Poker News

As pointed out by my colleague Dan Katz a couple of weeks ago, the Poker Hall of Fame has opened up the nomination process for their 2016 ceremonies. Over the next couple of months, fans will be able to nominate one person that they feel is worthy of induction into the hallowed (yet still-unbuilt) halls of poker’s Pantheon. Then, come the World Series of Poker Championship Event’s “October Nine” final table (moved up to not conflict with the 2016 U. S. Presidential election), at least one person, and probably two, will be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

The fans have the easy part. Putting up players to make up a nominees list is a simple endeavor, considering that there is such a great history behind the game of poker. The Poker Hall of Fame Selection Committee – made up of the living members of the Poker Hall of Fame and a similar number of media members and poker/gaming historians – is the one that has the tough job, however. They will have to take the list of ten nominees that come from the fan voting and decide who is worthy of induction.

While there is a great deal of confusion over how this process is done, past years give us an idea of the process. The members of the Selection Committee have ten votes to disperse of in a manner that they choose. They can allocate their ten votes all to one player, split them up between two or three nominees or (possibly) even give a vote each to each nominee (I have also heard that the Selection Committee is limited to three choices, so the latter may be inaccurate). A nominee becomes an inductee if they receive more than 50% of the vote from the members and usually it is the top two vote-getters ONLY who are inducted.

There are several areas where the process for the Poker Hall of Fame could be improved. The lack of transparency of voting is annoying as it is something that the general public is included and invested in. When any major sport’s All-Star Game’s starters are announced, the number of votes they received is one of the biggest pieces of information given. Likewise, when poker fans – who are certainly not as numerous as football, basketball or even baseball – take the time to make their voice known, they might like to see how the final votes turned out. There’s also the case that there needs to be a PHYSICAL Poker Hall of Fame, but I digress.

With these issues stated (and some left unsaid), year after year it is tough, and continues to get tougher, for the voters on the Selection Committee for the Poker Hall of Fame to come to a decision. Because they do limit the number of people inducted each year, that means that there is a backlog that has been building up of qualified potential candidates. This is particularly noticeable in one huge area – the lack of anyone from outside the United States being inducted.

First off, let’s get one of the slots for the 2016 Poker Hall of Fame out of the way. There would be little argument – I say little because he has built up a pretty damn good track record, recent results notwithstanding – that Phil Ivey is going to get inducted into the Hall. After turning 40 in February, Ivey is now eligible and his 10 bracelets, more than $23 million in career tournament poker earnings and continued play at the highest stakes around the world make him a no-brainer first ballot inductee. Although he hasn’t cashed in a tournament since January of this year (and previous to that hadn’t cashed since his 2015 Aussie Million $250,000 Challenge victory), to leave out Ivey – especially since Daniel Negreanu was inducted first ballot last year – would be a particularly strange occurrence.

As to the second person…

There is no doubt that this year there should be a foreign inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame. For far too long international players and industry professionals – and in particular those hailing from Scandinavia, Europe and South and Central America – have been getting shafted by the entirely U. S.-centric voting procedures. The base question is, as stated before, the backlog that there is and who should get the selection.

Take a look at this list of names:

Terry Rogers
Liam Flood
Thor Hansen
Marcel Luske
Humberto Brenes
Fabrice Soulier
Jeff Lisandro
Mel Judah
John Duthie
Barny Boatman
Donnacha O’Dea
Padraig Parkinson
Max Pescatori
David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott
Chris Bjorin
Carlos Mortensen

Each and every one of these gentlemen have the credentials to be part of the Poker Hall of Fame. For some reason, however, they have been passed over, year after year, until a backlog such as this has built up. It is time that at least one of these names above came off the list and is inducted into the Hall.

But which one? My personal choice goes to Rogers. Although he was more of a bookmaker than a card player, Rogers introduced the European continent and, in particular, the United Kingdom to the delights of Texas Hold’em. Rogers created the Irish Poker Open, the second longest running Texas Hold’em tournament in the world (behind only the World Series of Poker Championship Event) and served as its promoter and director until his death in 1999. He then passed the baton to Flood, who also should be preserved in the annals of poker for his continuation of the event until his death in 2014.

If it isn’t to be Rogers (hey, people tend to look more at players than they do those in the background), then there’s still a plethora of choices. I would rank the Top Five of the player picks in no particular order:

David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott
Carlos Mortensen
Thor Hansen
Fabrice Soulier
John Duthie

Ulliott was one of the most recognizable faces ever in the poker word, someone who built his career on his uncanny card skills and his roguish but debonair appearance. His death sparked a call for him to be put in last year, but that was more of an emotional vote than a logical one. His credentials scream for induction into the Hall, however. Mortensen, Hansen and Soulier were the driving forces in bringing poker and respectability for the game to their countries (Spain, Norway and France, respectively) and Duthie created the European Poker Tour, along with being a strong player in his own right.

At the end of voting this year, there would be a change announced for 2017. There will still be two people put into the Hall of Fame, but there would be a third person added. There would be a “Veterans’ Committee” who would consider players or insiders who contributed to the game prior to the “Internet Age” of poker (let’s call that 2003 or 2004, for arguments sake, and the person’s achievements WOULD NOT be limited to before that timeframe…still need a bit more time to pass before we lock in a date) and that committee would get to automatically induct one player or innovator. It is only through this manner that the backlog of players/innovators will get reduced and those that are more than qualified to be honored in the Poker Hall of Fame will be inducted…let’s be honest, it is only going to get more difficult as the years go on and memories do fade.

The Poker Hall of Fame has forgotten about an entire world of poker (no pun intended) for far too long. It is time to start rectifying this situation before some of the history of our game disappears before our eyes.

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