Inaugural Jewish Poker Championships ready to roll this coming Christmas

TAGs: andrew rothbart, jewish poker championships, Las Vegas, Poker News

jewish poker championshipsIn recent years, poker has gained in popularity by leaps and bounds, so much so that every corner of the world probably knows how to play the game in some respects. We’re bringing this up because poker’s surge in popularity has also given birth to a multitude of live tournaments from all over the world.

One, in particular, will be held on December 24-25 – yep, Christmas Eve and Christmas day – at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, which incidentally is owned by another Jew, Sheldon Adelson. The tournament is called the Jewish Poker Championships and before you start raising your eyebrows on why it’s called as such, managed to talk to the tournament’s co-creator, Andrew Rothbart, to shed more light on the birth of the Jewish Poker Championships and the future plans for it.

As a background, the 36-year old Rothbart and 31-year old Ilya Sheyn were the brains behind the tournament. The two Jewish poker playing friends thought of the idea to host a lie poker tournament on Christmas in large part because at this time of the year, there’s not much for Jewish people to do other than watch everybody else celebrate the holidays. Traditionally during the Christmas holidays, there is nothing for people of Jewish faith but to eat Chinese food and rent movies,” Rothbart said. “Our #1 goal is to bring players from around the world to network and bond through the game of poker.”

Knowing that some of the game’s more successful players share in Rothbart and Sheyn’s Jewish faith, hosting a Jewish-themed tournament could be something that has tremendous potential, especially in a place like Las Vegas where a lot of these players are based. The goal for the first year, understandably so, is pretty modest. Rothbart isn’t shooting for the stars, but does hope to attract about 300 Jewish poker players from around the world to come and play in the tournament. According to Robbie Strazynski of, the man who first shared news about the Jewish Poker Championships to us, the tournament has already generated interest from various parts of the world, including the US, the UK, South Africa, and, yes, even Israel.

Despite being titled as a seemingly exclusive tournament reserved only for Jewish players, Rothbart was quick to clarify that it’s not the case. The tournament, according to the co-founder, is open to anyone who knows how to play poker and has the time to play it on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. “Our tournament is open to players of all religious faiths,” Rothbart said. Where the tournament distinguishes itself, and why it’s named as the Jewish Poker Championships, is because the entire environment of the event will be Jewish-themed to distinguish it from other tournaments.

What exactly does that mean?

“We have a Rabbi breaking a glass to start the tournament (a Jewish wedding tradition to bring good luck); we will pass out Jewish chocolates; [we will] offer Jewish alcoholic beverages and other Jewish paraphernalia.”

“This tournament will not just be a game but also an experience.”

As far as the buy-in for the tournament is concerned, Rothbart and Sheyn are keeping it affordable for players, pricing it at $1,080 with no options for re-buys. Should the tournament attract a sizable crowd, the first prize money could hit anywhere between $70,000 to $80,000. Not too shabby for a two-day tournament, right?

Rothbart and Sheyn are hoping for a successful tournament, which could then pave the way for expansion. They’re not promising to go huge instantaneously, but with the success of the Jewish Poker Championships, it would enable them to add a few more tournaments to their line-up, possibly one that could potentially take place just before the WSOP to go with what Rothbart describes as an “online/live hybrid series leading to the main event in December” (pending legislation concerning online poker), and what they hope to be the annual Christmas headline tournament.

So, if you’ve got nothing to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Jewish Poker Championships offers a pretty good respite from Chinese take-out and rentals of Die Hard 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Hopefully, the inaugural tournament receives tremendous support and is successful; on our end, we’re definitely rooting for these guys.


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