WSOP officials released the list of finalists for the 2015 Poker Hall of Fame last week. This year list of finalists includes poker superstars, industry innovators and contributors that forever changed the game.
Today, I look at the list of candidates and give my thoughts on who has a legit shot of being inducted and which players should have been on the list but were snubbed.
Harman, Fitoussi and Juanda Tops Among Returning Finalists
Six of the ten finalist have been in this spot before. Jennifer Harman, John Juanda and Bruno Fitoussi are the returning finalists with the best shot of earning a spot in the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Harman has been on the finalist list for the last few years and each time she has been passed over for either superstar players or old school road gamblers. Harman would become just the third woman in history in the Poker Hall of Fame is she is inducted this year.
John Juanda easily has the best resume on the list of finalists. He has $17.25 million in earnings with five WSOP bracelet and one EPT title. He is also the 2008 WSOP Europe Main Event Champion. Will Juanda be the latest superstar to deny Harman her spot in the hall?
Lastly, Bruno Fitoussi is one of those hybrid candidates that voters love to enshrine. The combination of his success at the table along with his influence in French poker may be enough to get him elected. With some in poker calling for the Hall of Fame to become less “Americanized,” this could be Fitoussi’s opening.
Pescatori is This Year’s WSOP Performer
Over the last few years, one or two of the finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame were the beneficiary of strong performances during the previous World Series of Poker. Mike Matusow was and Carlos Mortensen received that benefit in 2013 and Ted Forrest was last year’s WSOP performer on the finalist list.
“The Italian Pirate” Max Pescatori is this year’s top WSOP performer on the list of finalists. He earned his third and fourth career WSOP bracelet this summer during the 2015 World Series of Poker. In addition, Pescatori has two of the three legs of the WSOP Stud Triple Crown.
For his career, Pescatori has just over $4 million in career earnings. Outside of his WSOP bracelets, he doesn’t have any high profile wins to speak of and this could make it tough for him to receive serious consideration.
DevilFish Receives Sympathy Nomination But Will He Win?
Earlier this year, David “DevilFish” Ulliott passed away from colon cancer at 61. Following his passing, his fans started calling for the DevilFish to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
His nomination reminds me of when Thor Hansen was nominated in 2012 following the announcement that he had terminal cancer. Poker fans believed he should be nominated prior to his passing. Despite being nominated in 2012 and 2013, he failed to be enshrined and hasn’t been on the ballot since.
The question now is whether Ulliott has done enough in the eyes of Hall of Fame voters to earn election. He earned one WSOP bracelet and one WPT title during his career as well as $6.2 million in tournament earnings.
Looking closer at his stats, his tournament resume is peppered with multiple “near-misses” but not many victories. Some may feel that he comes up short in terms of quality wins to be worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Others will point to the impact that Ulliott had on poker in Europe. His demeanor at the table made him a fan favorite and made him a poker superstar prior to the Poker Boom. Ulliott’s appearance in the first season of Late Night Poker in 1999 resulted in the show being renewed for a second season. Late Night Poker ran for six years with Ulliott featured in each season.
This is the first time that Ulliott has been a finalist and should he fail to win election this year, one has to wonder if he will receive enough votes to make the finalist list in 2016.
Savage Could Get in as Contributor – Rogers Too Obscure
When I saw Terry Rogers‘ name on the list of finalists, the first thing that came to mind is that a member of the Poker Hall of Fame decided to nominate him. I cannot see enough casual poker fans knowing Rogers legacy well enough to earn him a list among finalists.
For those not familiar with the nomination process, fan voting typically determines the list of finalist. However, a member of the Poker Hall of Fame can nominate a finalist and that person is put on the ballot.
Rogers’ name had not been mentioned, or not that I have seen, prior to last week’s announcement. As such, don’t expect him to get any support.
On the flip side, Matt Savage has both the background and the popularity to receive a Hall of Fame nod. The world-famous tournament director is one of the founders of the TDA and is the Executive Tour Director of the World Poker Tour.
Savage is one of the most respected tournament directors in the world and if he doesn’t get the nod this year, he will at some point.
Many Notable Names Missing – Ivey Next Year
Every year, there’s a list of deserving candidates that fail to make the list of finalists. While many in the poker media have been debating whether former PokerStars owner Isai Scheinberg deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame, other overlooked many of the obvious snubs from this year’s voting.
A few of the names overlooked include Ted Forrest, Humberto Brenes, Mike Matusow, Huck Seed and Men “The Master” Nguyen. Among those candidates, Mike Matusow is the most popular candidate overlooked by voters. He was on the list in 2013 and 2014 but fell off this year after an extended streak of failing to cash in live tournaments.
Men “The Master” Nguyen certainly has the pedigree to become a member of the Poker Hall of Fame with seven WSOP bracelets, four Card Player Magazine Player of the Year titles and over $10 million in live tournament earnings. Unfortunately, allegations of cheating from his past seem to be holding him back from being enshrined.
One player that certainly will not be snubbed in 2016 will be Phil Ivey. The only reason that Ivey is not already in the Hall of Fame is the Chip Reese rule, a rule that some feel was instituted specifically for Ivey.
Ivey turns 40 on February 1, 2016. This mean that next year’s list of finalist will be vying for the honor of being inducted with Ivey.