Pop culture often portrays poker pros as harsh, cutthroat professionals. Movies like the 1998 classic Rounders do a great job of dramatizing the poker scene, featuring a witty protagonist played by Matt Damon and a ruthless Russian gangster as the antagonist. However, real life is rarely like the movies, and the poker scene isn’t nearly as intimidating anymore. Poker isn’t exclusive to hustlers and criminals now – it hasn’t been since the Wild West. Poker pros come from countless backgrounds; there are the stereotypical card sharks,  the former athletes, the billionaire businessmen, and even amateur accountants. However, one of the most unique personalities in the scene is a charitable one, like Barry Greenstein, “The Robin Hood of Poker.” 

Player Overview

Barry Greenstein is an American professional poker player most known for his tournament career. He has over $8.5 million in live tournament earnings and has impressive results at all of poker’s biggest tournaments. Greenstein has three bracelets at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and over $3.3 million in total earnings. He also has two titles at the World Poker Tour (WPT), widely considered poker’s second most prestigious tournament after the WSOP. Greenstein has also appeared on numerous poker TV shows, including the first three seasons of NBC’s Poker After Dark and all seasons of GSN’s High Stakes Poker. He also appeared on each of the first three iterations of the Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament. Outside of competition, Greenstein authored a chapter in Doyle Brunson’s Super/System 2. He later wrote his own book on poker titled Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide. WPT Season 3 champion Tuan Le even cited the book as one of the primary reasons for his success.  The most notable thing about Greenstein’s career isn’t just his accomplishments on the tournament circuit; it’s what he does with the winnings. He earned the nickname “The Robin Hood of Poker” for his philanthropy, frequently donating his tournament earnings to charity organizations.  Greenstein was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2011 for all his contributions to the game.

Early Life 

Barry Greenstein was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 30, 1945. Thanks to his parents, he learned various card games at an early age. They taught him hearts, gin rummy, and of course, poker. Greenstein was a natural at poker, and his parents supported him, even giving him tips on refining his game and developing an analytical playstyle. By age 13, Greenstein consistently scored in home games, making up to $50 every night. Unlike most pros, poker wasn’t his dream job. His keen intellect meant he did well enough in school to attend the University of Illinois where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. After completing this degree, he continued studying in pursuit of a Ph.D in mathematics.  Greenstein spent the next decade studying for his doctorate while building his bankroll from poker at night. Shortly before earning his Ph.D., he married his wife, Donna, whom he later divorced. To gain custody of Donna’s children from an earlier relationship, Greenstein was advised by his lawyer to pursue a more reputable career. Thus, Greenstein gave up school and poker, moving to Silicon Valley with his family.

Career at Symantec

In Silicon Valley, Greenstein joined four others in a startup now known as Symantec. He worked here as a software developer, though he, unfortunately, didn’t have enough time to finish studying and claim his doctorate.  He worked on a database and word processing program known as Q&A, and it blew up in 1986. Featured in nearly every tech magazine, it remains one of Greenstein’s proudest accomplishments to this very day. Throughout his time at Symantec, Greenstein maintained a delicate balance of his work life and poker. This balance broke once his then-wife Donna and their daughter Melissa began suffering health problems like multiple sclerosis.  With a heavy heart, Greenstein quit working for Symantec in 1990, becoming a full-time poker pro to fund his family’s medical expenses.

Poker Career

After a few years of cash games in local casinos, Greenstein decided to make his tournament debut in 1992, cashing in the $10,000 WSOP Main Event, finishing 22nd for $8,080 against a field that included players like Johnny Chan and Berry Johnston.  Greenstein continued cashing in various tournaments, and his big break eventually came in 2003. He won the Larry Flynt Poker Challenge $125,000 + 2,000 Million Dollar Seven Card Stud Tournament for $770,000, his first six-figure score. Shortly after, he won the 2003 California State Poker Championship for $100,815. A year later, he took down the WPT’s Fifth Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open for a massive $1,278,370, his biggest career score to date.  That same year, he claimed his first WSOP bracelet by winning the $5,000 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event for $296,200. Greenstein scored another bracelet the following year, winning the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event for $128,505.  In 2006, Greenstein claimed a second WPT title by winning the No Limit Holdem Invitational tournament for $100,000.  In 2008, Greenstein won the €10,000 Stars of Poker – No Limit Hold’em event at the European Poker Tour Monte Carlo for $79,117. That same year, he won his third bracelet at the $1,500 Seven Card Razz event.


Greenstein made one of his first big charity donations in 2003 after winning the Larry Flynt Seven Card Stud tournament. He donated $440,000, more than half his winnings, to Children Incorporated, ensuring that each of their 440 employees would receive a $1,000 bonus. Since then, Barry has given most of his winnings to various charities. In 2006, he announced a change to his donation system. While he had initially been donating his winnings right after every tournament win, he did not expect the professional poker scene to snowball. Now, he donates his net earnings at the end of every year, ensuring he always has a bankroll to participate in tournaments.