Two of the biggest and best TV shows on right now, Game of Thrones and Barry, come to an end on Sunday night. So what in the world are you going to watch next? Let Sam Greenwood–poker’s very own Roger Ebert–tell you.
We’ve written up countless hands played by Sam Greenwood over the years. We’ve also watched him crush many a tournament on live streams.
While you’re probably familiar with his poker prowess (he has $18.6M in live earnings and $6.7M in online winnings at the time of writing, including a $1.1M score at the Triton Series in Montenegro on May 16), what you might not know is that before Greenwood became a bona fide super high rolling beast, he wrote a TV and movie blog reviewing the latest releases.
But what does Greenwood watch when he’s finished at the tables? We caught up with the 2019 PCA Super High Roller champ to talk about his favourite films and shows, plus a little bit of poker, too.
“I always liked movies and TV growing up as a kid,” Greenwood tells us. “After I graduated university I just wanted some sort of outlet to write, and [writing about movies] seemed like as easy a thing to do as anything.”
In 2009, Greenwood set up a blog under the title ‘Don’t Call It That‘. While his previous attempts at blogging included topics ranging from “why the Toronto Blue Jays should have kept Alex Rios” to “masturbatory self-reflection”, this new version would focus solely on TV and movies.
“Hopefully this will allow me to convert all the brain-rotting tv has done into something productive,” Greenwood wrote at the time.
While he never considered screenwriting or filmmaking as potential career paths (“The type of stuff I did well in were things like math, so I figured that would be the path I would go down rather than doing something artistic”), Greenwood liked the idea of writing as a form of finishing something.
“I was trying to give myself shorter things that I could complete as opposed to trying to do something big which I’d then put on the back burner and give up,” he says.
As the years went on, however, the blog posts became few and far between. Greenwood’s most recent entry–a review of The Big Short–came in 2016, by which point poker success and the constant study it requires had taken centre stage in his life.
“Poker just takes up too much of my time at the moment,” he says. “Also, for everything I write, I only see the mistakes and it can get frustrating. There might be an idea clear in my head, but when I read back what I’ve written I realise I haven’t expressed the idea, and often I wouldn’t know how to fix it.”
Before we get to Greenwood’s top picks for TV shows and movies, we couldn’t resist talking a little about poker. When we spoke to him at EPT Monte Carlo, he was deep in the €5K Main Event (in which he’d ultimately finish 12th for €45K). That score paled in comparison to one he’d already enjoyed on that trip, however, as he’d finished third in the €100K Super High Roller for €731K a couple of days previously (the same tournament he won at the PCA in January 2019 for just shy of $1.8M).
What was interesting about the Super High Roller final table in Monaco was that Sam’s twin brother, Luc, also made it. We’ve been familiar with the Greenwood family for some time now–even interviewing their parents back in 2014–but we couldn’t recall a time when they’d both made a major final table.
“It’s kind of cool for us to both go deep in a tournament like that,” Greenwood says. “It was a little disappointing to see that he ended up soft-bubbling. In the high rollers, the fields are small so it’s more likely we’ll both go deep, but I still don’t think it’s happened with Luc yet where we’ve both cashed a big tournament together, other than Main Events.”
A Greenwood vs. Greenwood heads-up match in a $100K would be riveting, that’s for sure.
“Yeah, the idea that you could have an incredibly successful day and one of your brothers, friends, or somebody you respect does, too… it’s nice that you get to share that with other people.”
When Greenwood eventually busted that Super High Roller in third place, he immediately went back to his hotel room to watch S8 E3 of arguably the most water-cooler TV show of all time: Game of Thrones. Somehow, 24 hours after it had aired, he’d avoided all spoilers (“I was playing a €100K so it’s not like I was checking social media or whatever,” he laughs. “I watched Thrones as soon as I busted.”)
The whole idea of this article that you’re currently reading came from a tweet that Greenwood then put out into the world.
The action in last night's Barry > The action in last night's Game of Thrones
— Sam Greenwood (@SamGreenwoodRIO) April 29, 2019
While almost everyone seems to be watching Game of Thrones, it was Greenwood’s interest in Bill Hader’s incredible black comedy series Barry that really grabbed our attention.
“Barry is probably my favourite show that has new episodes on right now,” Greenwood says, and we couldn’t agree more. “What I like about Barry, and what I guess I liked about The Sopranos, is that I feel a lot of dramas investigate what it is to be a good person and what it is to be a bad person. But then they ultimately give the characters a cop-out like: ‘Oh yeah, sure they do some bad things, but overall they’re nice” and I think in Barry it’s clear that [the title character] is trying to improve, but what he has done is unforgivable.”
Now, we wouldn’t dream of giving away any spoilers, but when the show makers HBO describe Hader’s character as a “depressed, low-rent hitman from the Midwest”, it doesn’t take a genius to know he’s done some pretty bad stuff.
“I think everyone has that in their day-to-day lives,” Greenwood continues. “Not murdering people, obviously, but the idea of what you think you should do, and what you actually do. How do you rectify what you view yourself and your beliefs as against what your actions say you are?”
Both the final season of Game of Thrones and Season 2 of Barry finish on Sunday night (May 19), and you might then find yourself looking for a new TV show to binge. We asked Greenwood for a few recommendations.
The first show he suggests is Veep, Armando Iannucci’s critically-acclaimed political satire that follows Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ journey as Vice President of the USA. “I like Veep a lot,” Greenwood says. “You watch for half an hour and it packs in a lot of laughs, you can’t beat that.”
“My girlfriend and I have also been watching Brockmire which we really liked a lot.”
Brockmire stars Hank Azaria (of The Simpsons fame) starring as a once-famed major league baseball announcer who suffers an embarrassing on-air meltdown due to marital problems. Azaria’s performance has been widely praised, but there’s another show on Greenwood’s radar that he’s been hearing rave reviews about.
“I haven’t watched it yet but everyone is talking about this Tim Robinson sketch show on Netflix which is supposed to be amazing. It’s called I Think You Should Leave. It’s only like six 15- or 20-minute episodes. A bunch of people have said it’s incredible.”
If you like surreal dark comedy, I Think You Should Leave is definitely one for you.
“You know what’s funny?” Greenwood says when we ask him for his top five films of all time. “There was a meme at one point going around asking people for their favourite movies, and I tweeted out my answers. But as soon as I tweeted mine, I was like: ‘Oh, actually…I don’t know.'”
It’s a hard question, we’ll give him that, but travelling poker players are always in need of entertainment when they get back to their hotel rooms after a long day on the grind. After some thinking time, Greenwood’s list begins.
“I’ll start with Blazing Saddles. I watched it a lot with my dad as a kid and I have a lot of fondness for it.”
If you haven’t seen Mel Brooks’ 1974 American satirical Western film, starring the late great Gene Wilder, then give it a try (if only for what Empire magazine described as “the god of all fart gags”.)
“Every time I see it it’s still very funny, and I’m a big Mel Brooks fan.”
The next film on Greenwood’s list is Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 period drama, Barry Lyndon.
“I like movies like Barry Lyndon where I watch them and I think: ‘Is this supposed to be a serious movie? It seems like it’s trying to be a comedy.’ And then afterwards people reassure you it’s a comedy and it’s ironic or whatever and you think: ‘Oh good, at least I was on the right track’. The Stanley Kubrick museum came through Toronto recently, that was fun.”
“Then there are the movies that you only have to watch once and they will stick in your mind forever.”
For his final three, Greenwood rattles them off quickly.
Twin Peaks creator David Lynch’s 1985 American neo-noir mystery film, which blends elements of psychological horror with surrealism and hard-boiled noir.
Martin Scorcese’s 1976 classic, also in the psychological noir genre, which follows Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), a loner cabbie in New York with hopes of cleaning up the city.
Steven Spielberg’s 1976 thriller about…sharks, obviously. C’mon, are you telling me you haven’t seen Jaws? Sort it out.
“I will also say to Americans and Canadians, you should subscribe to the new Criterion streaming service. I’ve looked through the selection and it has lots of amazing old movies,” Greenwood adds.
So there you have it. The next time you need something to watch, come back to this page and pick out one of Greenwood’s picks.
Come Monday, when both Barry and Game of Thrones have come to an end, we’ll be doing just that.