My colleague Earl Burton did an admirable job live-blogging the final table of the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event, even if he was a pansy and couldn’t stay up past 3:00am ET Sunday morning to see it through to the end.* During his blog, he noted that it was announced that Mori Eskandani and John Hennigan were elected to the Poker Hall of Fame. Let’s talk about this a little, shall we?
Eskandani and Hennigan were first nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame through a public nominations process hosted by the WSOP’s website. The Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council then vetted the submissions and put together a list of the ten finalists. From there, the 28 living Hall of Fame members and 18 esteemed poker media members had about a week to submit their ballots to determine which one or two of the finalists would be enshrined (how a group that doesn’t include me could be called “esteemed,” I don’t know, but I’m being gracious here).
Though the HOF doesn’t detail how this process works, media members in the past have said that they are given ten votes to spread around however they deem fit. Presumably, there is some vote total that needed to be reached for a finalist to be elected, but we don’t know what that is.
The announcement of the winners was made live on the air during the ESPN telecast of the final table. Hosts Ali Nejad and Nick Schulman had Mori Eskandani join them at the broadcast desk to discuss the show, but then surprised him with the news of his induction.
Eskandani is a long-time high stakes player himself, and though he is respected (loved, really) in poker circles, his legacy is as a poker television producer. Without Eskandani and his original production partner Henry Orenstein, poker television as we know it would not be remotely the same. Eskandani’s company, PokerPROductions, has produced some of the most popular shows in poker TV history, including Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, Face the Ace, the National Heads-Up Poker Championship, and appropriately, the WSOP on ESPN.
Eskandani’s shows, plus the long-running World Poker Tour episodes and various other poker programming, have contributed mightily to the growth of poker over the last decade and a half.
John Hennigan isn’t even 50-years old yet, but has seemingly been a force in the poker world for ages. During a broadcast later at the WSOP Main Event final table, Nick Schulman told him that he had been in the “Underground Poker Hall of Fame” for years, meaning that he was a HOF’er in the minds of poker pros well before now.
Poker tournaments aren’t the end-all be-all, but since we have records of results, here we are: Hennigan has five career WSOP bracelets, including the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship this year and the $50,000 Poker Players Championship in 2014. He has over $8.1 million in lifetime tournament earnings and is in the top 100 on the all-time money list.
Hennigan is also third in the 2018 WSOP Player of the Year race thanks to 13 cashes this summer, nine of them top-20 finishes. He was first in the race when he was elected, but was just passed over the weekend by Shaun Deeb and Ben Yu, who won bracelets.
*I stayed up until 3:30am, but somehow my dog woke me up in time for me to turn on the television just as Tony Miles was going all-in on the deciding hand. SHE KNEW.