The Scheinberg name will forever be remembered in the history of online poker. Mark Scheinberg is the son of Isai Scheinberg, who created PokerStars, the most popular online poker site in the world. Mark was associated with the site right from the beginning. Together, the two built up a massive empire with loyal players all over the globe.
Mark was born in 1973 in Israel. He spent much of his childhood there before his parents moved him to Canada when he was 13. Once they got comfortable in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Mark attended Fanshawe College where he lasted only a year before dropping out. He spent the majority of his early-to-mid 20’s working various jobs in the hospitality industry and traveling throughout South America and Asia. When his father chose to locate the PokerStars offices in Costa Rica when the company first launched, he employed Mark to run the operation from there. At the time, Mark was just 28 years old.
While many may think there would be a clear hierarchy between father and son, an associate who spoke to the media said that is not the case. “Mark does not live in the shadow of his father. On the contrary, father and son know how to work together. They have a division of labor, and it’s a close-knit family. He is simply a good guy.”
When PokerStars.com was seized by the Department of Justice in April 2011, Mark stepped up when his father needed him most. PokerStars managed to maintain their status as a reputable company despite the charges directed at them. Despite all the difficulties, they were eventually able to get back all of the money for their players who had their accounts seized in the US. Throughout this ordeal, they continued to maintain running the high-quality poker site for the rest of the world. As a by-product, they were also able to purchase all of their competitor Full Tilt Poker’s assets.
When it came time for PokerStars to settle with the US Department of Justice, Mark Scheinberg was appointed as the Rational Group Ltd’s Chairman and CEO. A court document released in 2013 in regards to the settlement states, “Mark Scheinberg wishes to fully and finally resolve this matter”, emphasizing Mark’s lack of interest in anything related to politics, unlike his dad, who was political to the core. As per the settlement, PokerStars was ordered to pay $50 million to the DOJ, although the settlement didn’t include any admission of wrongdoing. As well, Isai could no longer have a management position with the company. As mentioned earlier, however, father and son are close, and Isai continued to involve himself in company business. This may have been problematic, as rumor has it that a potential acquisition of an Atlantic City casino fell through when the casino realized Isai was still helping make decisions.
His influence apparently waned, however. In early 2014, Mark suddenly became the most influential person in the poker industry in an annual poll of industry insiders conducted by BLUFF Magazine. His father, officially removed from the operations at PokerStars but operating behind the scenes, failed to make the top 20 for the first time since BLUFF had been running the polls.
In June 2014, the Rational Group, the parent company to PokerStars, was sold to Amaya Gaming for $4.9 billion. Mark owned 75% of Rational and was CEO at the time of the sale, which also included Full Tilt Poker. Scheinberg was required to resign once the deal had gone through, which was subject to approval from Amaya Gaming shareholders. When the sale of PokerStars was announced, Mark stated: “I am incredibly proud of the business Isai and I have built over the last 14 years, creating the world’s biggest poker company, and a leader in the iGaming space. David Baazov has a strong vision for the future of the Rational Group which will lead the company to new heights.”
The poker community was unsure how to react to the sale, with many concerned that they would change their business model by looking to increase revenues by adding rake and other games. The worry was that this would have a detrimental effect on the site’s quality in the long term.
On the other hand, with both Mark & Isai Scheinberg departing from the company it was thought that PokerStars might have more luck in securing licenses for regulated poker at a state level. New Jersey was one of the first states to regulate online poker, but they were not willing to issue a license to PokerStars if Mark or Isai were still part of the company. With the sale and the terms of purchase, there is now a chance of licenses being issued.
There has been an increase in rake since Amaya Group has taken over PokerStars, as well as the introduction of casino games to the site. Both of these changes have upset loyal PokerStars players. From December 1st through December 3rd, over 1600 players have registered on the TwoPlusTwo forums to state that they do not appreciate the direction in which the company is headed. What the result will be is unknown, but it certainly is a first in the poker world for so many players to show solidarity against a gaming or content provider.
The Amaya group sale instantly brought Mark a massive windfall, and he is now a regular on the list of the world’s richest. Forbes reports that Mark’s net worth was $4.1 billion in March 2015, making him the 405th richest person in the world, and the 10th richest Canadian.
Scheinberg remains a humble person, which was evident in an email sent to employees in which he spoke of PokerStars success and leadership in the industry occurring as a result of the talent, integrity, customer focus, and strong work ethic within the company. He stated that these values were employee driven rather than being preached from the top. He currently lives in the Isle of Man, still is unmarried but is grateful he can return to the US without facing the wrath of authorities, unlike his father. As a friend once said of him, he is “A sought after single man who is in no hurry to settle down.”