It was almost official. This was almost Year of the Nice Guy at the World Series of Poker.
Last night in the $2,500 Razz event, Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein was just a few places away from winning his fourth gold bracelet. It would've been his second Razz title. Moreover, it would've confirmed that this year's WSOP is the Year of the Nice Guy. Instead, Phil Hellmuth won. And this is where I'm really conflicted. More on that in a second, but first more on Greenstein and Year of the Nice Guy.
See, the other day, Brandon Schaefer won his first WSOP bracelet while on a few days of leave from the United States Army. It was a last-minute decision to play in the $1,500 Shootout. A couple of days later, he won the title and nearly $400,000. What's more, he built the foundation for making this the Year of the Nice Guy.
Now, full disclosure: Schaefer and I are friends. We met when he won his EPT title back in February of 2005. While I felt the need to disclose that, I should also point out, Schaefer has a lot of friends. In fact, because's he's a Nice Guy, it's rare to find anybody who doesn't like him. We media types couldn't control our smiles when he won.
So, fast forward a couple of days, and Matt Matros (another confirmed Nice Guy) won another bracelet (it's becoming a bit of a habit for him). Another day went by and Barry Greenstein made the final table of the Razz event...with Phil Hellmuth.
Now, here's the thing: if we're to believe all the RTs Greenstein posts to his Twitter feed, he actually may not be the most liked person in poker, but he's also certainly not the most hated. What's more, as a guy who has been around the poker block a few times and has spent a great deal of time around The Bear, I feel I can honestly say that he's one of the good guys. What's more...he's a Nice Guy. So, there's that.
There's also this: Hellmuth has made being a brat a cottage industry. He's famous for his outbursts, his meltdowns, and his ready quiver of insults. There is nobody who provides more joy to his opponents when he loses. It's like performance art.
So, for those of us who might have been not-so-casually rooting for Year of the Nice Guy to continue, a Hellmuth win should've been disaster. From a purely editorial standpoint, I wanted to see this smiling face beside the new bracelet.
But Helllmuth won and set a new record for WSOP bracelets. It was his twelfth. He smiled a lot. He took pictures with all his friends.
And here's where I was conflicted.
I was actually sort of happy for him.
I don't know what caused it. Maybe it was a product of his genuine joy, or that he flew in his son so he could experience the victory, or that it seemed sort of like destiny, or that it happened in a freaking Razz event (I really love Razz). Regardless, instead of finding a bitter taste in my mouth and hoping Hellmuth woke up with an intestinal disorder, I curiously found myself smiling. Maybe it's a product of age and experience, but that feeling of general loathing just wasn't there.
Or maybe it's this: like him or hate him, Hellmuth is good at poker, and for people who love the game, it's a lot more satisfying to watch someone else who loves the game win.
Still, I wanted Barry Greenstein to win, because even if it wouldn't have been an historic night for the WSOP, it would've continued to the Year of the Nice Guy.
Fortunately--and as long as I've destroyed any facade of objectivity here-- tonight we have another chance to see the Year of the Nice Guy continue. Our longtime friend Terrence Chan is in second place out of 17 players remaining in the big limit hold'em event. As you might know, Chan is a bit of a specialist in limit hold'em, and he's due for a bracelet.
Also, he's a confirmed Nice Guy.
So, to conclude: congrats to Greenstein on another final table, good luck to Chan tonight, and...okay, fine...congratulations, Phil.