Earlier this week, Caesars Entertainment and World Series of Poker officials announced that the 2023 Poker Hall of Fame nominations were live. Under this format, the fans get to nominate one person (per email address) for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame (provided they meet the qualifications – you think I’m joking? One year Tom Dwan was nominated for the Hall, and he had not reached the age qualification yet). Then the living members of the Hall get to vote on who is inducted.
This has been problematic since it was implemented back in the Aughts. It is time that not only how the nominations are chosen but also how the inductees (and the number) are determined in the end. The Poker Hall of Fame deserves more than part-time attention from people who don’t seem to care about the issue or the history of the Hall.
Changes to the Nomination Process
First, just to refresh your memory, here are the qualifications for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame:
• A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition;
• Played for high stakes;
• Be a minimum of 40 years old at the time of nomination;
• 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.
The first problem comes with the minimum age for induction. Otherwise known as the “Chip Reese Rule” (the age that legendary cash game player Chip Reese was inducted into the Hall), 40 years old in this day and age is way too early to determine if someone is a quality player or not. Therefore, the minimum age for induction must be moved up, I’d suggest 45 years old, but 50 years old would be even better.
Then there is the “high stakes” question. Just because someone has beat up on the “High Roller” circuit for a bit and racked up astronomical winnings doesn’t mean that they should be recognized as a “legendary” player. In the Seventies and Eighties, a $10K buy-in was comparable to roughly $54,000 today. If there is that much difference between the eras, then how can you judge accordingly? Something would have to be decided on this issue.
Finally (and this one is not going to go over well), remove the fans from the nomination equation. Most who are fans of today’s world of poker do not have an appreciation for the “old days” of the game and the players (and non-players) that helped to build the legacy of poker. If you want to give the fans a voice, do as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame does and allow fans to submit a ballot just like the living members do. The top vote-getters of the “Fan Vote” would get a breakdown of the ten votes that are granted to spread between their top (insert number here) nominees – AFTER they have been determined.
Changes to the Election Process
Now that we’ve streamlined the nomination process, it is time to fix some issues with the election (induction) process. Currently, the living members have a bloc of ten votes for each voter to assign as they see fit to whoever is nominated. They can give a singular vote to ten people or lop all ten votes on one candidate. After that (and for the past few years) there has been ONE inductee named to enter the hallowed Poker Hall of Fame.
There are a LOT of issues with this process. The living members of the Hall should certainly have a voice in who is voted in. But their voice needs to go along with a similar number of educated poker minds – media, journalists, historians, casino execs, etc. – who would also have a voice. This ensures that both those who have played the game and those who know the history of the game will have a hand in shaping what the Hall looks like.
Second, more than one inductee needs to go in per year. There is a tremendous backlog of players and contributors who have been kept at the door of the Hall waiting…why? Players such as Jesse Alto, Thor Hansen, or maybe even Gabe Kaplan (helluva poker player in his day) and contributors like the “Irish Connection” in Terry Rogers and Liam Flood could be acknowledged for their work with the Irish Poker Open (let’s not even get into two men who could be nominated this year – PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg and Matt Savage).
Finally, we MUST ensure that the history of poker is preserved. In today’s world, it has become way too much “What have you done for me lately?” The players who were playing the game before the “internet age” have arguably done more for the game than any of the players around today, but they are in danger of being bypassed and relegated to the dustbin of history.
There’s a way to do this. Much like several other sports Halls, the Poker Hall of Fame could create a “Veteran’s Committee” that would look to preserve the history of the game. This group would get ONE induction each year, to induct a player or a contributor who made their mark on the game that goes unrecognized as the electronic age advances. That would guarantee that, each year, there are a minimum of two inductions, and I would like to see it go as high as four to clear the logjam that is waiting for consideration.
These are some significant changes, I know. But it is necessary for the game to remember its past while it drives forward with its future. If these changes were implemented, we could have a Poker Hall of Fame that achieves this goal – now, about that physical location…get with it, Caesars!