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On Saturday, the Women in Poker Hall of Fame announced the finalists for their 2016 class and a change in their voting process. This year the fans get to act as one member of the WIPHOF voting panel.

A list of seven finalists is currently available at the official Women in Poker Hall of Fame website (Click Here to head on over) and fans can select the woman they feel should be inducted. Today, I will look at this new process, the finalists and share whom I will be voting for this week.

Read More: Nominations Underway for Women in Poker Hall of Fame

WIPHOF Changes Voting Criteria to Include the Fans

In the past, the WIPHOF used a panel of Hall of Fame members, board members and select media and industry professionals to make a final selection. Normally, each eligible voter receives 10 votes they can spread over multiple candidates or they can give them all to one finalist.

This year, fans will get to vote on one of the seven finalists and essentially act as one member of the voting panel. Fan voting is underway and will continue until May 13 at Noon. At that point, 10 votes will be allotted to finalists based on the percentage of votes received from the fans.

Once voting is concluded, results will be certified by no less than three members of the WIPHOF Board of Directors. The results will be announced by the end of the month.

I applaud the WIPHOF for this move. This new process will help create a bit of extra buzz for the WIPHOF and give fans a reason to stay invested in the process. Those that stay invested will learn more about women in poker and will ultimately help the game grow.

Also, this is a controlled form of fan voting that will not unnaturally skew the overall results. It is a move that the Caesars version should consider adopting.

Strongest List of Finalists Since 2008?

When I took a look at the list of finalists for the 2016 class, I could only see one potential weak spot. Then after I educated myself a bit on that one woman, it became evident that this year’s class may be the strongest since the inaugural class in 2008.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the 2008 Class was Barbara Enright, Linda Johnson, Marsha Waggoner and Susie Isaacs. Every class since has been deserving but this year’s group may rival that of 2008.

Here is the list of seven finalists:

🌟 Debbie Burkhead

🌟 Mandy Glogow

🌟 Karina Jett

🌟 Victoria Coren Mitchell

🌟 Shirley Rosario

🌟 Esther Rossi

🌟 Jennifer Tilly

Back in January, I wrote about 9 women that deserved induction into the WIPHOF. Four listed in that article made the list of finalists. That shows you just how much talent there is in the world of women’s poker.

Let’s take a quick look at the finalists:

Debbie Burkhead – Until about 2009, I only knew Debbie from my battles with her at the poker tables. As a lover of mixed games, I found myself in multiple Stud tournaments with Debbie and played with her on numerous occasions. She’s been a fixture in the poker world both at the table and away for over 20 years. A true unsung hero of women’s poker that would have been largely overlooked if not for the WIPHOF.

Karina Jett – Another great player, Karina Jett rose to popularity during the poker boom along with husband Chip Jett. Capable of playing both cash and tournaments, she has been able to stay relevant in the poker world for over two decades. In addition to growing the cause of Women in Poker, she has given of her time to charity and to grow awareness about Autism.

Victoria Coren Mitchell – In 2006, Victoria became the first woman in history to win an European Poker Tour Main Event. In 2014, she made history again by becoming the only poker player ever to win two EPT Main Events. She has the highest earnings of anyone on the list of finalists.

Mandy Glogow – When I first saw the list of finalists, I went Mandy Who? Glogow is the Supervising Producer of the World Poker Tour on FS1 and responsible for incorporating strong female personalities into the program. She created the anchor spot currently held by Lynn Gilmartin and used other on-site reporters such as Amanda Leatherman to create a complete tournament poker experience for viewers. Definitely an industry professional that should be celebrated.

Shirley Rosario – As I wrote back in January, Shirley Rosario has been advocating for Women in Poker since the beginning of the Poker Boom. Her former site, Poker-Babes.com, was one of the first sites to celebrate women in poker for their accomplishments in the game and not for their looks. She is also one of the most dominant mixed game players on the West Coast and anyone that has played in the L.A. area has probably competed against her at one time or another. Another unsung hero of women’s poker that deserves induction.

Esther Rossi – Rossi has a poker career that has spanned over 30 years. As her WIPHOF bio states, she is considered one of the greatest Stud players in history. She has six WSOP final tables and an Amarillo Slim Super Bowl of Poker title on her resume. (The Super Bowl of Poker back in the day was second only to the WSOP.) Rossi still competes at a high level, making two final tables in mixed events last summer. An old school player who has stood the test of time for women’s poker.

Jennifer Tilly – There are many women that would not be playing poker today if not for Tilly’s victory in the Women’s Championship at the 2005 World Series of Poker. Numbers for the Ladies Championship exploded after her victory and she became the face of women’s poker. Tilly still is a regular competitor and a staple of Poker Night in America on CBS Sports. Oh, we forgot to mention that she is an Academy Award nominated actress with a successful Hollywood career. She proved that anyone can win and is an inspiration to female players around the world.

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A Tough Decision – But My Vote Goes To…

Looking at this year’s list of finalists, I must admit that it is hard to pick just one woman for the WIPHOF. However, I will share what I look for when it comes to picking a finalists.

First, they must have been a significant player in the poker world. I almost never vote for an industry person as my top choice because I feel that the players should get first dibs on a HOF spot. I prefer that the player be one that is well rounded but I will not overlook one that is dominant in their area if they are a Hold’em specialist.

Next, what has their involvement been in growing the game of poker for women? Have they been a true ambassador for the game and worked diligently to grow the game or are they more of a figurehead? Also, what type of impact have they had on Women in Poker?

My decision came down to Debbie Burkhead, Shirley Rosario and Jennifer Tilly. While I respect the hell out of Debbie, she will be my second runner-up. When I first started getting serious about poker, I remember using Shirley’s old site to keep up to date on certain female players.

My first year in live poker, I can’t tell you how many times I sat down in California and had Burkhead, Enright, Isaacs, and others at my table. If not for sites like Rosario’s, I might have only known them by their stats and not as much of their history.

However, Shirley Rosario is going to be my runner-up. While I have a ton of respect for her, I was at the WSOP the year after Tilly won the Women’s Championship. Nearly every woman I encountered at the tables either talked about her, playing in the Ladies Championship, or both.

For a time, Tilly was almost like Chris Moneymaker when it came to women’s poker. Ladies came out to play poker in hopes of becoming the next Jennifer Tilly. And that wave lasted for a few years. While numbers have slacked off some in recent years, the game was forever changed by her victory.

However, Tilly’s popularity has not slacked off. When I talk to female poker fans, one of the top names they want to meet or play with is Tilly. While other women have won more money and titles, Tilly’s win was influential at the right time to grow the game.

To me, that’s the type of impact you want from someone being inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.

That is why I am selecting Jennifer Tilly with my fan vote.

Disagree with my take? Feel free to discuss below or on Twitter – @pokerupdate.

James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.

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