With nominations now open for determining who will get in the Poker Hall of Fame this year, there’s one question on the tip of the poker world’s collective tongue: Which player, or players, will follow Phil Ivey and David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott as this years inductees?
But is it a flawed question?
Sure, a first-ballot Hall of Famer widely considered the best player on the planet throughout poker’s boom years and a legend from across the pond who’s vivacious personality helped the game grow exponentially in the UK before he passed away from cancer in 2015 represent a hard act to follow. But that’s not the issue.
Nominations open online
Nominations are accepted online. Everyone from players, to media, and poker fans are encouraged to participate by submitting their nominee along with a brief explanation. The submissions get tabulated and the top 10 nominations are reviewed by the Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council before being publicly released.
Existing Poker Hall of Fame members and a blue-ribbon media panel then cast votes to determine the class of 2018. Traditionally, the Poker Hall of Fame elects one or two members every year. The Class of 2018 will ultimately be enshrined in a ceremony held alongside the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas, Nevada later this summer.
It’s the same process that over the past few years has produced a series of worthy inductees. Players like Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, Todd Brunson, Carlos Mortensen, and of course, Ivey and Ulliott. So, there’s no real issue there.
The problem with the question of which player, or players, will follow Ivey and Ulliott into the Hall of fame this year, is that it might not be a player at all.
Poker Hall of Fame criteria
The main criteria to be considered when nominating someone for the Poker Hall of Fame hasn’t changed.
The player must have played against top competition. They must have played for high stakes and be a minimum of 40 years old. The player must have played consistently well, gaining the respect of his or her peers. They must have stood the test of time.
Or, for non-players, they must have contributed to the overall growth and success of the game, with indelible positive and lasting results.
In 2017, two non-players made the top 10 nominations list in what is essentially a builders category.
Tournament director Matt Savage and TV producer Mori Eskandani are likely favorites to do it again this year. A non-player hasn’t been inducted since 1980s WSOP tournament director and 2000s Bellagio poker room manager Jack McClelland was in 2014. Therefore, Savage and Eskandani could even be considered favorites to get in this time around.
Both undoubtedly have the credentials for it.
Savage and Eskandani
Savage is possibly the best-known non-player in the game. He’s worked as a tournament director all over the world. He is one of the founders of the Tournament Directors Association. In fact, Savage was the WSOP TD the year Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event and helped spark poker’s big boom.
He’s held the TD position at Bay 101 Casino in San Jose and the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. Helping put both places on the poker map. Plus, Savage has been the Executive Tour Director of the World Poker Tour for the past few years. Helping usher the WPT into the new era of televised poker.
Eskandani is the man in charge of Poker Productions. That’s the production company behind some of the game’s best TV. Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, the National Heads-Up Championship, these were all Eskandani productions. Plus, he’s still at it today, producing the WSOP broadcast for ESPN.
It could be argued both have contributed more to poker’s growth than any non-player before them. Their work has certainly had indelible positive and lasting results.
True players for real
Players including David Chiu, Ted Forrest, Thor Hansen, Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow, Max Pescatori, and Huck Seed also made the ballot last year. It could be argued each is deserving of a spot in the Hall and will likely get there one day.
Fan favorite Matusow is a popular choice. He could certainly make the cut this year. Even if it could be argued he needs to do more to gain the respect of his peers. Or prove he’s stood the test of time.
But there’s a good chance a non-player will join him in the class of 2018. Savage and Eskandani have both helped make the game of poker what it is today. It just seems like an appropriate time for the Poker Hall of Fame to recognize that fact.
Lead image courtesy of World Poker Tour/Flickr