The poker hall of fame was established in 1979 by Benny Binion, owner of what was then the site of the World Series of Poker, The Horseshoe. The hall of fame had seven charter members, including Johnny Moss and Wild Bill Hickok. New members have been steadily added throughout the years, and the hall now has 39 members. Though it no longer has a brick and mortar home as it did in the era of Binion's Las Vegas, induction into the hall remains one of poker's highest honors.
The current selection process involves a period for open nominations from the general public. These suggestions are then narrowed down to the ten most suitable candidates. A small and elite panel then get to cast two "yea" votes each. The top two vote-getters will be inducted into the hall, with the additional caveat that they must have an affirmative vote from at least 75% of the electorate.
The ballots are distributed only to the members of the hall who are still alive, and to a few knowledgeable and influential persons in the media. The rules stipulate that these two groups should have roughly equal say in the matter, so this year the voting panel includes 17 media representatives along with the 16 surviving members of the hall.
Chris "Jesus" Ferguson - The Son of Poker has an expansive resume including five bracelets, and a main event win. At 47, his career has been signifcantly longer than those of some of the others on this list, which helps to satisfy the official requirement for inductees to have "stood the test of time." His understated personality might be a strike against him in what is essentially a popularity contest, but there's no question his results are deserving of the hall.
Barry Greenstein - The Bear has three bracelets and two WPT titles to his name, but what ultimately give him an edge in this contest is his charity work and his advocacy for the game of poker. He's highly visible, well-like, a role model, and still damn good at cards. Greenstein is an excellent pick and I think he cashes his ticket to the hall this year after coming up short in 2009.
Jennifer Harman-Traniello - There's no denying that Jennifer's tournament record doesn't look great next to some of the others in this group. Two bracelets is nothing to sneeze at, but it certainly won't give you the nod over someone like Ivey if judging is based on skill alone. However, it might make sense to pick a woman both to balance out the current gender ratio in the hall (Barbara Enright is the only female member) and to attract other girls and women into the game. I don't think it's going to happen this year, but Jennifer's certainly not a bad pick.
Dan Harrington - Action Dan's impressive CV includes a main event win, back-to-back main event final tables in 2003 and 2004, and authorship of one of the most well respected series of books on tournament poker ever written. Although his lifetime accomplishments are absolutely deserving of a place in the hall, his profile has been low these last few years thanks to a run of mediocre tournament results. Like so many of these nominees, I expect him to win his place in the hall eventually, but he may need to do something to get back on the radar first.
Phil Ivey - Ivey is unquestionably the greatest poker player from among this group. Many consider him to be among the greatest players to ever play the game. There is no doubt he will count himself among the hall's membership eventually, but the voters may decide that he can wait a few years. He was passed over for the honor last year, despite receiving an official nomination. Doyle Brunson explained in his blog post prior to the ballot collection that he felt Ivey, then 33, was too young to get the nod. Ivey's 34 now, but I'm guessing Texas Dolly still feels the same way.
Linda Johnson - Although Linda did win a bracelet in a razz event in 1997, most of her association with the game has been in an organizational capacity. She's worked extensively with CardPlayer Magazine, the Tournament Directors Association, and the World Poker Tour. Despite all of this, Linda's profile has stayed pretty low with the average poker fan. She's done a lot for the game, but the behind-the-scenes nature of that work will make it hard for her to win her trip to the hall.
Tom McEvoy - McEvoy started playing full time in 1978, and a 32-year career is an impressive accomplishment in any field, especially poker. Along the way, he racked up four bracelets and nearly three million in total winnings. Those results, combined with the longevity angle, make a strong case. There will be no age complaints from Doyle here--at 66, McEvoy is the oldest of this year's nominees.
Daniel Negreanu - Negreanu's tournament prowess and popularity with the fans make him a shoo-in for the hall at some point in his life. However, he may run into the same problem as Ivey, where voters casually snub him for now, assuming that he will win his induction sometime later on. Additionally, it's hard to win voters when the last thing you were in the news for was calling a well-known female pro "a fucking cunt"
Scotty Nguyen - Scotty has the results and the longevity, but some of his behavior--although entertaining--is unsuited to a champion. His drunken shenanigans at the 2008 H.O.R.S.E. final table certainly didn't win him any votes. Scotty may well end up in the hall, but I think his chances will be better when that incident is a few more years back in everyone's memories.
Erik Seidel - Seidel boasts live tournament winnings of nearly ten million, as well as a staggering eight bracelets. He's been around the game for decades, and no one seems to have a bad thing to say about him. And if that's not enough, he was featured in Rounders. I predict Seidel will enter the hall along with Greenstein when the results of the vote are announced later this year.
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