Isai Scheinberg, the now-infamous billionaire PokerStars founder, won the UK and Ireland Poker Tour’s (UKIPT) Isle of Man High Roller tournament, marking a very public win for a man who, until recently, had been living a very private life. Scheinberg won the Â£2,200 High Roller event ahead of a field of just 15 players, winning Â£13,850 ($22,300) in the process.
For the former PokerStars owner, the money won’t mean very much. After all, Scheinberg was among a small group of sellers who sold PokerStars and the rest of the Rational Group to Amaya Gaming for a price tag of $4.9 billion. But the win may still have been quite meaningful for Scheinberg, as the UKIPT is organized by PokerStars, and the victory happened in front of many of his former staff members.
That helps explain why Scheinberg’s winners photo became so crowded, as just about everyone related to PokerStars that was at the tournament jumped into the frame to be a part of his victory. It also marked one of the few times that Scheinberg has been photographed publicly in recent years, something that had been a common media complaint over the years.
Isai Scheinberg and his son Mark were the founders and owners of PokerStars, guiding the company through Black Friday and its eventual sale to Amaya Gaming earlier this year. In the years since Black Friday, PokerStars had attempted to regain a foothold in the United States, both through an attempt to purchase a failing Atlantic City casino and attempts to be licensed as a software provider in Nevada and New Jersey.
Although PokerStars had settled its federal case without having to admit any fault, many regulators weren’t comfortable with allowing the company in their states. In some cases, so-called “bad actor” clauses were to blame, but other officials were simply uncomfortable working with the Scheinbergs, particularly in New Jersey.
That reluctance was understandable, as Isai Scheinberg was, and is still, under indictment by the US federal government on charges stemming from Black Friday. That meant that the removal of the Scheinbergs from the leadership at PokerStars was more or less a precondition for any return to New Jersey. Since Amaya saw such a return as critical for the future growth of PokerStars, the removal of the founders from any position in the Rational Group became a component of the company’s sale, which means that Isai and his son are no longer affiliated with PokerStars.
But those who are still with the company remember when Scheinberg was their boss, and his victory led to a very memorable moment for the PokerStars staff and others who were there to see it.
“I’ve witnessed many great poker moments,” tweeted James Hartigan, producer for PokerStars and the European Poker Tour. “Isai Scheinberg winning the #UKIPTIoM HR in front of scores of PokerStars staff ranks pretty high.”
While Scheinberg’s poker winnings will never rival the money he made from owning and then selling PokerStars, this wasn’t his first cash in a poker tournament. Scheinberg finished 25th in a $2,500 No Limit Hold’em event at the World Series of Poker back in 1996, earning himself $3,337. He also has two other cashes in his career, bringing his total live tournament earnings up to $45,638.