Isai Scheinberg: Innovative Founder of PokerStars
Isai Scheinberg founded PokerStars with the help of his son, Mark, and through their innovative ideas and advanced software technology, the company now has over 50 million players registered on its site.
PokerStars success can definitely be credited to Scheinberg for his determination and creative ideas helped PokerStars develop into the multi-billion dollar corporation that it is today.
Isai Scheinberg was born around 1946 and he spent his childhood growing up in Lithuania, a small country in Europe. He attended and graduated from Moscow State University with a Master's Degree in Mathematics.
Before heading into the work force, Scheinberg served in the Israeli Defense Force for several years. When he got back, he was anxious to get another job and immediately started working as a programmer for IBM in Israel before getting transferred to IBM's office in Canada.
He purchased his first home in 1988 in the Richmond Hill area where he would spend his weekends learning how to play poker and developing his skills. In 1996 Scheinberg finished 25th in the World Series of Poker Texas Hold'em Event.
Development of PokerStars
Scheinberg began developing his idea for a poker site, because he saw a great opportunity to make a substantial amount of money. He asked some of his co-workers at IBM to join his team of programmers to start developing PokerStars.com.
Scheinberg found Terrance Chan through an online discussion group about poker, and his blogs were so enriched with knowledge that Scheinberg quickly added him to the team as a consultant. Scheinberg also recruited his son, Mark, and put him in charge of a new office branch in Costa Rica.
In 2000, Scheinberg founded the software development company known as PYR Software. It was located in a Toronto suburb between a Persian restaurant and a gas station. This is where Scheinberg and his team would meet to discuss and develop the PokerStars website.
One year later, with the help of Rational Enterprises, PokerStars was launched. Customers were impressed by the advanced software and extraordinary graphics that gave even the more serious players a great atmosphere to play in.
PokerStars became so successful because Scheinberg was constantly looking for more ways to improve and advance the company. For example, he originally outsourced customer service, but he noticed complaints from customers about how long it took for representatives to get back to them.
He then hired a plethora of trustworthy employees to answer questions from customers and deal with complaints on a more personal level. This was a 24 hour service that was completely free to members on the site and it made PokerStars really stand out to customers. PokerStars continued to succeed and grow in popularity because of changes made just like this one.
It was in 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in the United States, making all online gambling transactions restricted. Most online gambling sites reluctantly had to close their doors to US customers.
Scheinberg argued that poker was a game of skill and it was different than other casino games that were based on luck. He used this theory to justify his actions as he continued serving US customers and even put his advertisements on American television.
Scheinberg was able to keep US customers by approaching small banks that were facing financial difficulty and promising them multi-million dollar investments as an incentive to process their customer's gambling transactions.
Life After Black Friday
On April 15th, 2011 the United States seized the domain name of PokerStars.com and all sites that still catered to US customers. This day became known as Black Friday throughout the gambling community. The police later filed criminal charges against Scheinberg on allegations of bank fraud and money laundering.
The following year, PokerStars reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice. PokerStars bought out Full Tilt Poker for $500 million dollars so that US customers could finally get back the funds owed to them.
Additional criminal charges have been put against Scheinberg for disregarding the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, but he won't be convicted of anything as long as he continues to stay outside of the United States.
Scheinberg has repeatedly been passed over for inclusion in the Poker Hall of Fame despite his contributions to the world of online gambling. Speculation shows that executives from Caesars Palace have lost money through Scheinberg's business deals in the past, and they help decide who gets inducted.
Scheinberg and his family still own 75% of PokerStars' shares. He currently resides in the Isle of Man, where the company headquarters are now located, and continues to keep his life private. Scheinberg is still heavily involved in the technological advancement of the company, but is no longer associated with managerial decisions.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: April 2015
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