Should Isai Scheinberg Be in the Poker Hall of Fame?


When Caesars officials put out a call for 2015 Poker Hall Of Fame nomineesthis year, poker pro and MMA fighter Terrence TChanChan made a controversial suggestion: PokerStarsfounder Isai Scheinberg (pictured).

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“In my opinion, if the man who has done more to grow poker than any other individual in the world in the past 20 years is not in the Poker Hall of Fame, it is illegitimate,” he said in a 2+2 post.

Chan was an early employee of PokerStars, working out of the company’s offices in Costa Rica. He later decided to step down and play poker professionally and has since made a name for himself as an MMA fighter. When online poker went live in Nevada, Chan served as director of player operations for Ultimate Poker before the site closed its doors late last year.

“PokerStars expanded into, and created, brand new markets where there were very few poker players,” Chan continued. “We have all benefited from the company that this man built. Some people reading this played online poker professionally or made good money as serious semi-pros. Some made careers out of the poker industry in various ways.”

Scheinberg launched PokerStars on September 11, 2001 and grew the company into one of the biggest and most respected gambling brands on the globe. With its exclusive live poker tours, celebrity endorsers, massive online tournaments, and engaging television ads, the company brought poker to an untold number of new players.

But as a choice for the Poker Hall of Fame, Scheinberg is a controversial candidate. On April 15, 2011, the US Department of Justice unsealed indictments against the PokerStars founder along with executives at UB, Absolute Poker, and Full Tilt. Of those four sites, PokerStars was the only operator that kept player funds segregated from its operating budget.

PokerStars was able to pay back its US players immediately, while users of AP, UB, and Full Tilt languished. To the jubilation of the poker community, PokerStars eventually cut a deal with the DOJ to buy Full Tilt and repay its depositors at a cost of $731 million.

Even so, Scheinberg has never answered to the charges and has chosen instead to remain outside of the reach of US authorities. In its bid to enter the legal US online gaming market, Scheinberg decided to sell the site to Amaya for $4.9 billion last year. But even with Scheinberg out of the picture, PokerStars has still not been approved for operation in the US.

Caesars, which heads up the Poker Hall of Fame, has online poker rooms in Nevada and New Jersey. When PokerStars is approved for operation in the Garden State, the two companies will be competing against one another. That said, the gaming giant is not likely keen on glorifying the founder of another poker site in its Hall of Fame.

Lee Jones, (pictured) head of poker communications at PokerStars, also went to bat for Scheinberg on Twitter. “Isai Scheinberg: in 2005, 20% of the players in the Main Event were PokerStars qualifiers. *20%*. Name a bigger influencer,” he argued.

Chan referred back to his original tweet to show how much the poker community supports his suggested nominee. “The… WSOP Tweet got 4 favorites. My tweet calling for Isai to be nominated got 36 favorites,” he said. “WSOP has 32 times more followers than I do. Nine times as many favorites for an account with 1/32nd the following. You might argue the ‘average poker fan’ does not know who Isai Scheinberg is. That may or may not be true. But if that’s the case, it’s time to let them know.”

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