Recently the Women in Poker Hall of Fame announced their latest inductees, which will be honored during a dinner this summer in Las Vegas. Poker professional Maria Ho and longtime poker advocate Lupe Soto were chosen from a highly qualified list of 11 players that were nominated for the honor. Unfortunately, the choices of Ho and Soto have come with a bit of controversy rather than celebration.
Some have decried Soto’s election because the Hall was her creation, and she has served as the director of the Hall since its inception in 2008. Others note that Ho barely ekes into one of the qualification factors – she turned 35 in March, just before nominations were to begin – and the fact that she still has many goals left in poker. Ho was stunned to be first nominated and then inducted. She commented in a PokerNews.com interview that “I know there are so many amazing and deserving women that have done so much for this industry that would – and perhaps should – get nominated before me…. I honestly didn’t believe it at first. It really was one of those things where it was just an honor to be nominated. I know that’s something that everybody says but it really was! I really wasn’t expecting to be voted in. I felt like I was up against so many incredible women that I was just happy to be part of the group of nominees!”
Poker News Daily was able to catch up with Soto, who has been in a whirlwind of activity since the announcement of the new inductees, to get her thoughts on the WiPHoF election process and her induction to the Hall (full disclosure: this writer is a member of the Media Committee which voted on the new inductees into the Hall; neither Soto nor Ho received any of this writer’s votes).
Poker News Daily: There are many people who are questioning the inductees this year. Do YOU feel that you are worthy of induction ahead of other potentially more qualified candidates?
Lupe Soto: “Worthy” is the key word here I think. Clearly the word I would have used is “shocked,” but “worthy?” I’d have to say yes. I have been in the industry for 20 years and have been involved in both online and land-based poker on both sides of the felt. I owned an online poker room for 10 years until “Black Friday,” and was a super affiliate for the top three sites until then as well. People didn’t really begin to know me (or my name) until I stepped into the live gaming arena with the start of LIPS (the Ladies International Poker Series, founded by Soto in 2004 to promote the participation of women in poker).
As far as “candidates potentially more qualified than me?” If you look at my fellow candidates, I don’t think there is anyone else on the list who has dedicated their lives to women in poker for the last 15 years or have as diverse of a resume as I do. I’m a mixed game/cash game player and I hold my own at any level, so you’ll never find me in any ranked tournaments. But I am a poker player nonetheless. So yes, I think I’m worthy.
PND: What are the rules regarding someone who has been nominated voting on the new inductees? And will the WiPHoF release the results of the vote?
LS: As far as releasing the vote, the answer would be no, we will not release them. It could be a sensitive matter if a candidate didn’t receive any or just a few votes. I wouldn’t want to make it public nor do I feel it should be. On another note, I have kept myself off the ballot since the Hall’s inception, even though I have been nominated every year. This year, I also recused my vote because I was on the ballot.
PND: Because the induction ceremonies are held every other year, are there thoughts about expanding the induction protocols?
LS: Yes. There are two things being considered. One, that we would return to an annual ceremony and induction process. Two, that we would allow for more than two people to be inducted in a given year. To give you and the readers some insight, there has been a natural “cut off,” so to speak, in prior years. There are a clear top two and then a natural space between those two people and the rest of the nominees. I believe this is why we moved to two inductees in recent history.
PND: There’s a key question that all Halls of Fame must juggle – what can be done to honor the history of the game, rather than what has happened in the relatively recent past?
LS: There has been a lot of discussion around this because there are many women who have contributed to the history of the game who are either no longer with us or no longer in the game. People like Poker Alice (“Poker Alice” Ivers, a gambler of Wild West history who was a terror of the game in the Deadwood saloons), Cissy Bottoms (a top Limit player during the early history of Las Vegas whom Jennifer Harman (herself a member of the WiPHoF and the Poker Hall of Fame) said “If I had a say in who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame, she would get all my votes”) and others who played in the 1970s. We have featured them, informally, at past induction ceremonies but not as an honorary induction. This may change…
PND: Are there plans to have a physical Women in Poker Hall of Fame set up or, like the Poker Hall of Fame, will it always exist without a home?
LS: Ah, the dream! This has been a dream of mine (and many others I’m sure) forever. A “poker museum” where all things poker have a home. The issues are significant in terms of funding, people wanting it to be proprietary, etc. Heck, if Caesars, who have more properties and funds than anyone, can’t manage to find a physical home for the Poker Hall of Fame (and they own it!), I would imagine having a physical WiPHoF would be even more challenging. We do have a banner display with all the inductees that can be used at any venue.
We thank Lupe for her time and offer congratulations to both her and Maria Ho for their election into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. There will always be discussion and, yes, sometimes disagreement regarding such a prestigious election. It is healthy for such organizations and institutions. But one thing that can never be overlooked is that quality members enter the respective Halls of Fame, regardless of whether it is poker or another endeavor.