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Yet for Barry Greenstein, one of the top professional poker players in the world, the grind of business travel is just that, a grind. Because of the surge in popularity of poker in the last few years, the demands on Greenstein's time have greatly increased. He has the opportunity to play poker in exciting cities such as Madrid, London and Copenhagen but is reluctant to commit his time and energy. Already away from his home in Rancho Palos Verdes six months out of the year -- half of which is spent in Las Vegas -- Greenstein would love to visit those places but wants to be able to take time out and actually enjoy them.
"You play in the tournament, get knocked out and fly back home," he said. "You feel like you missed out on an opportunity."
On a recent afternoon, I spoke by phone with Greenstein, who was in Las Vegas where he was waiting to see whether a big game would materialize -- "big game" being the chance to take home $100,000. In one session.
It is in the definition of "session" that the true nature of business travel for a professional poker player comes to light. All-night sessions of high-pressure, big-stakes games are not uncommon. Professional poker players in a cash game will often play as long as there is money on the table.
Tournaments differ from cash games. At the start of a tournament, you buy in and receive a stack of chips. When those chips are gone, your play is over. In a cash game, the only such limit is the size of your -- or your opponent's -- bankroll.
Greenstein is known as the Robin Hood of Poker because he donates the net proceeds (after subtracting travel expenses and entry fees) to charity.
His net tournament winnings go to Children Incorporated, a Richmond, Va.-based charity that provides assistance to needy children in the U.S. and 24 other countries.
During the 2004 World Poker Open tournament in Memphis, Tenn., Greenstein had not been playing well in the side cash games that are ubiquitous at tournaments. He was ready to go home but was committed to the tournament.
At one point, he bet all his chips on a draw, fully expecting to be knocked out of the tournament and make his 6:45 p.m. flight home. Instead he won the hand.