Henry Orenstein is most known as a toy maker and creator of the Transformers, but in poker circles he's known as an innovator who invented the hole card cameras, which revolutionized televised poker. Henry Orenstein was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2008 because of his invention, which is one of 100 patents he held at the time of his death at age 98.
More than meets the eye. Henry Orenstein cheated death more times than he could count. As a young Jewish man in Poland he was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp during WWII. He survived the camp, but his parents were not spared. After the war, Orenstein emigrated to America where he thrived as a toy inventor.
Orenstein founded Topper Toys, which thrived with a Suzy Cute doll and Johnny Lightning cars. Orenstein later convinced Hasbro suits to create a new line of versatile toy which was inevitable called Transformers. The Transformers toys were so popular that they inspired a cartoon series, which in turn, helped them sell more toys.
Transformers was a popular brand that branched out into big-budget Hollywood films. None of that would have been possible without Orenstein's keen eye and ability to spot a future trend before anyone else.
As an avid poker player, Orenstein wondered how he could make poker suitable for a TV audience. The earliest poker coverage on TV consisted of snippets from the World Series of Poker, but the betting action and drama was not as enticing until the hand ended and you saw what cards everyone held. That's how he developed the lipstick camera or hole card camera.
The small camera looked like a lipstick container, but it was small enough to not be intrusive at a poker table. Players flashed their cards in front of these tiny cameras, which allowed viewers at home to follow the action.
Alfred Hitchcock loved to tease the audience and create tension by showing them something that the actors on screen were not aware of. The best example is Psycho and seeing a shot of the knife in the murderer's hand while the unsuspecting and oblivious Janet Leigh takes a shower.
Well Orenstein helped create tension and facilitate drama for a TV audience thanks to his hole card cameras. The innovation helped usher in the glorious poker boom at the turn of the century, which blew up thanks to online poker and a batch of TV shows like the WSOP on ESPN, WPT on the Travel Channel, and Celebrity Poker on Bravo.
Orenstein was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2008 for his innovation and achievements. Heck, I would have had a job in the first place and never would've moved to Vegas if it weren't for Orenstein's genius mind.
At the time of his death, Orenstein was 98-years old. He had nearly 100 patents to his name including numerous toys. We're here to celebrate his poker achievements. RIP Henry Orenstein. May you be passing time in the afterlife busting donks!