All legends in their own right

The Poker Hall of Fame has announced its list of ten finalists for this year’s class, following a two-week open nominations process. The one winner will be revealed next month, with an enshrinement ceremony scheduled for November 17.

The ten nominees are as follows:

Eli Elezra
Antonio Esfandiari
Chris Ferguson
Layne Flack
Ted Forrest
Bertrand ”ElkY” Grospellier
Mike Matusow
Michael Mizrachi
Matt Savage
Isai Scheinberg

As is always the case, most of the finalists have been on this list before. The three that are new this year are Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospelier, and the late Layne Flack, who passed away suddenly in July.

Their fates are now in the hands of the 32 living Hall of Famers. Each has ten votes to distribute however they would like. A Hall of Famer can give them all to one finalist, can split them evenly amongst all ten, or something in between. It is up to the voter.

One shall emerge

Just one person will be elected to the Poker Hall of Fame. In previous years, as many as two have been elected, but last year (Huck Seed) was the first time since 2004 that only one person was inducted and it appears that the Hall of Fame will keep it that way indefinitely. It makes sense, since as time goes by, there are fewer obviously deserving individuals, which would eventually lead to a list of finalists that are more suited for the proverbial “Hall of Very Good.” At the same time, however, there will inevitably be deserving candidates in certain years left on the outside looking in.

The Hall of Fame criteria are the same as usual:

• A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
• Be a minimum of 40-years-old at time of nomination
• Played for high stakes
• Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
• Stood the test of time
• Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.

It is all basically subjective except for the age requirement, but then again, most Halls of Fame are.

Earl can’t vote

My friend Earl Burton opined on who his choice would be earlier this month, narrowing it down to two: Savage and Scheinberg, who both made the list of finalists. Interestingly, they are both the only “contributors” or non-players on the list. Savage certainly seems to be the one that everybody in the industry wants to see get in, but the problem he still might have is that he isn’t a poker player (not that he can’t play – he’s just not nominated as a poker player). As the voters are Hall of Famers, almost all of which are players, there is a good chance they will lean toward their friends and players they have been at the tables with for years, rather than a tournament director, even if that TD is the GOAT.

Scheinberg, too, will have the “contributor” problem, plus a voter base that probably skews more “old school” might not look to an internet poker executive as its first choice.

In any case, we will see what happens in just a few weeks.

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