Handicapping The Finalists For The 2017 Poker Hall Of Fame

Steve Ruddock July 10, 2017 842 Reads
Poker Hall of Fame

The World Series of Poker disclosed the 10 finalists for the 2017 Poker Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The group is headlined by Phil Ivey, who is eligible for the first time after turning 40. The 10 finalists may be led by Ivey, but his supporting cast could the strongest in recent memory.

Is this the least controversial finalist list?

There’s often a robust debate surrounding the finalist list for the Poker Hall of Fame, but this year it’s hard to argue with the finalists selected. We all have our favorites, but of all the recent classes, this year’s seems to be the least controversial.

The one truly surprising omission (to me) is Chris Moneymaker. I understand it, since Moneymaker falls into the “tweener” category. He’s known as a decent player who made a major contribution to poker’s growth. And one thing I’ve discovered over the last several years is the Poker Hall of Fame voters are not fans of tweeners.

Here’s a look at this year’s 10 finalists and my guess on who’s in, and who isn’t.

The newcomers

There are two new names on this year’s list, and there’s a good chance they’ll be the two people inducted.

Mori Eskandani

Eskandani is being honored for his contributions off the felt. He has been instrumental in developing the game through televised poker.

Eskandani’s Poker PROductions is responsible for Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, the National Heads-Up Championship, the current World Series of Poker coverage, and PokerGO content like the Super High Roller Bowl.

Eskandani belongs in the Hall, but it’s tough to handicap “builders” since some Hall of Fame voters seem to heavily weight players over contributors to the game. Additionally, the other contributor this year, Matt Savage, is a strong candidate and could peel away votes from Eskandani.

Phil Ivey

After turning 40, Ivey is eligible for the first time and is widely believed to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

The 10-time bracelet winner was the undisputed best player in poker for a span of almost a decade, as he was busy cleaning up in tournaments, cash games, and online cash games.

If Ivey isn’t inducted this year it would be a shock to the system.

The US players

David Chiu

Chiu is a five-time WSOP bracelet winner with 70 career WSOP cashes. Beyond that, he crushes high-stakes cash games. Among top players, Chiu’s failure to get a spot in the Poker Hall of Fame is seen as a travesty.

Chiu should be in the Poker Hall of Fame, and if it doesn’t happen this year, it should very soon.

Ted Forrest

Forrest is a six-time bracelet winner and one of the most versatile poker players in the game’s history. Forrest is also a colorful character, having been involved in some of the biggest games and prop bets the game has seen.

Forrest is another player bound for the Hall of Fame, but whether it happens this year is unknown.

Mike Matusow

Matusow has a storied poker career and overcame major adversity multiple times. That said when you stack-up his poker accomplishments against other finalists he falls a bit short. His potential place in the poker pantheon is enhanced by his persona which helped draw thousands to the game.

We’re not ready to say that Matusow isn’t a Hall of Famer, but it’d be a surprise if it happens this year.

Huckleberry Seed

The 1996 WSOP Main Event Champion, Seed has remained consistent for over two decades, having thrived in two different generations of poker: pre-boom and boom.

Seed has four WSOP bracelets and has amassed at least $100,000 in yearly tournament earnings an astonishing 22 times.

As strong as Seed’s resume is, he’s unlikely to receive the Hall of Fame call this year due to the competition he faces.

A trio of Euro tweeners

Max Pescatori

As is the case with most of the European poker pioneers, Pescatori clearly falls into the “tweener” category. His poker resume is impressive but it doesn’t jump off the page.

On the other hand, he’s a driving force in growing the game in Europe, most notably in his home country of Italy where he’s written two poker books in Italian.

David “Devilfish” Ulliott

Ulliott is a polarizing figure in poker. A fan favorite for his antics, Ulliott was one of the most popular European poker players during the boom and is one of the most well-known poker players in the UK.

Ulliott rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and his poker resume is lacking in a lot of spots despite the indelible impact he left on European poker.

Thor Hansen

Hansen’s resume reads a lot like Ulliot’s. His accomplishments don’t necessarily line up with his popularity in his home country, where he is known as the Godfather of Norwegian Poker.

Hanson is up against a stacked field, and I just don’t see how the voters could elevate him above some of the other names on this list.

The builder

Matt Savage

Savage is destined for the Poker Hall of Fame for all of his contributions to poker. He’s an active tournament director, casino employee, and founding member of the Poker Tournament Directors Association.

However, I have a sneaky feeling he and Eskandani are going to split a lot of the contributor votes this year and may cancel each other out. This leaves the door open for a second player (Forrest, Chiu, or maybe a dark horse like Matusow or one of the Euros) to be inducted alongside Phil Ivey.

Who’s not on the list

In addition to Chris Moneymaker, there are three other finalists from 2016 who didn’t make the cut in 2017:

  1. Bruno Fitoussi
  2. Chris Bjorin
  3. Eli Elezra

Who are your picks to make the 2017 Poker Hall of Fame? Who do you think was snubbed? Share your thoughts with USPoker on Twitter.