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Found 19 results

  1. It’s mid-December 2020 and a tennis court just north of San Jose, Costa Rica is home to one of the most hotly-contested tennis matches of the year. This isn’t a battle between a couple of former top-ranked tennis pros and the stakes aren’t all that high, but the combatants are going all out for a win. On one side of the court is a 17-year-old spending her Christmas break from school hanging out in the Central American vacation hot spot. Her opponent on this day is her 74-year-old grandfather, a man fortunate enough to be able to spend a few months in Costa Rica hiding from the harsh Canadian winters. He’s not anywhere near the height of his athletic prowess, but that’s not an excuse he’d use to take it easy. Each time he returns the fuzzy yellow ball across the net he does so with a hint of a life lesson in it. Work hard. Treat people with respect. Fight for what you believe in. Anybody who knows this man understands that there is no way he will simply let his granddaughter win a match, a set, or even a single point without earning it. Isai Scheinberg just isn’t built that way. A Private Man Steps Into the Spotlight Spending an afternoon in the Costa Rican sun is the closest that Scheinberg has ever come to thrusting himself into the spotlight. Ten years after poker’s most infamous day, Black Friday, threatened to destroy the company he and his son Mark built, Scheinberg is ready to let the poker world hear from him for the first time. “I valued privacy, but I was not secretive. That’s not the same thing,” Scheinberg says. “I was working hard. I was very busy and I’m not the type of guy to go out and do PR.” Scheinberg launched PYR Software in 2000 to build online poker tournament software in hopes of licensing it to online casinos and sportsbooks that were at the genesis of what would soon become the online gaming industry. Every company he and Mark pitched the product to either didn’t understand or wanted to pay far less than what they thought it was worth. “None of them understood software much, so they couldn’t appreciate we had a terrific game. But then, we had absolutely no experience in online gaming,” Scheinberg admits. Scheinberg was 54 years old at the time and had left a job at IBM to venture out on his own. There wasn’t a chance he was going to let somebody tell him he couldn’t do something. Rather than settling for a partner they didn’t want to work with, the Scheinbergs decided to take the product to market on their own. In 2001, PokerStars.com was born with Isai heading up the software company in Toronto and Mark moving to Costa Rica to run the gaming side of the business. From Day 1, the market responded to PokerStars’ software being so far ahead of any of its competitors. Scheinberg, who loved poker long before the idea of PokerStars ever struck him, had focused a lot of the development on multi-table tournaments. The marketing and tournament schedule followed that lead. The first PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker in 2002 was a nine-tournament series anchored by a $1,050 buy-in event. That might seem small compared to today’s standards, but back then nobody else was even thinking about online poker tournaments the way Scheinberg was. Most poker enthusiasts have a pretty good understanding of what happened over the next few years; the accountant from Tennessee, the 2003 World Series of Poker, and ESPN broadcasts helped launch the company into an entirely different stratosphere that would eventually make PokerStars the world’s largest online poker site. October 2006 shifted the online poker landscape, first in the United States, and then around the world. The U.S. government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. PartyPoker and 888 abandoned the American market-leading some mainstream media outlets to claim that the law represented a complete prohibition of online gaming, including poker, in the United States. Scheinberg wasn’t convinced and PokerStars sought counsel from prominent U.S. lawyers and were told unequivocally that UIGEA did not prohibit games of skill such as poker. PokerStars, which only offered poker and not casino games like PartyPoker and 888 did, took these legal opinions and decided to continue to offer their product to American players. Other poker-only companies followed their lead. The company also initiated lobbying efforts for federal online poker legislation in the United States that would have provided clarity to players, companies, and investors. PokerStars worked with regulators around the world and earned licenses in multiple European jurisdictions and reaped the rewards as poker’s popularity soared around the world. First Trauma, Then Calm An early morning email on April 15, 2011, changed everything yet again. Scheinberg was being told by company lawyers that he was being indicted by the United States Department of Justice and that the company was named as a defendant in a civil suit. A non-native English speaker born in Lithuania, he had to ask what the word “indictment” meant. He quickly learned that the company he spent nearly 10 years building into a monster was in serious jeopardy. “That was very traumatic,” Scheinberg says. Sitting in the Toronto office of PYR Software, Scheinberg took a deep breath, and rather than panic about what his own future might hold, he told his lawyers that his immediate concern wasn’t the indictment. “I said, ‘Look, our priority number one is to pay the players’. We had the money and we wanted to pay. The lawyers told me, ‘You’re crazy. It will take a year or more. That doesn’t happen that way’. But it happened in less than a week,” Scheinberg says. Understanding that the players – his players – would be in a panic, the Scheinbergs wanted to make sure that they understood he was going to take care of them. “One of the first things we did was issue a press release reassuring players that their money is actually safe”, Scheinberg explains. In the ensuing conversations with the DOJ, PokerStars made it clear they wanted to get players paid as soon as possible. Recognizing that this served their interests as well, the DOJ agreed to allow PokerStars to process payments to American players and allowed the company to continue serving players outside of the country. Players weren’t the only ones who had reason to be scared about what Black Friday meant for them. Approximately 1,000 PokerStars employees were working in offices around the world and each had reasons to wonder if they may soon be out of a job. Just as they had reassured players, Isai and Mark did their best to put employees’ minds at ease. “The message to employees was that they are not losing their jobs,” Isai says. In the days and weeks that followed, PokerStars offered any employee whose job was focused on the United States an opportunity to re-train in another area or skill so that they could continue to work for the company if they chose. The trauma of seeing his name in the indictment wasn’t something Scheinberg was willing to let his employees see or feel. Black Friday exposed Full Tilt Poker’s financial malpractice and shined a searing light on the charlatans behind AbsolutePoker/UB. As mainstream media around the world covered the story, they spoke about all three companies as if they were the same. PokerStars soldiered on and Scheinberg is proud to point out that not a single regulator anywhere in the world pulled PokerStars’ license due to the U.S. charges. It soon became quite clear that Full Tilt wasn’t going to be able to pay its U.S. players the way PokerStars had. When Full Tilt’s European license was revoked, the company shut down completely. The millions of players who had money in their Full Tilt accounts were faced with a previously unimaginable scenario; their money was gone forever. That’s when Scheinberg lofted the idea of stepping in to bail out Full Tilt players. He was immediately met with resistance from his advisors who had been in settlement negotiations with the DOJ. “Why don’t you suggest that we buy Full Tilt from the government and pay the players?” Scheinberg asked. The response from the company lawyer: “That’s totally crazy…it’s never happened before.” Scheinberg was aware that the US government was in talks with third parties to sell Full Tilt’s assets. “These buyers didn’t want to fully cover the money to pay the players,” Scheinberg recalls. ”The government was under a lot of pressure from U.S. players and also international players because again, there were hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.” The government eventually accepted Scheinberg’s “crazy” proposal and PokerStars purchased the Full Tilt Poker assets from the U.S. government and made sure that American players with a balance on Full Tilt Poker on Black Friday were paid in full. PokerStars also reinstated Full Tilt’s international operations and paid those players who had lost nearly $200 million when the site closed. Meanwhile, Scheinberg continued to negotiate with U.S. prosecutors for the charges he was facing and was told he could continue to work for PokerStars while those negotiations were ongoing. “I was very upset when people called me a fugitive,” Scheinberg says. “I’ve never been an American citizen or resident and I wasn’t in the U.S. since 1999. I didn’t flee the jurisdiction and I was not hiding.” In 2015, he even held face-to-face meetings over two days in London with the U.S. prosecutors. The meeting resulted in an agreement to drop bank fraud charges from any future plea agreement, but not the gambling charge. [caption id="attachment_634521" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Isai Scheinberg has found a new game to devote this energy to. Chess. (Andrew Barton photo)[/caption] All of this is why what happened in June 2019 came as such a surprise. After traveling around the world, including multiple trips to Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, and the Isle of Man – all countries with extradition agreements with the United States – Scheinberg, who says he always informed local authorities that he was coming, had never worried about running into an issue when abroad. While vacationing in Switzerland with his wife, Scheinberg was detained by Swiss authorities at the request of the DOJ. While he initially planned to oppose extradition, Scheinberg eventually decided to waive the proceedings and travel to the U.S. to resolve the case once and for all. On January 17, 2020, Scheinberg landed at Kennedy airport in New York City where authorities were waiting for him. He was processed at the airport and immediately brought to the court. Scheinberg pled not guilty to all charges and was released on a $1 million bond on the same day and promised not to leave New York City. More than two months later, Scheinberg arrived at a NY courthouse to plead guilty to a single count of operating an illegal gambling business. That plea, which made him the final of the 11 Black Friday defendants to plead guilty, came with a maximum five-year sentence. However, Scheinberg’s lawyers successfully argued that he should not be further punished since the company was operating in the United States on legal advice that said offering poker was not illegal, he had been in contact with the DOJ since 2011, was active with numerous charities around the world, and that the company had paid more $300 million of Full Tilt’s debts. In his ruling, the judge called Scheinberg’s conduct “a mistake” and sentenced him to time served and was immediately released. For more than nine years, Scheinberg felt the weight of the Black Friday charges hanging over his head. He knew they would be resolved one day – one way or the other. Now, he can’t help but see some practicality in the outcome. “For example, when the indictment was pending some banks were reluctant to open an account for me. Because in their mind when it’s not settled, who knows? But when it’s settled, it’s settled,” Scheinberg says. The Gamesman As his granddaughter will undoubtedly attest, Scheinberg has a competitive side that hasn’t slowed down at all. The one-time poker nerd who dreamed of winning a WSOP bracelet long before Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event, has turned his attention to a game that has recently captured the imagination of an entirely new generation of players the way poker did back in 2003. “Today, I play a lot of chess,” Scheinberg says. “That makes me happy.” While Scheinberg has put in time and energy to become a better player, he also comes by it naturally. His father, Matafia, represented his native Lithuania in the Chess Olympiad in the early 1930s. Scheinberg owns a copy of a book that details the games his father played in those events, including analysis from top grandmasters, and proudly shares it with anybody who shows an interest in the game. Just like poker, Scheinberg isn’t interested just in playing. Scheinberg, along with his son Mark, is one of the key investors in Chess.com and his years of experience running PokerStars makes him an invaluable asset as that company grows. When it came to deciding to put money there, Scheinberg didn’t necessarily look just at the technology or the software, he looked at who was running the company and if they shared his values and ideals for running a business. “The reason we invested and we joined them is because they are very good guys, and they bring the business principles of being transparent, and honest, and they treat customers well,” Scheinberg says. Crediting the much-heralded Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit for sparking an interest in chess in the general public, Scheinberg can’t help but draw parallels between that and what Moneymaker did when his WSOP Main Event win aired on ESPN. Much like he did in the early years of PokerStars, Scheinberg relies on his experiences as a player to influence his ideas for ways to help the company grow. Scheinberg chuckles at the idea of getting back into the world of poker but doesn’t shut down the possibility altogether. The family sold the company to Amaya in June 2014 for $4.9 billion in a transaction that was largely driven by the inability of the company, under their ownership, to gain a gaming license in New Jersey. The company originally had plans to purchase The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel and offer PokerStars to New Jersey residents through that gaming license. Scheinberg says Black Friday was not what created the greatest challenge to PokerStars gaining a license in America. In early conversations with New Jersey regulators, company lawyers asked whether there would be a legal objection to giving PokerStars a license. “The regulators went to the DOJ and they asked, ‘Are you going to have a problem with PokerStars getting the license in New Jersey?’ And the DOJ said no, they would not have a problem. So the regulators came back and told our lawyers, ‘Fine. Of course, we cannot guarantee it, because we will check the company as we did all the other companies,’” Scheinberg says. “That was not a problem as we knew the company had no issues with its operations. However, our competitors raised hell and complained in every direction and they delayed the process. People from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement already had plane tickets to come to the Isle of Man to interview (PokerStars management). And they canceled at the last moment.” Scheinberg says that pressure from those competitors, directed towards both the DGE and Atlantic Club Casino ownership, led to that deal falling apart. Despite having private assurances that there would be no licensing issues for PokerStars, the company found itself facing the same hurdles after striking a deal with a second property, Resorts Casino. “So, this time we didn’t buy (the casino), but we made a deal to offer our poker product with them,” Scheinberg says. “The DGE came at the last moment and they said no. It was unexpected and the announcement from the (DGE) was very unclear. They said they had some conditions.” Scheinberg was told he either had to settle his case or there needed to be “major changes in the company”. It was then that the company’s fortunes shifted again. “And that was the moment when we said, ‘what the hell. we’ll get out of that.’ For the sake of the company, for U.S. players to be able to play on PokerStars, we need to change the ownership. So, it was a combination of feelings, but that was the trigger, that they didn’t let us get a license there,” Scheinberg says. The Scheinbergs had already shooed away Amaya and their ambitious CEO David Baazov once, telling them PokerStars had every intention of launching in New Jersey. With that no longer an option, the two companies entered into negotiations that ultimately led to the family selling the company. The $4.9 billion proceeds didn’t all go to the family, and neither did their share. Long-time PokerStars employees who didn’t have equity in the company say Isai and Mark were both quite generous with them after the sale. For them, it was about taking care of the people who had helped them build PokerStars. “We ran the company all the time that way. Of course, class and grace were the most important thing. We didn’t fire anyone after Black Friday and employees were a big part of the success,” Scheinberg says. “Employees were part of the business. A big part obviously in every company, but in our company, we felt that the employees were an extremely important part.” [caption id="attachment_634527" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Ten years after Black Friday, Isai Scheinberg still carries with him a twinge of regret when it comes to the events of that day. (Andrew Barton photo)[/caption] Seven years after the company was sold, Scheinberg looks back on his time in the poker industry and believes his legacy will be defined by the principles with which he ran the company through good times and bad. “We created a lot of things that helped poker grow and be more respected and more enjoyable and I’m pleased that is the legacy,” Scheinberg says. “And the fact that we paid players and players did not lose their money (on Black Friday) was also very important. I think that commitment to players and doing the right thing by them is the legacy.” Being the owner of another one of poker’s most enduring and endearing brands almost became another pillar in Scheinberg’s story. “Actually, at one time we were offered to buy the Rio Casino, but there was a reaction of ‘We don’t need this. Why would we buy?’ In hindsight, I think it was a mistake. I thought that if we bought Rio, we would own the World Series and make it better,” Scheinberg says. “We probably would do a lot of things to make it very friendly to players. We planned to increase the prize pool. We would make a guaranteed prize pool of $100 million in the Main Event and a lot of things around that. When I was talking to Steve Wynn, and we had a deal with him (in March 2011), we were discussing that and he was very excited and we probably would move WSOP to a better facility.” The relationship between PokerStars and the World Series of Poker since Harrah’s acquired it in 2004, could best be described as a competitive rivalry. Last November, Scheinberg was named one of ten finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame. It was the first time that the WSOP, who control the PHOF, listed Scheinberg as a finalist despite years of lobbying from poker heavyweights, including former Team PokerStars Pro and current Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu. “There were a number of people who were trying to put me (into the Hall of Fame). I never tried to lobby or anything. Harrah’s or Caesar’s were not big friends of ours. We were their competitors, so they were blocking that, but yes, (the nomination) was surprising, but look, the case has settled (and) that’s one thing that probably helped that,” Scheinberg says. He hasn’t been to the WSOP since 1997 and still has a love for poker that he believes could see him sitting at a table inside the Amazon Room at the Rio very soon. Now, with PokerStars and Black Friday clearly in his rear-view mirror, Scheinberg looks back at what he created, his impact on both the game and the industry, and says he has no regrets, with one important exception – the months leading up to Black Friday. “I do wonder if we should have been proactive with discussions with the DOJ, especially in early 2011 after the federal online poker bill didn’t materialize,” Scheinberg says “We could have entered into a direct dialogue with them. That might have prevented Black Friday.” That one lingering thought about what might have been doesn’t consume his thoughts though. Almost seven years after Scheinberg sold the company, PokerStars continues to be the world’s largest online poker operator and that, he says, will also be part of how his time in poker is remembered. Today, Scheinberg is happy to be able to spend time with all three generations of his family, even as one of the youngest is staring him down while serving for match point. “The best part of my life, I have a happy family life. I am happily married for 53 years, I am proud of my sons’ achievements, I have three grandkids, and I love what I do.”   Photos via Andrew Barton
  2. After a vote by the 30 of the 31 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame, 1996 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion Huckleberry Seed has been named as the sole member of the Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2020. “Hearing the news that I am being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame this year brought back memories of my early poker days, walking into Binion’s Horseshoe, about to start a poker session, admiring all the Poker Hall of Famers on the wall,” Seed said. “It feels good to be included with all the poker legends that I once idolized and competed against over the year. Thank you, everyone.” Seed is a four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner with more than $7.6 million in career live tournament earnings. In addition to his Main Event victory, Seed won bracelets in Pot Limit Omaha (1994) and Razz (2000, 2003). His career dates back to over a decade before the poker boom, but he became a fixture in poker culture by being featured on televised tournaments and cash games. In 2009, Seed was the winner of the NBC Heads Up Tournament and in 2010 he prevailed in the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions. After inducting two people every year since 2010, WSOP officials decided to return to the original limit of one inductee per year this year. WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart wanted to honor the original tradition of one inductee per year, which started in 1979. “We like tradition. One per year is the way it was for the majority of the Poker Hall of Fame’s history. A single inductee seems to promote the prestige of the honor,” Stewart said. “Most of the finalists these past few years are very young men. I would hope and assume they will all get inducted eventually.” There were a total of 300 votes cast by the Poker Hall of Fame members (one person abstained from voting) with Seed collecting 76, or roughly 25%, of the votes. Behind him in the voting was Matt Savage with 51 and PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg with 45 votes. Distribution of Votes Huckleberry Seed – 76 Votes Matt Savage – 51 Votes Isai Scheinberg – 45 Votes Eli Elezra – 30 Votes Antonio Esfandiari – 23 Votes Lon McEachern and Norman Chad – 20 Votes Ted Forrest – 20 Votes Mike Matusow – 17 Votes Patrik Antonius – 15 Votes Chris Ferguson – 3 Votes In the poker community, Seed is also known as the “Master of the Prop Bet” with stories of the gambler putting himself through challenges that have included betting $10,000 that at six-foot-seven former basketball player could learn to perform a standing backflip in just two days. Other stories include Seed attempting to go an entire year without shaving, stand submerged in water up to his shoulders for 18 hours, and run a mile in under 4:40. Seed’s official induction into the Poker Hall of Fame will take place at a ceremony in 2021huck
  3. Sometime before the end of 2020, one person - and potentially two - will receive a phone call from World Series of Poker executives letting them now they have been enshrined into the Poker Hall of Fame. The list of ten finalists for the class of 2020 were announced Thursday with three first-time nominees and seven others who have been up for induction before. Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, the longtime voices of the WSOP on ESPN broadcasts, are nominated as a pair. This marks the first-time in Hall of Fame history that a duo has been nominated together and is the first nomination for the each of them. Patrik Antonius, who turned 40 earlier this month to meet the minimum age requirement is also a first-time nominee. The Finnish superstar has more than $12 million in lifetime tournament earnings but is more well-known for his high stakes cash game prowess both online and live. The third new name on the list of finalists is PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg. The 75-year-old Scheinberg founded the company that eventually became PokerStars in 2000 and turned it into the industry leader before selling the company to Amaya in 2014. In 2011, Scheinberg was one of 11 people indicated by the United States government in what eventually became known as Black Friday in the poker community. WSOP officials, who oversee the Poker Hall of Fame, had made it clear in years past that Scheinberg's inability to travel to the United States to accept a possible induction was part of the reason he had not been nominated. Scheinberg settled the case earlier this year. RELATED: Isai Scheinberg Leads Potential 2020 Poker Hall of Fame Nominees Scheinberg isn't the only finalist with connections to Black Friday. Full Tilt Poker co-founder and six-time WSOP bracelet winner Chris Ferguson is nominated for the second consecutive year. Ferguson, who disappeared from the WSOP scene following Black Friday before returning to action in 2016, won the WSOP Main Event in 2000 and sits third on the WSOP all-time cashes list. To many, Ferguson remains one of the most controversial figures in poker over his connections to Full Tilt Poker and refusal to address his role in the downfall of the company. The other six finalists are Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow, Matt Savage, and 1996 WSOP Main Event champion Huck Seed. The list of finalists is now in the hands of the 31 living members of the Hall of Fame. Each member is given 10 votes to distribute to any of the finalists they deem worthy of induction. Voters are expected to consider the following criteria when casting their ballot: Player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition Be a minimum of 40-years-old at time of nomination Played for high stakes Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers Stood the test of time Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results The finalist who receives the most votes will be the sole inductee this year with the announcement coming at the 2020 WSOP Main Event final table in Las Vegas on December 30.
  4. With the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event now underway, the team in charge of the WSOP is proceeding with as much of the normal pomp and circumstance that normally accompanies the summer series as possible. On Tuesday came the official announcement that nominations for the 2020 Poker Hall of Fame class are now open. As in years past, the WSOP is giving the public the opportunity to submit names for nomination to eventually create a list of 8-10 nominees. Unlike the last ten years however, where two nominees were chosen for induction, only one eventual nominee will be enshrined this year. The change marks a return to the pre-poker boom tradition of honoring just one individual each year. "We like tradition. One per year is the way it was for the majority of the Poker Hall of Fame's history. A single inductee seems to promote the prestige of the honor," said Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the WSOP. "Most of the finalists these past few years are very young men. I would hope and assume they will all get inducted eventually." The other change for 2020 sees the inductee being chosen by just the 32 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame. Since 2010, a select panel of poker media were also part of the voting panel. For Stewart, this change was one about returning to the early years of the Poker Hall of Fame. "For many years Jack Binion and his poker team just used to meet and decide. And I don’t think they ever got it wrong. In 2020, with 32 living hall of famers who take the criteria seriously, we think the honor is best bestowed by one’s peers," Stewart said. The number of players who have been nominated over past years but not inducted includes the likes of Mike Matusow, Chris Bjorin, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Max Pescatori, and Humberto Brenes. While those players are likely to be nominated by the general public, the likelihood that they make it through the nomination process to be the sole member of the Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2020 aren't great. With that in mind, here are the only five names that have a shot at joining the likes of Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and Chip Reese in the Poker Hall of Fame this year. Isai Scheinberg The founder of PokerStars, Isai Scheinberg has never been one of the 10 named finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame despite having a decent amount of support from key people in the poker industry. The most likely reason for that was the charges against Scheinberg from Black Friday. In 2014, Stewart told The Fives Podcast co-host Donnie Peters that Scheinberg would likely get in one day, but since Scheinberg "can't enter country to accept, likely isn't the time" to induct him. In March, Scheinberg plead guilty to one count of operating an illegal gambling business to settle the charges with the United States Department of Justice and was sentenced to time served and a $30,000 fine. As the driving force behind PokerStars from 2001 until 2014, when it was sold to David Baazov and his group of investors, many credit Scheinberg for setting the standard for the online poker industry while turning his company into the largest operator in the space. Former PokerStars Team Pro Daniel Negreanu is firmly on Team Isai when it comes the Poker Hall of Fame. Matt Savage Nearly 20 years ago, Matt Savage co-founded the Tournament Directors Association alongside Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and David Lamb. Since then he's been the tournament director of record for some of the largest and most prestigious poker tournaments in the world. That list includes the WSOP from 2002 - 2004 and the Bay 101 Shooting Star event which he oversees to this day. For the past 10 years, Savage has been the Executive Tour Director of the World Poker Tour where he has had arguably his greatest influence. Along with continuing to push for standardized rules and structures at all Tour stops, Savage has helped the WPT from a business perspective as the tour has grown while working with properties around the world, many of whom came from the introduction by Savage. While the resume is complete, Savage has the support of what often feels like the entire professional poker community. Players from around the world reach out to Savage as their first point of contact when it pertains to questions about tournament or poker room rules and rulings. His position as the de facto expert in his field is as solid as ... Savage has been nominated for the Hall of Fame before but whether or not is ever allowed to hold the honor of being the first tournament director enshrined remains to be seen. Bruno Fitoussi The Patriarch of French Poker, Bruno Fitoussi was nominated for the Hall of Fame in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018 without being inducted. While Scheinberg and Savage are both firmly entrenched as "builders", Fitoussi is one of the rare individuals who has successfully straddled between being a world class player who has successfully helped promote the game from the business side. Fitoussi has more than $3,000,000 in live earnings on his Hendon Mob profile, with $1.28 million of that coming from his runner-up finish in the 2007 WSOP $50,000 HORSE World Championship, one of his three second place finishes in bracelet events. He also served as a consultant for the Aviation Club in Paris, France and many considered him the face of French poker as he was a regular commentator for televised poker in his home country and across Europe as poker began growing in popularity. Fitoussi's struggle to go from nominee to inductee is likely a reflection of the heavily skewed American voting process used in years past. He's not getting any help this year either. Of the 32 voters, none are European. Only five of the 32 are not American and they all either live in the United States now (Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Scotty Nguyen) or spent a considerable amount of their career living in the U.S. (John Juanda, Carlos Mortensen). David Chiu Nobody has had their name included on the nomination list more times than David Chiu. The Chinese-born Chiu was nominated in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019. With a poker resume that most of his colleagues would kill for, Chiu seems like a good bet to be nominated yet again this year. He won WSOP bracelets in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005, and 2013. Then in 2008, he beat Gus Hansen heads up to win the World Poker Tour World Championship for $3.4 million. He and Ted Forrest are the only players with at least five WSOP bracelets and an open WPT title to not be in the Hall of Fame. Chiu is also one of the most versatile players in poker history. A master of nearly every game on the WSOP schedule, Chiu has cashed 74 times at the WSOP and only one of his 24 final table appearances was in a No Limit Hold'em event. Joe Hachem Joe Hachem, the 2005 WSOP Main Event winner, has never been one of the ten nominees for the Hall of Fame, but a case could be made for him as a hybrid player-build nominee. Hachem beat a then-record field of 5,619 players to win the 2005 Main Event for $7.5 million and helped the popularity of poker in his native Australia reach never-before-seen heights. Hachem spent the years that followed traveling the world as a Team PokerStars Team Pro and in late 2006 seized the opportunity to prove he wasn't a one-hit wonder. Hachem topped the 583-player field to win the WPT Doyle Brunson North American Poker Classic for $2.2 million. In the post-Moneymaker era, Hachem is only one of two WSOP Main Event winners to have won a WPT title after their WSOP win. (Ryan Riess is the other). In the years following Hachem's win, the Aussie Millions Main Event went from 263 runners to 418 to 747 and many in the Australian poker industry credit Hachem's win - the first ever for an Australian - as a key piece of the perfect storm that was the mid-2000s poker boom.
  5. For every fantastic poker movie of the past 25 years (Rounders, Mississippi Grind), there’s been another which missed the mark. But the poker world (for better and for worse) isn’t lacking in incredible storylines, interesting characters, and dramatic tension. From epic biopics and romantic melodramas to buddy comedies and political thrillers, the poker world should be a screenwriter’s goldmine. Imagine cast sheets packed with poker’s biggest names (Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Stu Ungar) and the A-list Hollywood stars who would portray them. Here are five of the best real-life poker plot lines that could be - and should be - made into movies. Lights, camera, ACTION! TEXAS DOLLY Director: Martin Scorcese Starring: Russell Crowe (Doyle Brunson) Christopher Plummer (older Doyle) Armie Hammer (younger Doyle) Tom Hanks (Johnny Moss) Owen Wilson (Amarillo Slim) David Koechner (Puggy Pearson) Timothee Chalamet (Stu Ungar) Matt Damon (Chip Reese) Danny McBride (Todd Brunson) Synopsis: In the early 1950s, a devastating leg injury crushes the NBA dreams of prodigious college athlete Doyle Brunson. He turns to illegal poker games to fuel his competitiveness and soon finds himself on the road with a motley crew of Texan card sharks. Over the next 60 years, Brunson writes the book on poker, wins 10 World Series bracelets, and navigates the online poker boom while becoming the greatest player of all time. At 87, Brunson decides to step away from the tables, but one final high stakes game brings the Godfather of poker out of retirement. This is a no brainer. A three-hour biopic of the legendary Doyle Brunson directed by the equally legendary Martin Scorcese? Yes, please. In fact, why hasn’t this film been made already? Texas Dolly would make such an awesome movie. Brunson has sixty-plus years worth of stories to cherry-pick from a lifetime of playing the highest stakes poker games in the world. Imagine the backroom poker scenes, gunpoint robberies, tender family moments, and busto-to-robusto drama that Scorcese could reimagine on the big screen. He’s made plenty of big, bold biopics before (Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street, to name just a few) so Brunson’s story will be in the safest of hands. Instead of going down the digital de-aging route like Scorcese did in 2019’s The Irishman, cast different actors to play Brunson at the different stages of his life. Have Armie Hammer as the young NBA-ready Doyle for the first 45 minutes of the film, followed by Oscar winner Russell Crowe as Brunson for the next 90 minutes. Finally, Oscar winner Christopher Plummer bringing things home as Brunson today. Then just look at that merry band of Texan road gamblers in the supporting cast. A bald Tom Hanks with thick-rimmed glasses and a cardigan would make for an amazing Johnny Moss (Brunson’s mentor) and seeing the late Amarillo Slim reimagined by his fellow-Texan Owen Wilson would be superb. Anchorman’s David Koechner taking on Puggy Pearson, young superstar Timothee Chalamet bringing Stu 'the Kid' Ungar to life, and poker-movie royalty Matt Damon becoming one of the game’s all-time greats in Chip Reese (Brunson's best friend before Reese’s death at the young age of 56). Oh, and let’s not forget Danny McBride bringing some light comedy to proceedings as Brunson’s son Todd, also a successful high-stakes poker player in his own right. It’s actually ludicrous that the Godfather of Poker’s story hasn’t already been told on the silver screen, because the rounder lifestyle of poker’s pioneers is just so damn romantic. It feels like this film would resonate with a large audience, whether the majority are poker players or not. But then maybe the lack of biopic is Brunson’s doing. Perhaps he wants to keep his life story close to his chest, just as he has with cards throughout most of it. But with his blessing, then please, someone please write the script (*cough* Brian Koppelman and David Levien *cough*) and make this movie happen. BLACK FRIDAY Director: Adam McKay Starring: Jeff Daniels (Howard Lederer) David Krumholtz (Ray Bitar) Billy Bob Thornton (Chris Ferguson) Mandy Patinkin (Isai Scheinberg) Michael B. Jordan (Phil Ivey) Michael Fassbender (Gus Hansen) Sam Rockwell (George W. Bush) Synopsis: It’s 2011 and the poker boom comes to a crashing end when the United States Department of Justice issues an indictment against the three largest online poker websites in the country: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. Popular PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg is among those indicted, but things are about to get even worse for the poker community when it’s revealed that Full Tilt Poker--run by Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and shady businessman Ray Bitar--has been defrauding poker players out of more than $300 million and doesn’t have the funds to reimburse them. A brutally honest telling of online poker’s darkest day could make for the most important poker movie ever made. The pros of a Black Friday film? It’s a story that has everything. Rags-to-riches tales from online poker greats; government dealings and courtroom drama; the shock of the day itself; and both likable and downright unsavory characters for us to root for and against. The cons? It wouldn’t exactly paint online poker in the finest light. If there’s one filmmaker who could get across the importance of Black Friday and explain the difficult concepts involved in an entertaining, educational way, it’s Adam McKay. While he cut his teeth making some of the best comedies of the past two decades alongside Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Step Brothers, The Other Guys) it’s McKay’s 2015 film The Big Short--about the investors who made a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse in America in 2008--where he knocked it out of the park and booked the Black Friday writer/director gig. As for the cast, Jeff Daniels would make an excellent Howard Lederer. Daniels has carved a niche for himself lately playing powerful, unlikeable characters, and when it comes to Lederer...well, you can make of that what you will. Joining him at Full Tilt Poker would be the great Billy Bob Thornton as Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson--an ambiguous character whose involvement in the disgracefulness remains unclear--and David Krumholtz as Ray Bitar. The film would also feature top actors portraying some of poker’s biggest names for the first time on screen. Michael B. Jordan would provide the coolness Phil Ivey deserves, while Michael Fassbender as Gus Hansen would just be a joy to see. As for PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, give Mandy Patinkin from Homeland the role, while Sam Rockwell who played President George W. Bush in McKay’s 2018 film Vice, could revive the role here for a few government scenes. SUITED CONNECTORS Director: Greta Gerwig Starring: Anna Kendrick (Kristen Bicknell) Channing Tatum (Alex Foxen) Cameron Diaz (Jennifer Harman) Will Poulter (Kahle Burns) Synopsis: Inspired by her poker-playing hero Jennifer Harman, Kristen Bicknell works her way to the top of a male-dominated game and becomes one of the best poker players around. When she falls in love with another top player, Alex Foxen, it feels like a match made in heaven. But complications arise when the two fierce competitors both wind up at the same final table of a major poker tournament and then get three-handed with Kahle Burns. In just about every poker movie, female characters are simply used as props to either annoy or inspire the leading man. Screw that. It’s about time there was a poker film with a woman crushing the game instead of just organizing it (Molly’s Game), and while there still aren’t enough women playing poker, there are plenty of world-class players who are as feared at the tables as any dude. As the No.1 ranked GPI female player in the world for the past three years running, Kristen Bicknell is undisputedly one of them. Like many other poker couples, Bicknell and Alex Foxen’s relationship was once just a lovely inconsequence to the poker community. But in 2018 it was suggested that they had gone easy on each other during the final table of the $5,000 MSPT Venetian, particularly when they got three-handed against Kahle Burns. The question is: can two competitive players really put their loving feelings aside and play coldblooded versus one another when deep down they both want to see each other succeed? It’s just a tricky situation and one ripe for some melodrama. Unlike other “road to the final table” poker films (looking at you, Lucky You), the conflict in this romantic dramedy doesn’t come from characters hating each other but rather characters loving each other, to the point where their game integrity is called into question. It’s also about what happens after the game is over. Greta Gerwig would be an incredible choice to direct Suited Connectors, a story largely based on a successful woman striving for greatness, who falls in love with someone completely different and yet perfectly similar to her. Gerwig’s two films so far (2017’s Ladybird and 2019’s Little Women) are both female-led stories, and she writes and directs with honesty and style. Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick has been brilliant in films like Up in the Air and The Voices and could pull off Bicknell’s dauntless determination, while Channing Tatum (aside from the fact he’s big and athletic like Foxen) has proven himself a fine (and funny) actor in films like Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street, and The Hateful Eight. As for Jennifer Harman--the player who inspired the real-life Bicknell--coaxingh the great Cameron Diaz out of retirement for the role seems like a win. THE WEIGHTING GAME Director: Paul Feig Kevin Hart (Bill Perkins) Jaime Staples (himself) Matt Staples (himself) Mike Vacanti (Zac Efron) Synopsis: Two professional poker playing brothers find themselves in a high stakes game on the yacht of an eccentric billionaire, with who they make a large bet: Brothers Jaime (304lbs) and Matt (134lbs) have to weigh within 1lb of each other in exactly a year’s time. If they can do it, they’ll win big. With the help of a strict personal trainer, they’re going all in. But life on the road makes losing and gaining both weight and money harder than they thought. Let’s lighten the mood a little with a road-trip buddy movie. The Staples brothers (Jaime and Matt) had the entire poker community rooting for them in 2017/2018 when they bet Bill Perkins that they couldn’t weigh within one pound of each other in 12 months’ time, all the while streaming poker online and traveling to live events. They did it, of course, in a great story of perseverance and hard work paying off. For the sake of the film, however, instead of the brothers streaming online poker, have them playing poker on the road. And make the Perkins character wilder and more erratic than Perkins is in real life, just to spice things up. There's no better pick to play the brothers themselves, so they'll both have to get some acting lessons prior to filming. But for Perkins, let’s throw his real-life friend and poker enthusiast Kevin Hart in the mix. Hart is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and anyone who has observed his spontaneous antics at the poker tables knows he would make this thing hilarious, as would Zac Efron as a fictional draconian version of the Staples’ personal trainer Mike Vacanti. In the director’s chair would be Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat), one of the reigning kings of comedy movies. The whole thing could be like the section of Rounders where Mike and Worm go on the road to run up a stake, only instead of trying not to get caught base dealing, the brothers are trying not to eat the wrong things. THE BLIND STEAL Director: Aaron Sorkin Starring: Emma Stone (Veronica Brill) Ben Foster (Mike Postle) Jonah Hill (Justin Kuraitis) Pete Davidson (Joe Ingram) Synopsis: Poker player and commentator Veronica Brill grows suspicious that a successful player in her game, Mike Postle, has been cheating for months on a live-streamed Sacramento cash game with the help of cardroom manager Justin Kuraitis. They deny the allegations and will do anything to discredit Brill, so she turns to someone she hopes can help expose the suspected charlatans: popular YouTuber Joe Ingram. There have been some incredible films with ambiguous endings over the years. You don’t get to know whether the robbers’ gold-laden bus teeters over the cliff edge in The Italian Job; you don’t get to know who the Zodiac killer is in Zodiac; and by the end of The Blind Steal--this telling of the Mike Postle cheating scandal which took place at Stones Casino, Sacramento from July 2018 through September 2019--you won’t know with absolute certainty whether Mike Postle was cheating or not. The viewers will have enough information to make an informed decision though, and that’s all thanks to writer and director Aaron Sorkin. In his screenplays for The Social Network, Moneyball, and his 2017 directorial debut Molly’s Game, Sorkin has been able to enlighten audiences on some dense subject matter (from computer algorithms and data analysis to how a game poker works) in just a few pages of the script. And thanks to Molly’s Game, it's clear he understands poker and the severity of the Postle allegations against many players, not just Veronica Brill (who brought the allegations to light). So, with Sorkin at the helm, who would he cast? For Brill, possibly Emma Stone. In films such as Zombieland, The Favourite, and Battle of the Sexes, she’s shown herself to be tough and determined with no sign of intimidation. As for Joey Ingram, Pete Davidson could sling on a tank top and blazer and showcase Ingram’s dogged resolve. Ben Foster would be perfect for Postle. Anyone who saw Foster as Lance Armstrong knows he’s a master of playing manipulative, conniving schemers looking to get ahead at any means necessary, even at the expense of others. He could handle Postle too. Justin Kuraitis is harder to cast as, frankly, there isn't all that much to go on aside from some post-settlement tweets. But based on those tweets, the character in the film is going to be stubborn, goofy, and a bit corrupt. Jonah Hill is a great actor who has been nominated for an Oscar twice (The Wolf of Wall Street and Moneyball). He’s got that down. The ambiguous ending of The Blind Steal mentioned earlier? It will be a bit like the ending of The Social Network, Sorkin’s Facebook origin story. Just like Facebook is an ongoing thing, so too is the Postle lawsuits and investigation. But maybe a film like this will inspire more people to seek the truth of what went on during those live streams.
  6. Hosted by Lance Bradley and Donnie Peters, The Fives Poker Podcast runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and debate the hottest topics in poker. Listen in to an all-new episode of The FIVES Poker Podcast as Lance and Donnie return with all of the latest news from this week in the world of poker. It was a busy week when it came to legal procedures in poker including an end to three prominent cases. First, Phil Ivey's long battle with the Borgata in the multi-million dollar edge sorting case has finally been resolved out of court. At the same time, nearly a decade after Black Friday, PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg is in the clear from his charges and free to travel in the U.S. once again. Also, there was a settlement in the Mike Postle cheating allegations case which looks to put one of the biggest stories of 2019 to rest. Plus, WIRED Magazine took a deep dive into the Postle scandal which brings up some additional questions surrounding the case. So download and listen in! Subscribe to The FIVES and never miss an episode - available everywhere you enjoy your favorite podcasts. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts * Google Podcasts * Stitcher
  7. Barry Greenstein (pictured), Poker Hall of Famer and Team PokerStarsPro, took to his blog this week to make a case for why his sponsor doesn't deserve to be labeled a "bad actor" and prohibited from doing business in the US by state governments considering legalizing online poker. Read the blog. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsson Poker, a leading global online gaming provider. Betsson Poker is available on Mobile and offers regular promotions to live events around the world along with great bonuses and competitions. Play nowfor a chance to win the a Dream Holiday with the Grand Poker Adventures throughout 2014! --- "Bad actor" language is technically meant as a protection to consumers from nefarious gaming operators and has been inserted into the online poker legislation of various states. Generally, any company that continued to offer online gambling in the US after the UIGEA was passed is branded with the label. But as the three-time bracelet winner says, it's no secret that this type of verbiage is targeted directly at PokerStars, the site that upstart gambling interests fear will quickly corner the market, leaving little profits for them. Before Amaya's acquisition of PokerStars, the company's opponents highlighted the fact that founder Isai Scheinberg (pictured) had been indicted for violating the UIGEA, yet was still involved with the company. But Greenstein questions the legality of that indictment altogether after years of discussions with company lawyers and executives. "In every case, in every decision that was made, I was told PokerStars had lawyers who closely examine every detail to ensure that they were not violating any law and that their actions could be defended if they have to go to court or make their case for being licensed in the United States," he said. He gave one example where Stars' attorneys did, in fact, find issue with the legality of a situation and decided to play it safe when other companies did not. "When the state of Washingtonpassed a law banning online poker, PokerStars pulled out," he reminded. "Because UIGEA made it more difficult for payment processors to accept payments, some of them used deceptive (and probably illegal) methods for accepting funds." The consequences for those operators who blatantly disregarded the law, as he pointed out, were severe. "Full Tilt's decision to continue accepting deposits from these payment processors ended up contributing greatly to their bankruptcy," he continued. Greenstein also highlighted the fact that soon after Scheinberg's indictment, the DOJ had a change of heart and issued a memo clarifying that the Wire Act only prohibited online sports betting, not all forms of internet gambling. "You would think that after this judgment was handed down, all the charges would be dropped and PokerStars would be viewed in the right," he said. "[But] due to the indictment, PokerStars [was] worth too much money to the Department of Justice." The pro bashes his employer's competitors, whom he said spend "an incredible amount of time and money" lobbying to keep PokerStars out of the US. But now that the company has been sold to Amaya, he said, the proponents of the "bad actor clause" lose their argument again. Greenstein described the company as having a "family culture," which only tries to be the best "and will spare no expense to do it." He believes that other operators can't compete against Stars, "because PokerStars gained deep respect from the poker community for quickly repaying US customers after Black Friday and bailing out Full Tilt." In the end, he believed the opposition is simply based on the fear that, if PokerStars reenters the market, "they will continue to be the leading company as they have been for the last several years in Europe and as they were doing in the United States before they got shut down." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  8. Just three months ago, almost no one would have predicted that the relatively unknown gaming systems supplier Amayawas in advanced talks to purchase the parent company of the online poker behemoth PokerStars. Yet on Friday, the Canadian firm announced the completion of its acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt, instantly transforming it into the biggest publicly traded online gambling company on the globe. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsafe, one of the leading suppliers of online gaming products worldwide and a major sponsor of Gumball 3000. Sign up now for great bonuses, €3,000,000 guaranteed monthly, and plenty of live events! --- "We are extremely pleased to have completed this acquisition," said Amaya CEO David Baazov in a press release. "Through PokerStars, Full Tilt, and its multiple live poker tours and events, [Rational Group]brands comprise the world's largest poker business, generating diversified and recurring revenues across the globe from its extremely loyal customer base." Amaya's shareholders voted in favor of the deal earlier this week. The purchase was completed in an all-cash $4.9 billion transaction and includes the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands along with the popular European, Latin American, and Asian Pacific Poker Tour events. The company's poker sites are two of the largest in the world and have dealt over 100 billion poker hands and run over 800 million tournaments, according to the release. "Since launching PokerStars in 2001, we have grown the business each year thanks to constant innovation, unparalleled customer service, and the talent of our dedicated workforce," said PokerStars CEO Mark Scheinberg. "I'm confident that Amaya, together with Rational Group's leadership, will continue to successfully grow the business into the future." The transfer of ownership out of the hands of Mark and his father, Isai Scheinberg (pictured), is considered by many analysts to be the motivating factor behind the sale. On Black Friday, the elder Scheinberg was charged by the US Department of Justice with a bevy of offenses including violating the UIGEA, operating an illegal gambling business, and money laundering. The father and son's continual involvement in the company has already led to issues with PokerStars reentering the potentially lucrative regulated US gambling market. The sale to Amaya could potentially solve both of these problems. For one, the new company leadership would be untainted by Black Friday and, furthermore, the cash raised from the deal could be used for a settlement between Isai and the DOJ. That amount would likely be massive. In 2008, former PartyPoker CEO Anurag Dikshit handed over $300 million to the agency and sold his stake in Party Gaming, while Mark Scheinberg settled for $50 million last year. Insiders have said that one of Mark Scheinberg's final goals for the company was to see PokerStars reenter the US market. So far, though, the site has been blocked at every turn, first after an ill-fated agreement to buy the Atlantic Cluband later when New Jersey regulators suspended their review for two years. But with the transfer to Amaya, that vision might finally be turning into a reality. With the sale complete, many believe it's only a matter of time before New Jersey regulators give PokerStars the green light to open up shop in the state. In California, the company is making inroads as well, but is engaged in a fierce battle against a coalition of tribes who would rather not face the competition that a brand like PokerStars will surely bring. In April, the Rational Group announced a partnership with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three large card clubs in its effort to begin operating in the populous state. As part of its lobbying strategy, PokerStars has continually highlights the fact that it holds more online poker licenses than any other i-gaming company on the planet. And according to the release, "works closely with regulators around the world to help establish sensible global regulation." Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest on the PokerStars sale. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  9. Recently, an article published by CalvinAyre set the poker industry abuzz with rumors that the Canadian firm Amaya Gaming would purchase the online poker behemoth PokerStars. But this week, perhaps hoping to quell the gossip, Amaya decided to release a statement that was seen as a tacit denial of the surprising report. The first inkling of a deal came on May 16, when Industrial Alliance Securities analyst Neil Lindsell stated that Amaya would likely sell its Ongame poker network in order to "trade up" to a bigger platform, according to the CalvinAyre piece. Since then, the company's stock has shot up from CAD $7.71 at the end of that trading day to CAD $10.89 as of Thursday, or 40%. Later came the CalvinAyre article, which stated that "solid" sources had assured them that a deal between PokerStars and the gaming software provider was in the works. Responding to the high trading volume, Amaya stated that "strategic acquisitions have been and are one component of the company's growth strategy and, as such, Amaya regularly evaluates potential acquisition opportunities." It went on to explain that "from time to time, this process leads to discussions with potential acquisition targets," but that "there can be no assurance that any such discussions will ultimately lead to a transaction." It seems plausible that, at the very least, some level of talks took place that might have helped to spark the rumors. When comparing the spike in Amaya's share price to Lindsell's "trading up" statement, along with the fact that the company hasn't released any significant news in the past few weeks to prompt such a surge, the acquisition theory is compelling. But, there are several reasons why a deal between the two companies wouldn't make sense. For one, it would seem that Amaya, whose market cap hovers around $500 million, according to CalvinAyre, would have trouble coming up with enough cash to purchase a company as big as PokerStars. After all, the poker giant paid its way through Black Friday, even shelling out over $700 million to purchase Full Tilt Poker and pay back its American players in the process. Second, a PokerStars/Amaya deal could have negative regulatory implications for the company's dealings in the regulated US internet gambling market. "Amaya Gaming services virtually every casino platform in New Jersey," said industry expert John Mehaffey. "It also owns the Ongame platform used by Betfair. Introducing PokerStars ownership into the equation before the company is approved could create a licensing conflict." Yet even if there is, in fact, no deal between PokerStars and Amaya, some think that PokerStars could still be looking to sell in order to distance itself from founder Isai Scheinberg and his son and current CEO, Mark Scheinberg. It's no secret that the poker giant has pulled out all of the stops in its quest to reenter the US online gambling market; a deal that severs executive ties with the Scheinbergs could be a final attempt at allaying regulator's concerns. In New Jersey, PokerStars' licensing review was suspended for two years due to the alleged ongoing participation of the elder Scheinberg in the company and the site has already been locked out of Nevada due to a "bad actor" clause. For the moment, that leaves California, where the company is doing battle with gaming interests who hope to insert a similar clause into any legislation that legalizes internet gambling. PokerStars announced a major partnership in California with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens. "As a general policy, Amaya does not publicly comment on potential acquisitions unless and until a binding legal agreement has been signed," Amaya concluded. "The company intends to make no further comment or release regarding current market rumors unless and until such comment is warranted." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  10. Now that the sale of the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt Poker, to Amaya Gaming has been announced, several in the industry have begun speculating about the future of PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg (pictured, image courtesy Bloomberg) The Canadian and Israeli in his mid-60s was one of 11 individuals indicted on Black Friday, but has yet to turn himself into US authorities or settle in any way. Scheinberg has denied all charges and when PokerStars settled with the Department of Justice in July 2012, the company admitted no wrongdoing. In an e-mail sent to members on Friday, the Poker Players Alliance, the main lobbying voice for poker players on Capitol Hill in the US, asserted that Scheinberg settling with American authorities would help turn the page on Black Friday. PPA Executive Director John Pappas wrote in the e-mail, "The players have asked and the media has speculated whether yesterday's acquisition would accelerate resolution of Isai Scheinberg's outstanding issues with the US Department of Justice. I certainly hope there is swift resolution of these matters. It is important for the poker community to close the Black Friday chapter and move forward. An agreement between Mr. Scheinberg and the DOJ would help do that." The sale was worth $4.9 billion and is expected to close in September. According to Bloomberg, Isai's son, Mark Scheinberg (pictured below, image courtesy Bloomberg), owns 75% of the Rational Group and is in line for a major payday as a result of the acquisition. He is selling his shares and resigning. As Online Poker Report's Chris Grove speculated, "Rumors that Isai Scheinberg is discussing a settlement with the DOJ have been swirling for months. This deal could represent a step in that direction, providing ready cash for a settlement and (arguably) a greater motivation for Isai Scheinberg to close the chapter completely. A deal would almost certainly come with an eight- or nine-figure fine attached. All parties involved are no doubt keen to reach a resolution, as none benefit at this point from the saga… dragging on." How much could Scheinberg's fine actually be? Last June, Mark Scheinberg settled with the DOJ for $50 million"as full and final resolution of any and all claims by the United States," according to the document outlining the agreement. In 2008, Anurag Dikshit, one of the founders of Party Gaming, forfeited $300 million and sold his Party Gaming shares in 2009. Also in 2009, Party Gaming agreed to a non-prosecution agreementwith the DOJ and paid $105 million. PokerStars' settlement with the DOJ, which involved acquiring its longtime rival Fill Tilt, weighed in at three-quarters of a billion dollars. Scheinberg was charged on Black Friday with conspiracy to violate the UIGEA, violating the UIGEA, operating an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. PokerStars Director of Payments Paul Tate was also indicted, but, like Scheinberg, has not surrendered to US authorities. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  11. After a long day of speculation, it was revealed on Thursday night that Amaya Gaming has acquired the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt Poker, for $4.9 billion. According to a press release, it's still subject to Amaya shareholder approval. Earlier today, we learned about the suspension of trading of Amaya's stockin Toronto. Then, we learned that Blackstone was raising $1 billion in funding. Now, we can get into the nitty-gritty details of the sale. According to the release, the shareholders of the Oldford Group, the parent company of the Rational Group, "will dispose of their shares to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amaya." Mark Scheinberg, Rational's founder and CEO, and "other principles of Oldford Group" will resign once the transaction has been completed, potentially satisfying issues New Jersey regulators hadwith the presence of Isai Scheinberg and other post-UIGEA executives. Speaking of executives, "Rational Group's executive management team will be retainedand online poker services provided by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will be unaffected by the transaction, with players continuing to enjoy uninterrupted access to their gaming experience." PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker have a combined 85 million registered users. Whether the presence of PokerStars' and Full Tilt's executive management teams will complicate any "bad actor" issues in the US remains to be seen. David Baazov (pictured), CEO of Amaya, said about the long-rumored acquisition, "This is a transformative acquisition for Amaya, strengthening our core B2B operations with a consumer online powerhouse that creates a scalable global platform for growth. Mark Scheinberg pioneered the online poker industry, building a remarkable business and earning the trust of millions of poker players by delivering the industry's best game experiences, customer service and online security. Working with the experienced executive team at Rational Group, Amaya will continue that tradition of excellence and accelerate growth into new markets and verticals." Mark Scheinberg added, "I am incredibly proud of the business Isai and I have built over the last 14 years, creating the world's biggest poker company and a leader in the iGaming space. Our achievements and this transaction are an affirmation of the hard work, expertise, and dedication of our staff, which I am confident will continue to drive the company's success. The values and integrity which have shaped this company are deeply ingrained in its DNA. David Baazov has a strong vision for the future of the Rational Group which will lead the company to new heights." Now on to the topic the poker community has speculated about, the prospects of PokerStars and/or Full Tilt returning to US soil. "Bad actor" clauses in states like California may still prove to be problematic even under the new ownership, according to Online Poker Report, but the press release argued, "Amaya believes the transaction will expedite the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker into regulated markets in which Amaya already holds a footprint, particularly the USA." Amaya will introduce more casinos games into the Full Tilt Poker client and help Rational's brand gain strongholds in sports betting, casino gaming, and social gaming. If you're a finance person, here's how the sale breaks down: $2.1 billion in senior secured credit facilities, $800 million in senior secured second lien term loans, $1 billion to be raised through the issuance of convertible preferred shares, $460 million to be raised through the issuance of subscription receipts, and about $540 million in cash. This paragraph uses language directly from the press release to avoid any interpretation. The Boards of Directors of both companies have already approved the transaction and Amaya's Board will remain the same following the deal, meaning it doesn't look like a reverse takeover as some had predicted. Stay tuned to PocketFives for complete reaction and analysis to one of the biggest stories we've reported in several years. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  12. For years, Isai Scheinberg (pictured), arguably the most important man in poker, has stayed out of the spotlight. Over the weekend, though, he stepped out of the shadows, bellied up to the poker table, and took down the £2,200 High Roller Event of the UK and Ireland Poker Tour Isle of Man stop. Scheinberg founded the online poker behemoth PokerStarsin 2001 in Costa Rica, but later moved it to Isle of Man. It was not always the giant it is now, sitting behind the likes of PartyPoker and even the old Paradise Poker back before the poker boom took hold. One of the worst moments in online poker history – the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 in the United States – actually helped PokerStars achieve its current dominant position. While many of its competitors exited the US market, PokerStars remained, scooping up loads of American customers looking for a new online home. Things changed for Scheinberg in June when PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, by way of their parent company, were purchased by Amaya Gaming for a healthy $4.9 billion. The deal was officially closed on August 1. While he won't be travelling to the United States any time soon, it seems that his new found riches and free time have loosened Scheinberg up a bit; he now has opportunity to do some more of the things he wants. Which brings us to the UKIPT Isle of Man High Roller Event. Seeing Scheinberg in public almost feels like seeing Big Foot. We wanted to believe he really existed, we had heard unconfirmed reports of a blurry figure every now and then, but we never had proof. But there Scheinberg was, one of 15 players in a tournament which, while not particularly high-profile, was still one that people followed. Scheinberg's appearance was almost certainly not a coincidence. PokerStars is based in the Isle of Man, so not only is that probably his home, but because PokerStars also operates the UKIPT, there were a lot of PokerStars employees in attendance. It was as if Scheinberg was saying, "I may not own this company any more, but I'm still here. Let's have some fun." Normally, PokerStars employees are not allowed to play on the tour, but that rule was lifted for this stop. After Scheinberg's victory, at least a couple dozen friends, players, and PokerStars employees gathered around him for the traditional "group winner's" photo, a great shot of a bunch of people who look truly thrilled to be celebrating with their former boss. Brad Willis did an excellent job painting the picture (shown here) on the PokerStars Blog, writing, "All along, Scheinberg let others have the limelight, and even when it was time for him to step up and collect his trophy, he let himself be surrounded – engulfed, even – by the people he trusted enough to let them be a part of PokerStars. Yes, he is in the picture, but true to his way,it's the crowd around him that gets the glory." Lee Jones, PokerStars' Head of Poker Communications, who placed 14th in the tour stop's Main Event, Tweeted about Scheinberg's victory, calling it a "most epic story." He may have been overstating things just a tad, but it was certainly a cool moment and it was fun to see one of the pioneers of the industry have a moment of celebration. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  13. 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). --- Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter. --- "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." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  14. [caption width="640"] Ten players worth considering as the Poker Hall of Fame public nomination process opens[/caption] The public nomination process for the Poker Hall of Fame to determine the top ten candidates for official voting for the Class of 2016 opened earlier this month. The nomination period allows poker fans around the world to submit the names of players they think should be considered for inclusion in the Poker Hall of Fame. The Criteria: A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination Played for high stakes Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers Stood the test of time Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results. And while everybody has an opinion on who should or shouldn’t get in, PocketFives has created a guide for you of 10 names you should consider nominating. Keep in mind, many thought Phil Ivey would be a shoo-in this year, but turns out he's not quite eligible yet. With that in mind, we’ve broken the names into three groups: Obvious Choices, Dark Horses and Long Shots. Obvious ChoicesChris Moneymaker Rule of thumb – if an era is named after someone, then that person is probably a Hall of Famer. Chris Moneymaker was the right guy, at the right place, bluffing at the right time when he won the WSOP Main Event in 2003. ESPN audiences drank up a 20-something accountant from Tennessee facing down Sammy Farha for $2.5 million dollars. Moneymaker not only won, but somehow graciously handled the media firestorm of attention that no one could be prepared for. He was the face of the poker boom that followed and soon every line cook in the country was hosting a home game. Moneymaker wasn’t a flash in the pan, since his historic win he’s earned $1.1 million in tournaments and solidified himself as one of the top ambassadors of the game, greeting every critic with a smile. But his influence goes beyond a player and undoubtedly “contributed to the overall growth and success of the game.” Carlos Mortensen Carlos Mortensen first rose to poker fame after winning the 2001 WSOP Main Event but he is also the all-time leading money winner in World Poker Tour history thanks largely to his three WPT titles. His lifetime earnings are just north of $11.8 million. Mortensen has two bracelets in 35 WSOP cashes with another 20 cashes and seven WPT final tables. Should he get into the Hall of Fame, he would undoubtedly be the most WPT-centric player in the Hall of Fame to date, Mike Sexton withstanding (almost all tournament success in WSOP events). But with his banner hung in the Amazon Room the stewards of the HOF can breathe easy. Bruno Fitoussi One can’t discuss French poker without mentioning Bruno Fitoussi’s name. He was one-part Mike Sexton, one-part Mori Eskandani and one-part Chris Moneymaker when poker boomed on TV in France. He was one of the operators of The Aviation Club – one of Europe’s premier poker rooms – and the lack of European inductees is one of the PHOF’s most warranted criticisms. As a player he’s won $2.8 million around the world while logging 20 WSOP cashes. He finished runner-up in the 2007 $50,000 HORSE Championship for $1.2 million and finished 15th in the 2003 Main Event. Ted Forrest The six-time bracelet winner’s name keeps coming up in this conversation. He’s one of five players to win three bracelets in a year, nine of his 34 WSOP cashes were in events with a $5,000 buy-in or greater. Forrest doesn’t have the flash that screams Hall of Famer but he’s got a track record in all the games, was a part of “The Corporation”, the group of top level pros that took on billionaire banker Andy Beal, and as far as standing the test of time is concerned – he’s got 21 years between his first and most recent bracelet. David Chiu David Chiu just passed the $8 million in career earnings mark and he has five WSOP bracelets, 25 final tables and 73 cashes in the WSOP alone and finds himself in rarified air among the five-bracelet club, he’s one of three or four players that could arguably keep adding to his total. His game hasn’t aged like many in his age bracket – he’s cashed in six $10,000 or greater events since 2014, including the 2015 $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha event. Dark HorsesChris Bjorin Chris Bjorin’s grandfatherly smile and non-threatening demeanour masks that he’s won $5 million, two bracelets and a European Poker Tour title and it took Martin Jacobson winning $10 million in the 2014 WSOP Main Event to top him on Sweden’s all-time money list. Huck Seed If there was a Hall of Fame of Not Giving a Sh*t, Huck Seed would be there. There’s certain politicking and campaigning many nominees endure to gain entry, but that’s something this former Main Event Champ and four-time bracelet winner just won’t do. Todd Brunson Todd Brunson isn’t discussed much in after-hours PHOF talk but has won $4.2 million and has 50 WSOP cashes. He has spent most of his career focused on high stakes cash games. The largest strike against him is that he has just one bracelet and while nowhere in the requirements does it say “multi-bracelet winner”, it’s implied. Mike Matusow Mike Matusow’s life shows highs and lows of the life of a professional gambler better than any Hollywood flick ever could. He’s a true blue-collar player that’s won and lost at least $8.6 million, has four bracelets, spent time in jail and battled life-threatening medical problems all while being a big star in the TV boom era. The Long ShotIsai Scheinberg International poker politics are a curious thing, and while the entity that owns the PHOF prefers their own version of worldwide poker history, most everyone else recognizes Isai Scheinberg as the single most influential businessman in poker the world will probably ever see. Scheinberg was the former CEO of PokerStars and directed the company during its profitable and expansive rise to the top of the online poker world. The private ownership allowed Scheinberg and his management team room to innovate and become the overwhelming leaders in the industry. Photos courtesy of World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour.
  15. [caption width="640"] Scott Tom plead not guilty to the Black Friday charges in a Manhattan court room on Friday.[/caption] Almost six years after Black Friday, Absolute Poker founder Scott Tom has returned to the United States to face charges that he violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and was engaged in bank fraud and money laundering. Tom, now 37, voluntary arrived back in the United States on Thursday and after a brief hearing where he plead not guilty to the charges, was released on a $500,000 bond. Tom, along with 11 others, was indicted on April 15, 2011 as part of what became known as ‘Black Friday’ in the online poker industry. Tom’s lawyer, James Henderson, told Reuters that the case will ultimately be concluded via plea deal. "There's going to be a resolution in this case quickly," Henderson said. Another Absolute Poker employee and Tom’s step brother, Brent Beckley, served 14 months after pleading guilty to the bank and wire fraud charges. Rumors indicate Beckley may again be working in the offshore gaming world after joining BetOnline.com in a management capacity. Should Tom, who had been rumored to be living in Antigua since just after Black Friday, come to an agreement with prosecutors, he will be the 10th person charged on April 15, 2011 to resolve the charges. The only person named in the indictments that day that has yet to actually face the charges in some way is PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg. Absolute Poker, which was the parent company of scandal-ridden UltimateBet, was the third largest online poker room in the world at the time of the shutdown. While PokerStars made U.S. customers whole almost immediately and then purchased Full Tilt Poker and supplied those customers with their funds, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet have never returned any funds to players who had a balance on Black Friday. In November, Paul Tate, the Director of Payments for PokerStars, also returned to the U.S. and plead guilty. After paying a small six-figure fine, he was released without having to serve jail time.
  16. The Triton Million: A Helping Hand for Charity will be a record setter when action kicks off Thursday. The £1,050,000 buy-in tournament will make it the biggest buy-in in poker history, and the event comes with a unique format. It's a freezeout where recreational/businessmen players can enter via invite only. Those invited can then issue one invite of their own to a guest/professional players. As of Wednesday morning, 26 pairings had been named, but it's the 'what could have beens' that are equally as intriguing. Let's take a look at a handful of recreational-professional pairings that we would've liked to have seen compete in the Triton Million. Chamath Palihapitiya and Phil Hellmuth It's no secret that Chamath Palihapitiya and Phil Hellmuth have a close relationship. We've seen it on Hellmuth's social media accounts all too often. A former Facebook executive and now a successful investor, Palihapitiya fits the mold of the perfect recreational poker player to enter this field. He's played poker in the past, including the first-ever World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop that cost $1,000,000 to enter, and has three WSOP cashes and two World Poker Tour cashes. Being good friends with Hellmuth makes Hellmuth the perfect invitee for Palihapitiya, and getting the polarizing 15-time gold bracelet winner in the field would be very entertaining. Isai Scheinberg and Daniel Negreanu Now this, this is a pairing, and we'll call it 'getting the band back together.' The founder of PokerStars, Isai Scheinberg, paired with the company's former golden boy, Daniel Negreanu. It would be absolutely tremendous to see, and we all know both parties have enough money to afford the gigantic £1,050,000 buy-in. We all know how skillful and experienced of a poker player Negreanu is, but Scheinberg has conquered the felt before, too. He won the UKIPT Isle of Man High Roller in the same year that Negreanu finished second in the 2014 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop. Tiger Woods and Antonio Esfandiari How can we not want to have Antonio Esfandiari, 'the magician,' the first-ever $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop winner, in the field? In order to make this happen, he needs a recreational player to invite him. Who bigger and better than Tiger Woods? You may be asking yourself, does Woods play poker and what's the connection here? Yes, Woods plays poker. He might not be entering the priciest tournaments in the world as some of these other recreational players are, but he’s the host of Tiger's Poker Night as part of Tiger Jam, held in partnership with the World Poker Tour each year, so he knows the game. On more than one occasion, Esfandiari has been one of the celebrity professionals to attend Tiger's Poker Night. Dan Fleyshman and Phil Ivey How do we get Phil Ivey in this field? We pair him with Dan Fleyshman, that’s how. Fleyshman doesn’t dabble in poker as he once did, but he’s still around the game enough that he could perform well in this tournament. One of his claims to fame is being the youngest founder of a publicly traded company and he's an active businessman and investor. Ivey is Ivey. His star power alone is worthy of entry into a £1,050,000 buy-in tournament, and we all know he has the chops to perform on the felt. He knows Fleyshman, so the pairing works, and we’d absolutely love to see Ivey in the field. David Einhorn and Erik Seidel Investor and hedge fund manager David Einhorn may not be a professional poker player, but he’s as avid a recreational player as they come. He's been known to compete in the highest buy-in poker tournaments the world has to offer, and he took third place for $4,352,000 in the first-ever $1,000,000 buy-in poker tournament the world has ever seen. With Einhorn being a New York guy, a perfect pairing would be Erik Seidel. Seidel is currently third on poker’s all-time money list with more than $35,000,000 in winnings, he’s an eight-time WSOP gold bracelet winner, and also a WPT champion. Although he’s of an older generation of players, Seidel continues to be a crusher on the high-stakes poker scene and has plenty of experience against the fellow professional players in the field. Haralabos Voulgaris and Daniel Colman Since Haralabos Voulgaris' new gig with the Dallas Mavericks, he hasn't been around the poker scene much. Not that the former professional sports bettor was grinding every tournament under the sun before he became the NBA team's Director of Quantitative Research and Development, but Voulgaris was known to get down in the high-stakes arena. Having played a couple million-dollar buy-ins before, this event is right in his wheelhouse. Voulgaris and Daniel Colman have a relationship that saw Voulgaris on Colman’s rail when Colman won the 2014 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop. It would also be fitting to see Colman return to poker’s public stage in the largest buy-in event in the game’s history. Evan Mathis and Alex Foxen Maybe we’re reaching here, maybe we’re not, but these are dream scenarios so let’s keep rolling with it. Evan Mathis spent 12 years in the NFL and was one of the league’s top offensive lineman. He won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos and reached the Pro Bowl on two occasions. According to Spotrac, Mathis has estimated career earnings from football at more than $21,000,000. He recently grabbed headlines when he sold a 1952 Topps rookie card of Mickey Mantle for nearly $3 million. That’s enough to pay for his entry, his guest’s entry, and have plenty left over. Sticking with the football tie-in, Mathis’ guest could be Alex Foxen, a former football player for Boston College. These two would be quite the presence on and off the felt and both have the skills to compete. Richard Seymour and Ryan Riess Another fantasy Triton Million pairing is Richard Seymour and Ryan Riess. This would give us who is arguably poker’s strongest mainstream connection, Seymour, in the field and the three-time Super Bowl winner has plenty of experience on the felt. He just came off a 131st-place finish in the WSOP Main Event. A huge sports enthusiast and a player friendly with Seymour is Ryan Riess, winner of the 2013 WSOP Main Event and also a WPT champion. Steve Aoki and Brian Rast The last dream pairing we'll look at involves superstar DJ Steve Aoki and top poker player Brian Rast. The two know each other, so the connection works for the invite, and Aoki has been known to play a bit of poker in his spare time. With Aoki being billed as one of the richest DJs in the world, the cake-tossing music maker should have enough cash to enter. If not, Rast can certainly front or find the money to get Aoki in so that he can play in the event. How To Watch the Triton Million Fans from around the world can watch the Triton Million for free on PokerGO. Ali Nejad will call the action, with professional poker player Nick Schulman alongside to provide expert commentary. Action starts Thursday, August 1, at 8 am ET and PokerGO will have coverage for the entirety of the event. If you don't already have a subscription to PokerGO, sign up today using the promo code "POCKET5S" for $10 off the PokerGO annual plan.
  17. Nearly nine years after the United States federal government charged him with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling, PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg has surrendered to U.S. authorities. According to a Forbes.com article, Scheinberg travelled from Switzerland to New York City on Friday, January 17 and was met by federal agents who took him into custody. According to the article, this was the culmination of negotiations between Scheinberg, 73, and the U.S. government which began when an extradition order was sought after Scheinberg travelled to Switzerland months earlier. Scheinberg founded PokerStars in 2001. Following the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, PokerStars continued to accept American customers and soared to become the largest online poker site in the world. On April 15, 2011 the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York seized the PokerStars.com domain name and charged Scheinberg and other executives from Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. PokerStars eventually re-acquired the domain name and continued to operate outside of the United States. In 2012, the company paid the U.S. government $731 million to settle a civil lawsuit the government had brought against the company. As part of that settlement, PokerStars acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker and provided the government with $184 million to go towards making American Full Tilt players whole following the company's collapse in the wake of Black Friday. Scheinberg sold the company to a group lead by David Baazov in 2014 for $4.9 billion. According to Forbes, federal prosecutor Olga Zverovich told a hearing on Wednesday that Scheinberg had been negotiating with the government for some time. “We have an agreement in principle on the basic terms,” Zverovich said. Scheinberg is the last of those charged on Black Friday to face a judge in the United States. Scheinberg plead not guilty and was released on a $1 million bail. He also surrendered his passports.
  18. Hosted by Lance Bradley and Donnie Peters, The Fives Poker Podcast runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and debate the hottest topics in poker. On an all-new episode of The FIVES Poker Podcast, Lance and Donnie discuss all of the latest news from the world of poker including the record-breaking PokerStars 14th Anniversary Sunday Million event and the continued worldwide surge of online poker. Plus, PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg entered a guilty plea this week in connection with the 10-year old charges stemming from Black Friday. Make sure to ownload and subscribe to The FIVES wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts and never miss an episode. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts * Google Podcasts * Stitcher
  19. Updated March 26, 10:30 AM ET Nearly nine years after the United States Government Department of Justice charged the owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker with operating illegal gambling businesses, in what became known in the poker world as Black Friday, the final defendant has pleaded guilty. Isai Scheinberg, the 73-year-old founder of PokerStars, plead guilty on Wednesday to one count of operating an illegal gambling business. He now faces a maximum of five years in prison. [ptable zone="888poker"][ptable zone="Party Poker NJ"][ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"] “Ten years ago, this Office charged 11 defendants who operated, or provided fraudulent payment processing services to, three of the largest online poker companies then operating in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker – with operating illegal gambling businesses and other crimes. As Isai Scheinberg’s guilty plea today shows, the passage of time will not undermine this Office’s commitment to holding accountable individuals who violate U.S. law,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. Scheinberg will be sentenced at a later date. "Mr. Scheinberg is pleased to put this matter behind him and that all charges other than violating the 1971 Gambling Act have been dropped. Notably, all PokerStars players were paid back immediately and Mr. Scheinberg played an important role in ensuring that all of the players from other sites were repaid as well," read a statement released by a representative of Scheinberg. In January, Scheinberg flew from Switzerland to New York City after negotiating with the U.S. government over the previous three months. During his first court appearance, federal prosecutor Olga Zverovich told a hearing that Scheinberg had been negotiating with the government and had an "agreement in principle" at the time. Scheinberg founded PokerStars in 2001 and grew the company into the largest online poker operator in the world. In the aftermath of Black Friday, the company continued to operate outside of the United States and eventually settled a civil lawsuit with the U.S. government by paying a $731 million fine. Scheinberg sold the company to a group lead by David Baazov in 2014 for $4.9 billion. The other 10 charged on Black Friday, Ray Bitar, Scott Tom, Brent Beckley, Nelson Burtnick, Paul Tate, Ryan Lang, Bradley Franzen, Ira Rubin, Chad Elie, and John Campos had all previously dealt with their charges.
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