The 10 finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame have been announced. And as is the case almost every year, who wasn’t included is a bigger story than who was.
Isai Scheinberg is certainly deserving of consideration, but he’s far from the only person whose resume isn’t getting a second look. And unlike Isai, there are a lot of forgotten poker players and contributors that don’t have public sentiment behind on their side.
Unless the induction policies of the Poker Hall of Fame are corrected, there will always be a long list of deserving people left out in the cold.
Why the Poker Hall of Fame is broken
Enshrinement in the Poker Hall of Fame is considered the ultimate honor. A scant 54 people have been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, and only 22 are still with us.
But it wasn’t always the high honor it is today. When it was conceived by the Binions in 1979 it was a marketing gimmick. A way to grab a little more press for the decade-old World Series of Poker.
Along with legendary gamblers like Johnny Moss and Nick ‘The Greek’ Dandalos, the inaugural class also included Wild Bill Hickok and Edmund Hoyle, which provides a glimpse into the Binions’ motives for the Poker Hall of Fame.
Wild Bill was the Wild West version of a degenerate gambler and widely considered to be a losing poker player. His claim to poker fame? Being shot dead at a poker table.
Hoyle’s treatises on card games gave birth to the phrase “according to Hoyle” but he lived a couple hundred years before poker was invented.
Also inducted in 1979 was Red Winn, whose single sentence Wikipedia entry basically says, “he was good at poker.” And there was Felton “Corky” McCorquodale, who is credited (by the Poker Hall of Fame) as having introduced Texas hold ’em to Las Vegas.
The Poker Hall of Fame followed a similar trajectory until the 2000’s. From 1980-1997 the Hall would induct one person every year. Usually, but not always, the inductee was a deserving poker player chosen by the Binions.
Following the induction of Roger Moore (not the James Bond actor) in 1997, the Poker Hall of Fame went on a three-year hiatus. It returned in 2001 to induct Stu Ungar. Around this time the Poker Hall of Fame started to become a legitimate honor. It continued inducting one person every year until the current voting system (that typically inducts two people per year) was put in place in 2010.
Naturally, there is a large backlog of players
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Poker Hall of Fame was inducting the legendary road gamblers of the 60’s and 70’s. By the time the Hall was resurrected in 2001, the deserving players of the 80’s and 90’s were already forming a very large queue. It’s a line that the policy of one inductee per year, and now two, is never going to catch up with.
Once the poker boom era players started to become eligible the players and contributors from the 80s and 90s are effectively SOL. As successful as they were in their era, their stats can’t compare. And since they weren’t major presences on TV, the nominating public is largely unaware they even exist.
Because of its exclusivity (which is a byproduct of the Hall being a gimmick for most of its existence), the Poker Hall of Fame has some glaring omissions.
None more so than Mike Caro.
The case for Caro
For those that don’t know, Mike Caro was a poker player, an author, and at the forefront of several major technological advances in poker.
A solid player during his heyday, Caro has also worked on the industry side as a consultant and manager for card rooms, with a specific interest in fair rules and game integrity. He was also heavily involved in promoting the game through writing. And he was a prolific writer.
Whether it was articles for Gambling Times or Poker Player Magazine (where he was editor in chief), or from his vast catalogs of books that include two of poker’s seminal works:
- Caro’s Book of Poker Tells.
- Doyle Brunson’s Super System – Caro authored the Five Card Draw section in addition to contributing statistical tables.
What most people don’t know about Caro is the “Mad Genius” was already tinkering with AI way back in 1984, when he pitted his poker playing computer ORAC against players at the World Series of Poker. He went on to create the first commercial poker AI program, called Poker Probe.
Caro was already messing around with PioSolver 30-plus years ago.
Caro was also one of the first poker players to realize what the internet and computers meant for poker. An early advocate for online poker, long before the first site became a reality, Caro was at the forefront of pre-poker boom online poker, and was even a sponsored ambassador for the first online poker site, Planet Poker.
Caro has worn many hats over the years, and has done as much as anyone in the history of the game to promote and advance poker.
If the absence of Isai Scheinberg is a mockery, then Mike Caro’s absence is an absolute travesty.