Daniel - Poker Journal
WSOP Hall of Fame 2015 Breakdown09 Sep 2015
What is the criteria for being nominated into the Hall of Fame? It's quite simple, and people voting should read it before making their decisions this year and in future years:
A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
Played for high stakes
Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination
Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
Stood the test of time
Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
Notice is doesn't say anything about being a nice guy, being a poker ambassador, or being well liked? It doesn't give any points to players for their efforts to improve the state of the game. The only area where that is relevant is for NON-players. The criteria for players is based only on their skills as a player.
When Tom McEvoy was inducted people referred to his efforts to help ban smoking in poker rooms as a key reason for his induction. Was he then inducted as a non-player or as a player? If he was inducted as a non-player then a reasonable case can be made, but if we are adhering to the criteria there is no way he should have ever been elected as a player. He isn't the only one, but he is the clearest case in recent years.
On this years list, we have exactly three people who should get consideration as a non-player: Matt Savage, Terry Rogers, and Bruno Fitoussi. Matt, for his many years as an influential player in the industry, and Bruno for essentially being the Godfather of poker to France and Europe as a whole. He single handedly brought many Americans over to Paris to play at the Aviation and played a significant role in bringing the first ever WPT event to Europe. Both of them also play, Matt more sparingly, but Bruno has a decent resume as a player. Not one that stands alone as reason to be nominated, but as a non-player he is certainly worthy.
As for Terry, I'm not too familiar with him at this point so I can't really comment.
That leaves seven other nominees that should be judged based on their play, and their play only. I don't care if they were nice guys, I don't care about their contributions to the game, all of this is absolutely meaningless based on the clearly written criteria.
We recently lost quite a character in Dave "DevilFish" Ulliot to a battle with cancer. He was great to have at a poker table and helped make televised poker more interesting. He also had a great career, standing the test of time and continuing the grind until his death.
Having said all that, his passing should have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he earns your vote. In recent years Thor Hansen suffered some health issues as well (he is doing pretty well now thankfully) and there was talk of inducting him into the Hall of Fame. I've played with Thor for 20 years, great guy, and solid player, but the fact that he was sick should have absolutely no bearing on the voting. If the voters deem him to best fit the criteria, he should get in, but not based on sentiment.
There are plenty of names that, while maybe not household names, have a resume that is even better than some of the nominees for 2015. They play the highest stakes cash games in the world and have been playing at that level for many years. Just to name a few:
The Poker Hall of Fame used to essentially require that a player sit with killers like that to even get consideration. Poker has changed quite a bit, of course, and tournaments have taken center stage with the voters and the public, but if we are nominating based on the criteria, these guys have certainly stood the test of time and continue to play in the biggest cash games in the world and succeed.
There are two players on that list that continue, after 20+ years to play high stakes poker and find success: Jennifer Harman and John Juanda. JJ plays the biggest no limit hold'em games in the world in Macau and abroad, and despite skipping the WSOP 2015 entirely, he just won the biggest EPT event in their history.
As for Jennifer, she is easy to find. She is sitting in the same place she has been for decades, in the Bellagio poker room playing the world's biggest mixed games. She remains the only woman in the entire world to be a winner in those games. An argument could be made that Vanessa Selbt could hang with the big boys if she put in the effort, but as of today, she hasn't gone that route. The closest thing to a "Jennifer Harman" in terms of being able to hack it with the big boys in the big mixed games, is Maria Ho.
Having said all that, Jennifer Harman being a woman should have NOTHING to do with your vote. Your vote should be based on the players skill level, not their gender.
The last factor I'd like to address is age. The requirement is quite simple, you must be at least 40 years of age. Should someone who is 70 be considered more worthy than someone who is 42 despite not being as qualified? Should it matter? I say absolutely not! The person who gets in should be the person who best fits the criteria. I guess you could make a case that if two candidates are equal, the older one likely has exemplified "standing the test of time" more accurately.
Rounding out the nominees are:
Chris Bjorin- a long time grinder who is among the all-time leaders in WSOP cashes
Carlos Mortensen- the all-time money leader on the WPT and also a WSOP main event champion
Max Pescatori- Italy's all-time money leader and 3-time WSOP bracelet holder
David Chiu- 5-time WSOP bracelet winner and WPT Champion also won the inaugural Tournament of Champions, a concept that was well ahead of it's time
All are great guys, as irrelevant as that is, but I figured I would add that because it's true! Having said that, I would ask the panel this question: which of these ten players would you find the most difficult to play against in tournaments, mixed games, or even online? Who do you think would be the toughest to beat?
Lots of tough cookies to choose from, but ultimately I would say that having John Juanda at your table will cause you the most amount of difficulty on all fronts.
I haven't yet decided how I'm going to divvy up my votes, but I can't imagine John Juanda not being at the top of the list for 2015.