Henry Orenstein, the inventor of the hole card cam and member of the Poker Hall of Fame, passed away at the age of 98 on Tuesday, according to PokerGO News. Orenstein’s idea to bring the audience inside the game of poker by exposing players’ hole cards with the use of a camera inside a poker table was essential to the poker boom that changed the way the game is viewed today.
Born in Poland in 1923 to a Jewish family, Orenstein was a Holocaust survivor. Both of his parents were killed by Nazis and two of his siblings perished in concentration camps while Orenstein, and his two brothers Fred and Sam, posed as scientists in order to survive the war. After, Orenstein emigrated to the United States where he lived in New York and became a toy manufacturer, credited, most notably for the creation of the Transformers.
But it was the idea to make poker more palatable for the viewer for which he was most known for in poker. According to a 2016 profile on Orenstein in Newsweek, after watching a World Series of Poker special on ESPN and being “bored out of his mind”, Orenstein spent six months building the poker table that placed cameras under glass panels to reveal a players hole cards. He patented the table in 1995, one of more than 100 patents he held, eight years before Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event.
Initial resistance and disinterest by television executives caused Orenstein to shelve the table, and the idea, but continue his poker career. In 1996, Orenstein won his only WSOP gold bracelet in the $5,000 Seven Card Stud tournament when he outlasted a final table that included Humberto Brenes, Cindy Violette, and TJ Cloutier.
In 2002, Orenstein’s idea found new life and he partnered with Head of NBC Sports Jon Miller to launch Poker Superstars and High Stakes Poker.
“This one man is the reason poker is as big as it is,” Miller told Newsweek. “The reason poker is a multibillion-dollar business is because of this one man.”
For his revolutionary idea and dedication to poker, Orenstein was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2008. He is survived by his wife, Susie.