The World Poker Tour started the WPT Honors Award in 2017 with the induction of Linda Johnson. She was one of the people most instrumental in the formation and growth of the World Poker Tour, and her support of the larger poker community in general prompted the recognition.

That February 2017 ceremony brought many members of the WPT family to the ceremony to honor the First Lady of Poker.

That same year, the World Poker Tour bestowed the same honor upon Mike Sexton and Bruno Fitoussi. Sexton was another person instrumental in the creation and development of the WPT, who went on to be the original commentator for the tour, alongside Vince Van Patten, until his death in 2020. Fitoussi was a longtime poker player, largely responsible for the first WPT tour stop in Europe at the Aviation Club de France in Paris.

In 2018, two people integral in the founding of the World Poker Tour received the WPT Honors Award. Steve Lipscomb had the idea and created the product from it, while Lyle Berman believed in it enough to invest. Both received their awards and accolades in May 2018.

Then, at the end of 2019, WPT Honors Awards went to Matt Savage and Deb Giardina. The former had been the WPT Executive Tour Director since 2010 and served in numerous roles through the years as the World Poker Tour grew and prospered. Giardina had been a longtime member of the poker community, working to eradicate player abuse and helping bring the World Poker Tour and Florida poker together.

Honors Award Returns

The World Poker Tour didn’t present any honors in 2020 because…pandemic. In 2021, everything was in flux as everyone in the poker industry tried to figure out what the new normal would look like. The focus was on returning poker to pre-pandemic levels.

This year started with new ownership, the celebration of the WPT’s 20th season, the implementation of ambassadorships, and simply trying to make this the best year yet.

What better way to end the year and celebrate the World Poker Tour and the entire poker industry than to return to the WPT Honors Awards?

As poker players returned from the first break of Day 1A of the WPT World Championship Main Event at Wynn Las Vegas on December 12, WPT CEO Adam Pliska took the stage in front of the room and announced two new recipients of the award: Vince Van Patten and Isai Scheinberg.

WPT’s VVP

Vince Van Patten has been with the World Poker Tour since the first season, the entirety of the tour’s history.

He and Mike Sexton were the original commentators. Their rapport was unique in poker. Both loved poker, but Sexton was the official poker professional and Van Patten was the funny actor with the famous name who brought a different flavor to the commentary. The two may not have seemed like an ideal match, but they worked so well together that they continued doing it…until Sexton left the WPT to work more closely with partypoker. Tony Dunst then took over the role of poker pro to work with Van Patten.

Van Patten has been an important part of the success of the WPT. He’s been the most consistent voice of the tour since its start.

When Pliska announced Van Patten, the honoree gave credit to his father, Dick Van Patten, for teaching him about poker (and horse racing) at home and at a young age. He also said he was “so fortunate” to have been a part of the World Poker Tour for 20 years. “I have never been more proud of what WPT has become than here at the first-ever WPT World Championship at the Wynn. It is an incredible site.”

PokerStars’ Isai

Not many people know the deep contribution of Isai Scheinberg to the poker world. He and his son, Mark, founded PokerStars in 2001 and grew it into something the poker world hadn’t seen before. And when Chris Moneymaker won his WSOP Main Event seat on PokerStars and turned that into $2.5M victory to change life, Scheinberg helped turn that moment into the poker boom.

The father-son duo pushed the company through that historic time in poker’s history and ultimately sold PokerStars for nearly $5M in 2014.

Scheinberg was one of the poker industry executives indicted by the United States Department of Justice in the Black Friday online poker crackdown. He stayed abroad for years (not unusual, since he had no particular ties in the US), avoiding arrest in America but making sure that PokerStars paid its players and took care of Full Tilt Poker players, eventually expanding that support to victims of UltimateBet and Absolute Poker.

In 2019, the US DOJ asked Switzerland authorities to arrest Scheinberg, as he and his wife were on vacation there. They extradited him to America in early 2020, where he pled not guilty and paid the $1M bond to stay out of prison temporarily. His eventual guilty plea in New York warranted a “time served” sentence and a fine.

While some interpretations of Scheinberg’s actions have kept him out of the broader WSOP-owned Poker Hall of Fame, the WPT decided to honor him for his contributions to the poker industry, for his integral involvement in making poker what it is today.

 

Jennifer Newell

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Jennifer Newell

Author
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. She has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.