the circuit knows that tournament poker is a cutthroat business. The word "friend" is often tossed around half-heartedly because after all, there are no friends at the poker tables.

Las Vegas is a city built on greed and poker is a game that often attracts some of the lowest forms of life. Amidst all the darkness and debauchery, I caught a few glimpses of the bright side of humanity during the first part of the 2005 WSOP when a small group of professional poker players, led by Barry Greenstein and Marcel Luske, earned my respect and admiration as they rallied around a terminally ill poker fan by the name of Charlie Tuttle. For a brief moment in time, the hearts of some of the biggest sharks in Las Vegas were filled with compassion. Although all the goodwill in the world could not prevent Charlie from dying, they reminded everyone involved that there is more to life than poker. Despite the fact that none of the people involved had never met Charlie Tuttle before, his story still affected many of their lives, the pinnacle of which occurred during a very special night in Las Vegas when Barry Greenstein won a bracelet and dedicated it to Charlie Tuttle.
* * * * *

Through 26 events (according to WSOP stats), twenty players who claim they are "professionals" have won bracelets. After the first three or four events when Erick Lindgren and David Singer won bracelets, buzz began circulating around the Amazon Room and the press box that 2008 was the year of the pro at the WSOP. I was skeptical and wanted to see a couple more weeks of play before I made a decision. However, after the outcomes over the last couple of days, it would be foolish for me not to mention that 2008 is well on its way to being known as the "year of the pro."

Even if a pro doesn't win another bracelet until 2009, this year will still be known as year of the pro. Barry Greenstein and Kenny Tran both won bracelets on Sunday night as their victories solidified the claim that pros have been dominating the WSOP.

Some of the pros who won bracelets already this year include Nenad Medic, David Singer, Erick Lindgren, Mike Matusow, Daniel Negreanu, Max Pescatori, Kenny Tran, and Barry Greenstein.

And does Vanessa Selbst count as a pro? Or semi-pro? She won one and came close to winning a second. And how about the Hinkle brothers? They won one each. Although brother combos (Puggy Pearon and his brother) and siblings (Annie Duke and Howard Lederer) have won bracelets before, they have never done it in the same year.

With a five events with a 5K or more buy-in (minus the main event) and with the 50K HORSE upcoming, there's an outstanding chance that a well-known pros wins a couple more bracelets. Perhaps one of the winners this year will walk away with their second?

Some of the final tables this year represent some of the deepest I had seen since I started covering the WSOP. And as I write this post, the 5K PLO rebuy event is on the verge of setting their final table and there are plenty of big names lurking like Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, David Benyamine, Eli Elezra, Jesus, John Juanda, and Johnny Chan.

And how about some of the pros who finished in second place this year? Andy Bloch, Ted Forrest, and Jeff Lisandro.

And by the way, how about some of those online kids who came in second place this year? ZeeJustin,, YellowSub, and Shannon Shorr. If all of them won their events, the buzz would be about which group will win more bracelets? Online players or seasoned pros? As is, no one remembers who came in second place. All people remember is who won the bracelets.

The year of the pro is upon us. But can the online pros make a run over the next few weeks? Or will the established gunslingers continue their domination of the field?

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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