It was paradoxical when Isai Scheinberg, the billionaire founder of PokerStars won the just concluded PokerStars UKIPT High Roller event at Isle of Man taking £13,850 to his mansion. The ‘Rich become richer’ justified to the core! And just another case when the organiser had walked off with the top prize in his kitty. Once an IBM employee, Scheinberg sold his 13 year old venture to Amaya Gaming in June this year adding $4.9 billion to his fortunes. He still holds the CEO position at PokerStars but has tried his hands on live poker games in recent times and this win unveils his passion for poker.
With this win, Scheinberg has reinstated an old question in poker world – Should an organizing member or the owner himself play in the poker tournaments? This tantalizing question had been up for discussion since decades in live as well as the online poker world. Many experts believe that it is fair enough if someone from the organizing side joins the table as everyone has the right to contest in this game of skill and win as per their ability. On the contrary, many quibble over the chances of partiality towards that fellow. They condemn this decision blaming the dealer on the poker table or the tournament director favoring the person who might be a part of tournament organizers or holds a rank in the company hierarchy.
One more notable instance relating to the same scenario surfaced up from the Indian poker industry a couple of weeks ago wherein a casino owner won the top prize of the poker tournament organised at his facility. Deltin Jaqk, an offshore casino in Goa hosted a poker tournament in September and the organizer himself won the opening event’s top prize money. This is not an isolated happening wherein the owner or one of organizing members have participated and won in poker tournaments in India. This has been pursued by many of the Indian poker league owners who have organised and won online satellites to their own events. With all due respect to them, it can be argued that they are participating in the tourney as a player to exhibit their poker skill but the general word on the ground suggests that the league or casino owners play to mostly cover up the minimum guaranteed participations and winning is just a bonus.
A variety of opinions float in the Indian poker community regarding the policy about an owner or organizer playing in the tournament. As believed, the possibilities of partiality is on higher side in live games compared to the online games where the software doesn’t recognise any specific person or seat as they do in live table games. While players often accuse online poker sites in India for having their own players play cash games as well as tournaments, most forget the concept of PokerStars Pros/Full Tilt Ambassadors playing their tournaments. Not to detour from the argument though, in the online world the bias by a programmed software seems like a remote possibility but in the real world with real people and real emotions, it can be a reality. While no players have complained about this but it is something that is always spoken of, especially when an organiser goes on to win his own tournament. After all, a TD or a Dealer who has been appointed by the poker room owner or the tournament organiser himself is more likely to be biased rather than a software without any pressures.
It is a debate which has long been left off and sees some fire each time an organiser goes on to win their event. While the poker community at large surely irks at this but no one wishes to come out in the open with it. Should there be some set rules/guidelines about who cannot participate in an event? Something on the lines of contests that companies do prohibiting their employees and relatives from participating? You may argue that a contest with some random answers cannot be compared to a poker tournament which can only be won through sheer poker skill and perseverance. But then again, is it still fair that someone who organises and invites others to buy-in to his tournament goes to win and take home all the money? Some ‘back to the drawing board’ kind of thinking required, perhaps!