The Canadian broadsheet “The Globe and Mail” has put together a piece on the founder of Pokerstars, Isai Scheinberg. It’s not particularly in-depth, but the the fact that they’ve managed to find out much at all, shows the level of mainstream media interest in the current Poker case.
The Globe and Mail compares the Scheinberg family to the Bronfmans, a Montreal clan (Scheinberg is variously described as Canadian or Israeli-Canadian) who famously turned U.S. Prohibition laws into a billion-dollar business.
Some of the interesting facts included were that Isai placed 25th at a Texas Hold’em tournament at the 1996 World Series of Poker, and that he was involved with IBM, where he helped develop the Unicode standard. (Probably a great background, for the network development side of Poker, I’d say.)
The article notes that he founded Rational Entertainment in 2001, which is effectively the company that’s responsible for the network & software development for Pokerstars.
One thing that tends not to be mentioned in a lot of these stories is how the online poker companies should be held up as marketing icons, in the way that they’ve built solid, global brands inside a decade (some even shorter) and that their ability to manage the consumer life-cycle is virtually unsurpassed. You don’t build billion dollar businesses by sitting on your ass, that’s for sure.
Their EPT purchase was a great move in terms of shoring up the offline poker branding market, with high-end TV production values (thanks to John Duthie), and a structure which means that they can get events into profit, even before a frame is shot. (Just take a look at the number of online EPT event qualifiers that Pokerstars run, all at a low buy-in, but their liquidity ensures biiiiig numbers.)
The media and the US legal system may be out to get a big piece of Mr. Scheinberg and his family, but I’d give plenty of kudos to a someone who’s harnessed the power of popular culture, networks, branding and good old-fashioned chutzpah.
Full Globe and Mail piece here.