The Scheinberg Family and Poker Stars
Isai Scheinberg and Family
Isai Scheinberg (pictured to the right) founded Poker Stars on March 11, 2001. Isai and his two brothers continue to operate the now highest grossing online poker site with an estimated $800 million annual revenues (2009). See here for more on the history of Pokerstars.com.
The Israeli family currently live and work out of the Isle of Man as multi-billionaires with 75% stake ownership in the company. The rest is said to have been given to the employees of Pokerstars. The value of the poker site was $2 billion in 2006.
A large majority of the remaining 25% is said to have gone to Lee Jones who used to be the face of pokerstars as the “Cardroom Manager”. Dan Goldman is the VP of Marketing and has been for many years and would surely own a large chunk as well. Other possible names that come up as having a percentage are Tom McEvoy (1983 WSOP Champ) and John Harkness (Investor and friend of Isai).
Isai Scheinberg founded Poker Stars while living in Richmond Hills Ontario, Canada. Pokerstars originated in the Costa Rican jurisdiction.
As did his rival, Anurag Dikshit, a Party Poker founder, Isai also came from a background in programming and computers. He originated as an IBM programmer for the US based company, and ironically is now wanted by the Department of Justice of the United States of America for what they believe to be “illegal internet gambling”. Isai, with the advice from his lawyers believe they are operating in compliance with the law, but due to fear of prosecution, will likely never set foot on American soil again. Mr. Scheinberg runs the poker site under the company name Rational Entertainment Enterprises Ltd using their own proprietary software.
Isai is not much of a poker player, only having two cashes in live noted poker events. His first cash was for a mere $3,337 at a World Series of Poker Event in 1997, 4 years before starting Poker Stars. More recently he placed 8th at the EPT Monte Carlo in 2008 for a prize of $14,491. While most every online poker player knows the brand, Poker Stars, Isai can set foot in just about any major poker event and go unnoticed.
Schienberg and family announced they were going to offer an IPO in 2006. This did not happen and was probably one of the smartest moves by Mr. Schienberg. At this time in 2006 the website was set to bring the family $2,000,000,000. It grew to over four times that size in just a little over 3 years. In 2006 its peak player volume of real money players was approximately 9,900 and in the late quarter of 2009 it neared an average of 38,970. Poker Stars approximate value is now set at more than $10 billion.
The dramatic increase in size was due in fully majority of the a United States law (UIGEA) which made it illegal for banks to transfer funds to and from gambling sites. Pokerstars continues to operate in the US market with little interruption as a privately held company.
An employee of Poker Stars said the Sheinberg family are extremely friendly people and continue to work at the Isle of Man location despite their enormous accumulated wealth.