Henry Orenstein, a professional poker player, entrepreneur, Holocaust survivor, and toymaker passed away last week.
Henry Orenstein: A Holocaust Survivor That Became Designer of Toys
Born on October 13, 1923, in Hrubieszów, Poland, Orenstein passed away last week on December 14, 2021, in Livingston, New Jersey, United States. Besides a toy manufacturer, Orenstein was also a Poker Hall of Famer and one of the people that helped revolutionize TV poker in the early 2000s.
As a survivor of the Holocaust, Orenstein has seen the horrors of WW2 first hand. His parents were murdered by the Gestapo in 1942 and he has been to multiple concentration camps. However, Orenstein survived and fled to America after the war in 1947. This is where he began a new life as an entrepreneur and toy inventor.
During the 1950s, Orenstein worked for the Topper Corporation that introduced some of the most popular toys at that time. Such toys included the Suzy Homemaker appliances, Zoomer Boomer trucks, and Johnny Lightning racing cars, to name a few. Overall, Orenstein had more than 100 patents and he was the person behind the world-famous Transformers toy. In fact, he is known to be the catalyst for the existence of the toy since he convinced Hasbro to introduce the famous transforming toy robots in 1984.
Orenstein Patented the Poker Cam, Helping Revolutionize TV Poker
Besides designing toys, Orenstein was the person that helped revolutionize TV poker some two decades ago. It was back in 1995 when he patented his idea about the hole card camera. The unique device is also known as “hole cam” or “pocket cam” and it is a camera that shows the face-down cards of players on a poker table. That camera feeds the image of the face-down cards to TV viewers, enabling them to see the entire picture.
Although Orenstein invented this in 1995, it wasn’t until 1999 that his invention was used. The first program that used the hole cam for TV poker tournaments was Late Night Poker on British Channel 4. After that, Poker Million, a televised European poker tournament contributed more to the popularity of the poker cam.
But 2002 and 2003 were the years when the popularity of Orenstein’s invention skyrocketed. That happened once ESPN aired the World Series of Poker. Then, in 2003, the Travel Channel broadcasted the World Poker Tour. Undoubtedly, the hole cam helped poker gain more popularity, considering that the invention helped the viewers see and understand everything that was happening on the poker table.
Orenstein was also a professional poker player. It was back in 2008 when he was included in the Poker Hall of Fame. As a professional player, Orenstein has participated in multiple poker tournaments. The highlight of his career as a poker player is undoubtedly the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud during the 27th WSOP in Las Vegas in 1996. Back then, he won first place, taking home a WSOP bracelet along with the grand $130,000 prize.