This afternoon, Caesars Entertainment and World Series of Poker officials announced the eleven people who are the nominees for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. The 2023 class is split almost equally between players who have had a long history on the felt versus those who have contributed from off the velvet baize. It is these non-playing contributors that will be presenting a problem in both handicapping the nominations this year and forecasting what the voters will do.

An Outstanding List of Nominees…

The 2023 Nominations List was compiled through the votes of the fans. Through the WSOP website, the general public could select one person that they believed was worthy of being nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame. After the nomination period closed and the votes were tabulated, these people were presented for consideration for the 2023 Poker Hall of Fame (in alphabetical order).

Josh Arieh
Jeremy Ausmus
Ted Forrest
Kathy Liebert
Mike Matusow
Lon McEachern & Norman Chad
Brian Rast
Matt Savage
Isai Scheinberg
Bill Smith

Perhaps the biggest surprise on this list is the name of Smith, who is one of the legendary “old school” players in the history of poker. He was a constant (and excellent) performer during the Eighties at the WSOP, making the final table of the Championship Event on three occasions. He would make his first Championship Event final table in 1981 and would win the World Championship in 1985. In 1986, Smith would attempt to go “back-to-back,” but would come up short in fifth place.

But it is the Players’ Choice

It is conceivable that Smith could be the choice this year for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. The vote is by the living members of the Hall, 32 people total. These people receive ten votes that they can hand out in whatever manner they want – they can give each of the nominees one vote (McEachern and Chad are considered one entity, probably to Lon’s chagrin) or they can give ten votes to one nominee. In the end, only the top vote-getter will earn induction into the Poker Hall of Fame.

Because of his history in the game and the vote being entirely conducted by the players, Smith being voted in would come as no surprise. If it isn’t Smith, then Ted Forrest is a solid bet for induction. But there are a host of pros that have demonstrated through their performance at the WSOP in 2023 that they are ready to take their place by the legends of poker.

Rast earned his third victory Thursday night (and sixth WSOP bracelet overall) in the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship, becoming only the second player to win three times in that particular event (Michael Mizrachi is the other one). That’s a highly impressive feat until you also realize that, during the run of the 2023 WSOP, Ausmus won his sixth bracelet and Arieh captured his fifth. While worthy of induction, Liebert and Matusow do not have that “what have you done for me lately” panache.

The story for the non-playing contributors is the same old tale. Savage is becoming the Susan Lucci of the Poker Hall of Fame, with his EIGHTH nomination, but he has yet to get the call. Scheinberg, long a contentious choice because of his legal difficulties, rectified those issues and would be a no-brainer choice if you’re inducting a person who might have single-handedly created the online poker industry. McEachern and Chad, highly deserving in their own right, once again will be looked over because, like Savage and Scheinberg, they’ve committed the cardinal sin of not being players.

Thus, in the handicapping of the nominations for the 2023 Poker Hall of Fame, there are logically only two choices because of the “player only” vote. You will more than likely see either Bill Smith or Ted Forrest inducted in 2023 – but there are a plethora of qualified players AND NON-PLAYERS who deserve the honor of being a Hall of Famer. It’s time that Caesars and the WSOP recognize this fact and start to induct more new members to the Poker Hall of Fame.

One Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes! More than one each year please!

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