The story of Isai Scheinberg is, more or less, the story of online poker as a whole. His rise, fall, exile, and return to the U.S. more or less track the movements of online poker.
In 2001, he helped found PokerStars, running the company through the poker boom until the sudden halt of Black Friday in 2011. He sold the company in 2013, and left the U.S. along with all regulated online poker sites. As the industry returned to the U.S. with unregulated sites like ACR and an expansion of MSIGA, Scheinberg too came home. In 2020 he returned, faced a trial in New York, and was sentenced to a $30,000 fine and time served.
His nomination for the Poker Hall of Fame last year was the source of some controversy in the wake of his conviction.
Scheinberg’s detractors have suggested that PokerStars’s grey area operations after UEGIA and the Wire Act hurt online poker and the reputation of poker as a whole, the voters are most likely going to be looking at the overall arc of his achievements.
It is his role in building up online poker that qualified him for nomination. Without Scheinberg, the poker boom would have taken on a very different shape.
Besides, most poker players (and the current U.S. government) don’t think much of the U.S.’s online poker policy from the noughties.
One of his last acts as head of PokerStars was bailed out the Full Tilt player-base after Black Friday. This saved pros livelihoods and made recreational players whole. The truth is that Scheinberg has always been dedicated to growing the game.
In a recent interview with Poker.org, Scheinberg explained why he took on the risk of saving Full Tilt after Black Friday, “We felt that leaving players losing hundreds of millions of their money was devastating for the poker industry overal. PokerStars, as the leader of this industry, had to do the right thing.”
That certainly would seem to meet the requirements for the PHOF as laid out by the WSOP: “For non-players, [they must have] contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.” Nuff said.