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Poker Stories Podcast With Barry Shulman

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Dec 02, 2020

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

To listen, visit www.cardplayer.com/poker-podcasts or download it directly to your device from any number of mobile apps, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify. Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Maria Ho, and many more.

Age: 74
From: Seattle, Washington
Live Tournament Earnings: $5.6 Million

Barry Shulman found poker while studying at UC Berkeley and the University of Washington. He received his degree in accounting, but opted to forgo the family liquor business in order to build an empire of his own in real estate. His expertise in the field meant that he was often quoted by publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Forbes, among others.

After retiring, Shulman moved to Las Vegas and continued to play cards. While he enjoyed the game as a player, he could also sense that poker was about to go mainstream. Shulman decided that he didn’t like being retired after all, and purchased Card Player Magazine from Linda Johnson, transforming it into the industry leader it is today.

In 2001, Shulman won his first World Series of Poker bracelet, taking down $222,295 in the $1,500 stud eight-or-better event. His second bracelet came in 2009, when he defeated Daniel Negreanu heads-up for the World Series of Poker Europe main event title and a prize of $1,321,534. The next year, he finished third at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event, banking another $1,350,000. In 2019, Shulman narrowly missed out on adding a third bracelet, taking second place in the $1,000 Super Seniors event and third in the $1,500 Double Stack. He now has more than $5.6 million in career live tournament earnings.

Highlights from this interview include abandoning ship, the free speech movement at Berkeley, $20 five-card draw games at the Oaks Club, a knack for numbers, one-hand Luke, “retiring” in Las Vegas, calling him at the Mirage, “muscling” his way into Card Player, forecasting the poker boom, winning his first bracelet in a game he didn’t play, a seven-figure score in London, playing like a “piece of furniture,” sweating family at final tables, Costco regrets, poker in Cambodia, trying to beat David Williams, and what cow balls taste like.

The Transcript Highlights

One-Hand Luke

Barry Shulman: We took a weekend down in Reno with several couples. We were playing in a game… I forget the casino, it’s probably not there anymore. It was up on the mezzanine, with two or three tables, but it was the game in Reno.

We were playing all day, and they had a rule that you could straddle. I had never heard of a straddle before. The guy to the left of the $5 big blind could put in $10, and then it becomes a $10-$20. All of a sudden, we were all putting in $10 straddles, and then eventually $20 straddles. This was back when a $100 buy-in was a bunch, and now we were playing $20-$40.

Anyway, this guy Luke had been dealing all day long, and he couldn’t wait to get into the game. The second he got off of his shift, he pulled off his tie and he sat down in the game. That was something that dealers would do often in those days.

On the very first hand, he was all-in with the best of it, and his hand got cracked. And when I say he was all-in, I mean that was all the money that he had, double what he had earned for the day. He [was so angry] that he picked up the cards and threw the entire deck over the rail. So the boss came over and fired him. The guy played one hand, lost all of his money and his job.

Winning His First Of Two Bracelets

Julio Rodriguez: What was it like winning your first bracelet back in 2001? ($1,500 Stud Eight-Or-Better)

BS: That was very interesting because I had zero experience in stud eight-or-better. In fact, I had zero experience in stud. But I played Omaha, and I was convinced then, as I am now, that the skills of the eight-or-better high-low play are far more important that the stud skills. I didn’t feel like I was out of my element even though it was a game I didn’t normally play. Dan Heimiller finished second.

JR: And Vince Burgio, who was a writer on the Card Player staff, finished third. Was winning a bracelet a bucket list thing for you?

BS: Winning a bracelet is still very special, but it was so special back then. It got me thinking that I could play with anybody in any environment.

JR: What were your thoughts when the WSOP moved from Binion’s to the Rio?

BS: Well I sure like the set up better, and I still like it. The Rio is not exactly luxurious, but it sure can accommodate the people, and it sure is much easier to get in and out of than if they had it on the Strip some place. I’m assuming there will be a WSOP next year. I’ll be devastated if there isn’t. But I don’t think it will be until Spring, and who knows how international it will be?

JR: Where do you keep your bracelets?

BS: I keep my bracelets at home, and I really only wear them during the WSOP. Some people might think that’s gauche or that it’s showing off, but the WSOP is really special. There are so many out of towners, and they come in and they want to take pictures and stuff like that. If you are a golfer, you can’t just go and play in The Masters with the best players in the world, but if you are a poker player, you can come and play with the best in the world. And they are happy to have you.

On How He Came To Buy Card Player Magazine

JR: What was the opportunity to buy Card Player like? I spoke to Linda Johnson on the podcast about how she bought the magazine from the Fields. I heard that you came in and made an [unsolicited] offer for it, and that they had no initial interest in selling.

BS: All of that is true. The Fields had this rag, pretty much. But it was a rag that I liked to read because I read everything I could find on poker. Linda and her partners came in and they took it and really upgraded it and increased the viability of that business. It was the time when Indian reservations came on and started to have poker rooms, which dramatically increased revenue.

But it wasn’t for sale. I just muscled my way in there. I loved poker, and I wanted to get back into business. It was clear to me that poker was going to boom. Crystal clear. I had someone introduce me to them. I asked them if they were looking to borrow money, or looking for investors, and they said no. But I made them an offer anyway. I think it took from November to March to put the deal together. ♠