Isai Scheinberg, one of PokerStars’ founders, won a poker tournament last weekend. The UKIPT tour made a return stop to the Isle of Man where Scheinberg and 14 other people put up £2,200 apiece for the chance to win the £13,850 first prize.
Scheinberg’s victory would’ve been a story on its own. He is only a few weeks removed from selling the company that under his direction became the world’s largest online poker site. It was he who moved the entire company to the Isle of Man and made PokerStars one of the island’s biggest employers.
But there was something else that came out of that moment.
For many years, media around the world complained that they could find no recent pictures of the PokerStars founder. Scheinberg preferred to stay in the background and let the cameras focus on the players.
But now, with the company in someone else’s hands, Scheinberg was just that: a poker player who had won a poker tournament, one who was expected to sit for a winner’s photo.
And that’s really where this story is.
Something happened a few years back. I can’t say when it started exactly, but my first memory of it was when Alex Gomes won Brazil’s first WSOP bracelet in 2008. As he took a seat for his winner photo, every Brazilian in the room rushed to be in the shot. It was an individual achievement, certainly, but for the country of Brazil, it was a milestone. They celebrated together in what would be an historic photo for Brazilian poker.
In the six years that have passed since that day, the group winner photo has become standard. The photographers on scene take a standard usual snap and then stand by for the assembly of the group shot. Countrymen, friends, crews, entourages, and hangers-on crowd in to be part of the moment. Each smile in each frame says one thing: “We were rooting for you the whole way.”
So, when Isai Scheinberg won the UKIPT High Roller last weekend, this happened.
You have to look closely to even find Scheinberg. If you look for the glint of the trophy in the light, you can find the smiling man holding it. Around him, heads poke out in every direction, straining to see the lens, wanting more than anything to be part of that moment. Some of the faces you may know. Some of them you won’t. All of them are people who owe their smiles to Scheinberg and his vision. They are players, friends, and PokerStars employees who trusted Scheinberg to lead them and PokerStars on the right path. He did not steer them wrong.
All along, Scheinberg let others have the limelight, and even when it was time for him to step up and collect his trophy, he let himself be surrounded–engulfed, even–by the people he trusted enough to let them be a part of PokerStars. Yes, he is in the picture, but true to his way, it’s the crowd around him that gets the glory.
Each of those faces represented hundreds more people around the world who wished they could’ve been there to celebrate the moment. Indeed, it was a relatively small field and a relatively small first prize, but it was a moment Scheinberg deserved.
In the the most literal way, that picture said, “We were rooting for you the whole way, Isai.”
1. Isai Scheinberg (Canada) £13,850
2. Vicente Delgado (Portugal) £9,230
3. Scott Margereson (United Kingdom) £5,950
4. Mickey Petersen (Denmark) PokerStars Team Online £3,950
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging