If Scott Blumstein were a professional athlete or a movie star, the fact that he just received an $8.15 million payday wouldn’t seem such a big deal. Those kinds of numbers get tossed around in the sports world all the time.
But he’s none of those things.
Instead, he’s a 25-year-old Temple University graduate from Brigantine, N.J., with a degree in accounting, who just won the 2017 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. And he’s Jewish.
He’s been laying low for the past 10 days since taking home first prize in the Texas Hold ’em event at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino, which is somewhat understandable when suddenly everybody you’ve ever known wants to be your best friend.
Though Blumstein declined a Jewish Exponent interview request, he did recently talk about his success and what he intends to do with his newfound wealth with Philadelphia Magazine.
“I definitely want to do something smart with it,” said Blumstein, who previously won $200,000 in a tournament at the Borgata in Atlantic City. “Something that is beneficial to people in society. I’m considering entering the business foray to use the money for good and grow it.”
Blumstein said he’s been studying up on poker since he was a teenager, although he didn’t play that much at Temple. But since graduation it’s been the driving force in his life; he estimates that he plays online about four hours a night.
“Poker was always part of my life. I fell in love with the game as a kid,” he told Philadelphia Magazine. “I’ve been trying to play professionally and make a living as soon as I got out of school and didn’t want to be an accountant. I didn’t want to do the one thing I was probably supposed to do.”
Blumstein is only the latest in a long list of Jewish poker players, one of whom, Jaclynn Moskow, encountered a stark moment of anti-Semitism in 2014.
Moskow told The New York Daily News in 2016 that Chris Hanson, host of Poker Night in America, made anti-Semitic comments to her (not realizing she was Jewish) during the show.
“The thing about Poker Night that makes it so great is that there are no Jews. Every other show on TV has Jews,” Moskow recalled Hanson saying, though he later denied making the remarks in a statement issued by his attorney.
She further claimed that poker writer Nolan Dalla, who was affiliated with the show, put his face in her cleavage and told her, “I usually have strong opinions about Jews and Israel, but somehow the fact that you are Jewish makes you even hotter.”
After initially staying silent, Moskow came forward to tell her story following pressure from fellow players and women.
Presumably, Blumstein won’t be faced with such issues, after winning an event that began with a field of 7,221, third-largest in history.
“I’m just in utter shock right now,” Blumstein told nj.com, following his victory in the nine-man finale, in which each participant was guaranteed $1 million. “Two weeks ago, I was just a kid who loved to play poker, and somehow here I am the champion of the main event. I’m just living a dream.”
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