The time has come for the Poker Hall of Fame to induct someone who has done something more for the game than just play it.
Induction criteria does include a stipulation for non-players. Essentially, the person must have contributed to the overall growth and success of the game, with indelible positive and lasting results.
They’ve used this criteria before. The last time a non-player was inducted was 2014. Legendary tournament director and poker room boss Jack McClelland got in. McClelland ran the World Series of Poker in the 1980s. He also managed of the vaunted Bellagio poker room for more than a decade, before hanging it up in 2013.
Other non-players who have been inducted include the WSOP tournament director from 1973 to 1988 Eric Drache (2012), and hole-card cam inventor Henry Orenstein (2008). Plus, the WSOP’s first host Jack Binion (2005), and his father, the founder of the Horseshoe Casino and the WSOP, Benny Binion (1990).
The First Lady of Poker, Linda Johnson, is clearly a player, having won a WSOP bracelet in the 1997 WSOP $1,500 Seven Card Razz event.
However, she was likely inducted in 2011 on the strength of her contributions to the overall growth and success of the game. She worked as CardPlayer Magazine‘s publisher, helped found the Tournament Director’s Association and was the public relations director for the World Poker Tour.
Two non-players on the nominations list
In 2017, two non-players made the nominations list. However, consensus best player on the planet Phil Ivey got in, alongside recently deceased UK legend David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott. No one could really argue against either.
Tournament director Matt Savage (pictured) and TV producer Mori Eskandani are back on the nominations list again this year, and the timing seems right to recognize what these guys have done for the game.
Savage’s continuous presence on Twitter makes him one of the most recognizable non-players in poker. He is the WPT’s executive tour director, helped found the Tournament Directors Association, and ran the WSOP the year Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event, changing poker forever.
Eskandani is the man behind some of poker’s best TV. He runs Poker Productions and is responsible for shows like Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, and The National Heads-Up Championship. Now he produces the live WSOP broadcast for ESPN.
Both have both helped shape the game of poker into what it is today and it seems appropriate that the Poker Hall of Fame recognize that.
Eight players make the list
There are eight players on this year’s nominations list as well, including:
- John Hennigan
- David Oppenheim
- Chris Bjorin
- David Chiu
- Bruno Fitoussi
- Mike Matusow
- Chris Moneymaker
- Huck Seed
All are great players worthy of the nomination. However, none have done more for the growth of the game than Eskandani or Savage.
Of course, the living members of the Poker Hall of Fame and the media panel that votes new members in may feel the need to induct a player. If that’s the case, they may lean towards Matusow. He is certainly a name the public will recognize and ticks off most of the boxes on the criteria list.
However, if they absolutely must induct a player over a non-player, perhaps they should look back on Johnson’s 2011 induction and pick one that’s a little of both.
The 2003 WSOP Main Event Champion
In 2003, a 27-year-old accountant and amateur poker player from Tennessee changed poker forever when he beat the pros at their game, satelliting into the WSOP Main Event through a $39 PokerStars tournament and winning it all.
Chris Moneymaker continues to play professionally and now has more than $3.7 million in tournament earnings.
There are those that would argue he hasn’t exactly spent the 15 years since his win putting together a Hall of Fame career. However, his story helped sell the game to the masses and turn poker into what it is today. Plus, he’s continued to play the poker ambassador role as well as anyone else in the game for the better part of 15 years.
Moneymaker’s contribution to the overall growth and success of the game has definitely had indelible positive and lasting results. Combining that with his success as a player should be enough to get him in.
Particularly in a year where it just seems right for the Poker Hall of Fame to induct someone who has done more for the game than just beat it.
Lead image courtesy of the World Poker Tour/Flickr.