Isai Scheinberg Makes Lists of Finalists for 2020 Poker Hall of Fame

21 Dec

PokerStars co-founder Isai Scheinberg has made his debut as a finalist for the 2020 Poker Hall of Fame, joining nine other nominees in a list announced by the World Series of Poker.

Scheinberg’s official selection as one of this year’s ten finalists raised eyebrows among industry veterans, as it comes after several years in which the online-poker icon reputedly received enough votes during the PHOF’s annual public-nomination process, but was replaced by another person during vetting by the PHOF’s Selection Committee.

Scheinberg joins two other first-time nominees on the 2020 list, Patrik Antonius and the famed ESPN announcing team of Lon McEachern and Norman Chad. The selection of McEachern/Chad as a joint finalist also marks the first time such a two-person nominee has been considered for enshrinement.

The three newcomers are joined by seven returning finalists from previous years. Six of the seven — Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow, and Huck Seed — were also finalists in 2019, while the seventh, tournament director Matt Savage, has been a finalist in multiple earlier years.

Scheinberg’s presence as a finalist surely continues the massive controversy within the poker world about his possible enshrinement. Though hugely popular with online poker players and the international gambling industry, Scheinberg also carries baggage as being one of 11 defendants in the infamous 2011 “Black Friday” case that also saw the largest US-facing international sites forced to leave the market. 2020, however, is the first year that Scheinberg was up for consideration following the resolution of his case with US federal authorities.

However, Scheinberg isn’t the only current PHOF finalist with Black Friday connections. Ferguson, one of the primary owners of Full Tilt Poker, was named by the DOJ in a separate but related civil action seeking tens of millions of dollars in civil forfeiture, while Matusow (Full Tilt) and Forrest (UltimateBet) were also minority owners in sites forced from the US in the Black Friday crackdown.

The announcing of this year’s finalists comes after a brief two-week public-nomination window announced only after the WSOP finalized plans for its ongoing 2020 $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em World Championship. The PHOF also introduced other changes, notably changing the rules to induct only a single honoree in 2020 and future years after many years of two enshrinees per year. The PHOF has also removed finalist voting from a long-established panel of veteran poker media, instead leaving this year’s selection solely to the 31 living Poker Hall of Fame members.

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