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2018 Poker Hall of Fame Nominees Announced – Who Gets In?

Earl Burton, Jul 3, 2018 05:17 UTC

The Poker Hall of Fame, after carefully calculating the fan balloting over the past month, has announced the nominees for induction in 2018. But who has the best chance to get in? Who should…or perhaps shouldn’t…get in? It is going to be a tough decision for the living members of the Poker Hall of Fame and a like number of media.

The Process

The Voting Committee of the Poker Hall of Fame hands each voting member ten (10) votes. It is up to the voter to decide as to how many votes to hand out. The voter can give all ten votes to one person, split it among a few people or, in theory, give one vote each to each candidate on the ballot. Once this process is complete, the ballots are tallied and two people maximum are voted for enshrinement, provided that they get more than 50% of the total votes that are in the Voting Committee.

As of right now there are 29 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame and, with a like number of media personnel, that means that there are 580 votes that are available for the candidates. To get into the Hall, a player would need to A) get 290 votes from the Voting Committee (50%), and B) be in the Top Two vote getters. Once the top two people are determined, they are the newest inductees into poker’s Pantheon of greatness.

Who Shouldn’t Go In?

First, here’s the list (in alphabetical order) of the men who have been nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame:

Chris Bjorin
David Chiu
Mori Eskandani
Bruno Fitoussi
John Hennigan
Mike Matusow
Chris Moneymaker
David Oppenheim
Matt Savage
Huckleberry Seed

For every Hall of Fame induction, there has to be those who didn’t quite make the cut. Although the list is an outstanding one, there are those who shouldn’t be inducted. For this year’s list, it is led by Chris Moneymaker.

There is plenty of support for the 2003 World Champion to be inducted into the Hall, but the statistics compared to the other players just aren’t there. In 2003 and 2004, Moneymaker won $2.7 million, of which $2.5 million was that victory in the Championship Event. Since then, Moneymaker has only $1 million in earnings, with much of it from invitational events ($300,000 was in the 2011 National Heads Up Poker Championship). He hasn’t cashed at the WSOP since 2007, let alone win another bracelet, and his only tournament wins have been in small events with limited fields.

Some might say that Moneymaker’s victory in 2003 should earn him entry as a “contributor” because he “started the poker boom,” but that is a specious argument. The “poker boom” of the early 2000s was already in full swing, thanks to the World Poker Tour, the “lipstick cam” created by 2008 Poker Hall of Fame inductee Henry Orenstein and coverage of the game on ESPN and other cable networks. All Moneymaker did was put a catchy name and face onto the “boom.” The bottom line is you don’t give entry into Valhalla for someone who catches lightning in a bottle one time.

Five of these gentlemen are accomplished cash game specialists with decades of success in the game and they are more than worthy of entrance, but it won’t be this year. Bjorin, Chiu, Matusow, Oppenheim and Seed have all been nominated before but, in each case, there is a reason they aren’t in. Each man unfortunately fall victim to the “Janet Jackson Curse” of “what have you done for me lately.” They aren’t active tournament pros (Matusow would like to be, but back issues have prevented him from doing such; Seed hasn’t cashed in a tournament since 2016 and Bjorin, Chiu and Oppenheim aren’t active on the tournament circuit) and, as such, they rarely get their names out in the poker media.

The Final Four

That leaves us with four men with the opportunity to get into the Poker Hall of Fame. Two of them are contributors – Eskandani and Savage – which is a difficult road to hoe. Of the 54 persons inducted into the Hall, only seven of them have been inducted for their contributions to the game rather than their exploits as a player. The other two men are arguably still at the top of their games – Fitoussi and Hennigan – and have a lengthy resume to advocate for their induction.

Eskandani is a longtime favorite to be inducted into the Hall. Along with Orenstein, his work behind the cameras for PokerPROductions on such seminal poker programming as Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship has been instrumental in bringing poker to the masses. But it is Savage’s achievements as one of the most innovative tournament directors in the history of the game and arguably his groundbreaking work in codifying the rules of poker under one standard with the Tournament Directors Association that will probably earn him the nod over Eskandani.

That leaves the two players left in the field, Fitoussi and Hennigan. Fitoussi just brought the game of poker to a CONTINENT, opening up Europe and, in particular, France for the game. He was the main force behind the creation of the Aviation Club, long recognized as the pinnacle of poker in Europe until the French government shut it down in 2015 in a crackdown against the game. He also continues to be at the forefront of the game in both cash and tournament formats, with career earnings of nearly $3 million.

Hennigan has decades of success in the high stakes cash game arena to his credit and he is still a formidable foe on the tournament tables, a favorite any time he steps to the felt. He has a bracelet win during this year’s WSOP to bring his total to five bracelets and currently leads the WSOP Player of the Year award standings by a wide margin. He has totaled over $8 million in career earnings and shows no signs of slowing down as he enters his third decade of tournament play.

Who do you pick? Either man would be a great choice, thus I can’t make a call on this one and will pick them both!

But Who ACTUALLY Gets In?

The buzz around the poker world is that Savage is a definitive lock to earn entry this year. Johnson admitted over Facebook that she had committed her ten votes ALL to Savage rather than breaking up her vote and there are others who will probably do that also. It then becomes a question of who will join him. How about…we wait until the “white smoke” drifts above the Rio and the Voting Committee releases the names of the two men who will be the next inductees into the Poker Hall of Fame!

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