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Next year, Phil Ivey becomes eligible for the Poker Hall of Fame and most figure he will be a first-ballot inductee. However, another player will become eligible next year and could find himself as a first-ballot finalist. Some will not necessarily consider him worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame but to others he will be more worthy than anyone inducted in recent memory.

That player is Chris Moneymaker. The winner of the 2003 WSOP Main Event turns 40 in November and will become eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2016. Let take a quick look at Moneymaker’s career and why I believe he should be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2016.

Solid Performance on the Felt but Not Quite HOF Worthy

Everyone knows the story of how Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event. After his historic win, he finished runner up the following year at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Stars.

After those pair of performances, it would be over three years before he would earn another five-figure or better score. In 2011, he put together a pair of impressive performances with a 11th place finish in the PCA Main Event and a runner up finish at the NBC National Heads-Up Championship. Moneymaker proved he wasn’t the “one hit wonder” that some were calling him

Over the last couple of years, Moneymaker has made several notable scores, including winning the HOP St. Louis Main Event in 2014. He now has career earnings of $3.57 million. This is good for second all-time in TN and 137th all-time in the United States.

While his performance on the felt is historic due to his 2003 Main Event victory, his overall career has been lacking. Many of his deep runs are in smaller events, limiting how much he can earn. He hardly meets the “playing against top competition” or “standing the test of time.”

How Many of Us Would Be Here if Not for Moneymaker?

Poker historians will argue to the death over what really brought about the Poker Boom. For many of us, we got into poker because we watched Moneymaker on ESPN. Many started playing online because they wanted to become the next Moneymaker and others got into the game because they though Moneymaker was a joke and they could do better.

Ultimately, Moneymaker’s story drove players to the live and virtual felt and helped magnify the Poker Boom. As a result, everything related to poker took off. Suddenly there was a demand for poker book, poker websites, poker merchandise and poker rooms started popping up all over the country and online.

The majority of us working in the poker industry would not be here if not for the Poker Boom and Moneymaker is considered the face of the Poker Boom. Let’s not forget the role he has played as poker ambassador for over a decade.

He is the only constant on Team PokerStars besides Daniel Negreanu and the only former Main Event champion who has never had to worry about his spot on the roster.

The criterion for non-players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is that they “contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.” This criteria is also applied to many players who also were contributors in the game.

Moneymaker may not have the resume for induction into the Hall of Fame as a player but one could argue at length that he has impacted the game in such a way that he deserves a spot.

The HOF Loves their Crossover Candidates

Chris Moneymaker is the perfect crossover candidate that Hall of Fame voters love to vote for. A crossover candidate is one that is not strong enough in one area to earn induction. However, when you consider their contributions to the game combined with their accomplishments at the table, they become Hall of Fame worthy.

Examples of these types of candidates include Tom McEvoy, Linda Johnson, Mike Sexton and Dan Harrington. Moneymaker would be the ideal crossover candidate. We could also argue that some modern day inductees would not have gotten into the Hall of Fame if not for the impact that Moneymaker had on the game.

Tom McEvoy and Dan Harrington would have been borderline inductees at best if not for their contributions in terms of poker literature. How about Mike Sexton? Would he have been in the public eye enough without the Poker Boom to remind the world that he was an excellent candidate?

Ivey and Moneymaker for HOF Class of 2016

While their nomination is still a year away, I think that I’ll go on the record with Phil Ivey and Chris Moneymaker as my picks for the 2016 class of the Poker Hall of Fame. Chris Moneymaker may not have the track record of Ivey on the felt but we can all appreciate the impact that his historic win had on the industry.

Next year, I believe that it is correct to enshrine Chris Moneymaker into the Poker Hall of Fame. I don’t often advocate enshrining a crossover candidate or a contributor over a player. My belief is that players should get the glory first. However, in recent years there has been one player and one contributor or crossover candidate inducted.

The Moneymaker Effect helped to escalate the Poker Boom and is the reason that we are even debating Hall of Fame candidates. He is one of the few individuals who have truly transcended the game. While he isn’t the Michael Jordan of poker, for many his name is synonymous with the term. Enshrining such a player is +EV and “good for poker.”

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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.