Isai Scheinberg

Celebrated founder of PokerStars

Isai Scheinberg, born in 1947, is the Israeli-Canadian founder of the PokerStars online poker site. Scheinberg grew up in Lithuania, earned a math master’s degree at Moscow State University, and went to Israel. There, he fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and started to work at IBM, eventually moving to its offices in Toronto.

In 2000, Scheinberg started PYR Software in Toronto to develop software for online poker companies. Finally, he ended up in starting his own company, PokerStars, in 2001 together with his son Mark Scheinberg. The Scheinbergs’ sold Pokerstars to Amaya Gaming in 2014 for $4.9 billion.

In 2011, Scheinberg was indicted on five criminal charges related to Pokerstars. Among others the U.S. prosecutors charged him and some of his US competitors with money-laundering, bank fraud, and the violation gambling regulations. Consequently, Scheinberg left North America to stay on Isle of Man and in Europe.

In 2019, U.S. prosecutors launched extradition proceedings during a visit Scheinberg made to Switzerland. Scheinberg initially contested the extradition effort, but later decided to voluntarily travel to the U.S. to face the charges.

On February 21, 2020, he appeared in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The mood there was was “strangely cordial,” Matthew Russell Lee of InnerCityPress reported. His appearance before New York Courts is the endgame of a high-stakes corporate and legal drama involving billions of dollars, Forbes noted in an article worthwile reading.

Scheinberg was released on bail of $1 million and has surrendered his passports. In the court hearing U.S. prosecutor Olga Zverovich said the government and Scheinberg had been negotiating a deal and were far along in those negotiations.


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