We thought, at one point, that one member of the 2016 Poker Hall of Fame was already signed, sealed and delivered.
Phil Ivey is considered a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer — likely to be unanimously elected — when he is eligible.
Ivey had supposedly turned 40 in February, one of the criteria for Hall of Fame eligibility, but it turns out that Ivey isn’t 40 after all. Maybe the rightful owner of the fake ID he procured in order to play in Atlantic City is the one who turned 40 this year?
Without Ivey, or any other absolute shoe-in, the Poker Hall of Fame voters will have a real debate on their hands when it comes to who will be inducted this year. Any talk about who should be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2016 — other than Ivey — has been muted.
This year could be the last chance for some of the older players to claim a spot before more and more of the well-known superstars from the poker boom (live and online) turn 40, and likely dominate the Poker Hall of Fame voting for a decade.
So who are the likeliest candidates this year?
The likeliest HoF choices
Here are the 10 names I expect to be on the list of 10 finalists. Will the finalists continue to be an improvement on the past, like they were in 2015?
If the Hall of Fame voters want to continue the status quo, Forrest seems like a safe pick.
Forrest is a six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner with a win on the World Poker Tour, which is remarkable when you consider he’s better known as a high stakes cash game player.
Unlike Ivey, Moneymaker, the 2003 WSOP main event champion, is turning 40 this year.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone more recognizable in poker, or someone who’s played a more prominent role in poker’s rise. That said, Moneymaker has his detractors, but treating him as a player is a mistake in my opinion, as Moneymaker is clearly a contributor.
If you ask me, Chris is very deserving and likely to get a lot of votes.
“Devilfish” was the emtional choice of many last year, but failed to get inducted, to the chagrin of many.
While he has a solid poker resume (one WSOP and one WPT title), it’s not jaw dropping. Furthermore, Ullioot’s prowess in cash games is debatable, as he often played in the biggest games just to play in the biggest games.
Still, Ulliott is in the tweener category, a great player and a great ambassador for the game, as he did a lot to grow poker in the UK and Europe.
Devilfish may have missed his chance last year, but considering the noise that was made about the Poker Hall of Fame’s U.S.-centrism, Devilfish should get quite a bit of consideration this year.
Chiu has been a finalist multiple times, but he really doesn’t have the signature wins or star power, despite his impressive career at the poker tables.
Chiu is a five-time bracelet winner, and has been very successful in cash games over the years.
This is one of the bigger head scratchers for me, as I think Mortensen is not only a Hall of Famer, but one of the best tournament players the game has ever seen.
Mortensen is very deserving, and has a tournament resume that few could rival:
- 2000 Main Event champion (10th place in 2013);
- Two-time bracelet winner;
- Three time WPT champion;
- $12 million in career tournament earnings.
If the WSOP is looking to add a European player not named Devilfish, Pescatori could be the fallback choice.
Pescatori is a four-time bracelet winner and one of the faces of Italian poker.
Rogers has been on my shortlist for several years, and was a finalist in 2015.
Rogers, a bookmaker who would travel to Vegas for the WSOP and set lines on players in real-time on the floor of Binion’s, is a huge part of poker history, and widely credited with bringing hold’em to Ireland.
Rogers’ poker club, the Eccentrics Club, was the breeding ground of great Irish players. Rogers also created the Irish Poker Open — the second longest running poker tournament in the world — and enticed poker’s biggest names to take the trip to Ireland to participate in the tournament and promote the game.
Roger’s efforts culminated in 1999 when Ireland dominated the WSOP Main Event in what has become known as the Year of the Irish.
Executive Tour Director of the WPT, Savage is another finalist from last year.
The only thing working against him is the fact he’s still very active in poker, and most contributors only get considered towards the end of their careers.
Fitoussi is a lot like Devilfish, someone I place in the tweener category. He’s unlikely to get in solely as a player or a contributor, but combined he has a very strong resume.
Fitoussi has never won a tournament of note, but is eighth on France’s all-time money list with nearly $3 million in earnings.
More importantly, Fitoussi is credited with creating the Aviation Club’s poker room, which was basically the high-roller spot for European poker.
There was a push a couple years back to get Hoff inducted, but it fell short. If ever there was a year to make a similar push for an old-school player this is it.
Hoff was one of the early road gamblers, and his heartbreaking loss to Hal Fowler in the 1979 WSOP main event, along with a drug habit, caused him to fall off the poker radar a bit. Still, Hoff is considered by his peers as one of the game’s greats.
A few off the wall picks
And here are some less likely, but quite deserving picks.
Shulman is the ultimate tweener.
He is a stalwart of poker media (Shulman turned Card Player Magazine into the poker publication, both in print and online before the poker boom).
Shulman also won the 2009 WSOP Europe main event, finished 3rd at the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and won a WSOP bracelet back in 2001.
The two-time Irish Poker Open winner was one of the first women to play in the World Series of Poker, and to the best of my knowledge, the first European woman to enter the main event.
Doherty was a well-known and highly respected in Ireland, and would tick off a lot of demographic boxes the Poker Hall of Fame has been criticized for neglecting.
Caro was one of the faces of poker in the 1990’s.
A prolific author and theorist, there were few poker subjects Caro wouldn’t tackle. More importantly, he was willing to challenge the poker orthodoxy, as Caro had a number of contrarian points of view.
No one has taught more people the game of poker than Sklansky.
Prior to the poker boom his books were basically it, and the poker world was probably close to replacing “according to Hoyle” with “according to Sklansky.”
He’s also a three-time WSOP bracelet winner.
Malmuth is one of poker’s most polarizing figures, but even his detractors are hard pressed to just dismiss the impact he’s had on the game of poker.
Malmuth is responsible for creating and fostering the biggest meeting spot in poker, the 2+2 poker forums, as well as giving the poker world dozens of quality poker books penned by himself or through his company, TwoPlusTwo Publishing.
Robison should be considered for all the reasons Hoff is.
Robison and Chip Reese took over Las Vegas poker in the 1980’s, with Robison considered by many to be one of the best stud players of all-time.
Glazer would certainly be a sympathetic choice, especially among the media members who get a vote. Glazer was KevMath before KevMath, and way before covering poker tournaments was en vogue.
If I were a betting man…
… my money would be on Chris Moneymaker and David Ulliott getting the nod this year. If I expand it to four people I would add Mortensen and Rogers.