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Carlos Mortensen and Todd Brunson are the 2016 Class of the Poker Hall of Fame. When the WSOP made the announcement last week, the selections were met with a bit of a mixed reaction.

Naturally, those supporting DevilFish are again pissed at a committee that they feel are turning a blind eye to many in the international poker community despite the fact that Mortensen is the first non-American to be inducted.

In the end, the WSOP was able to make history with both inductions and they do love their history. Few can argue that they don’t deserve their spot in the Hall of Fame, even if one induction was unexpected this year.

Mortensen Represents the Changing Face of Poker

Personally, I saw the induction of Carlos Mortensen into the Poker Hall of Fame as more than just the induction of a great player and the first “international player.” I saw it as the recognition that the face of poker has changed forever.

Mortensen isn’t exactly your typical HOF inductee. Seldom have we heard of Mortensen playing and dominating the highest limits in live or online cash games. In fact, I can’t think of a single time in the decade that I have been involved in the game that Mortensen has been referred to as a “high stakes cash games pro.”

With that said, his name is almost always mentioned by old school players when talking about the greatest tournament poker players of all-time. As was pointed out in the HOF press release, Mortensen likely has the highest tournament ROI of any pro in poker history. He’s top’s in the WPT in money and titles won and we can’t forget that he’s the last “big name pro” to win the WSOP Main Event.

While Mortensen’s career began before the Poker Boom, he took full advantage of tournament poker and is the poster child of the paradigm shift in the game. Like it or not, tournament poker is what has drawn a large number of players to the game.

A poker pro doesn’t have to be great at cash games in order to make a living at the game any longer. Mortensen led the charge of the modern tournament player and is just the first of many future pros who will go into the hall based almost exclusively on their tourney play.

Todd Brunson Wins the “Didn’t See That One Coming” Award

When I made my selections of Carlos Mortensen and Chris Moneymaker for the 2016 Poker Hall of Fame, I realized that there was a solid chance he wouldn’t make it. After all, he really only deserves to be in there as a contributor.

Knowing that Moneymaker may not make it, I looked at the others on the list and assumed that either DevilFish or Bruno Fitoussi would be the alternate selection.

At no time did I give Todd Brunson serious consideration. In fact, looking at the list, I had him about 8th out of 10 on the list of candidates. So when his name was announced as the second choice, I was a bit surprised.

I’m not saying that Todd doesn’t deserve to be in the hall. Rather, looking at the list of finalists and considering the uproar over the lack of international players in the hall, I didn’t think he would have a shot this year.

I saw Mortensen and Moneymaker as the top two picks, followed by DevilFish, Bruno Fitoussi, Matt Savage, Eli Elezra and Chris Bjorin.

Why did I have Savage ahead of Brunson? For a few years, the WSOP inducted a player and then someone that was really more of a player-contributor. Linda Johnson and Tom McEvoy are two primary examples. If DevilFish didn’t get in what I figured would be Moneymaker’s slot, I assumed they would go with a contributor and thus had Fitoussi and Savage in my fourth and fifth slot.

Todd’s induction does him and Doyle the first father and son pair inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. To put that into prospective, there is only one father and son pair in the Baseball Hall of Fame and only two in the Football Hall of Fame. In all cases, those pairings are contributors and not players.

Predicting who will go into the Hall of Fame on a given year is not an exact science. In most cases, we can easily guess who will be the #1 candidate inducted. The second selection is when things become dicey.

This year things were complicated by a list of finalists that was largely considered below-par compared to other years. I’m sure I am not the only person that didn’t give Todd enough consideration this year.

Perhaps I was taking too large of a view at the Hall and not giving enough consideration to how other HOF voters would view his career. Regardless of the reason, Todd Brunson has made the Hall of Fame and will take his place among the elite.

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Phil Ivey and Moneymaker in 2017??

Phil Ivey will finally be 40 in 2017 and unless he is discovered to be the secret owner of Lock Poker, he will be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017.

The question is, who will join him? Is next year when Moneymaker gets in? Last year, I pegged 2016 as the year that Ivey and Moneymaker were inducted. Then we discovered that all the data about Ivey’s age online is false. Imagine that – the internet is an unreliable source of information.

At this point, I wonder if I shouldn’t just roll over my prediction from last year for next year. If you think about it, an Ivey-Moneymaker Class would be a marketer’s wet dream. Ivey is easily the most recognized face in the game (or maybe #2 now behind Negreanu) and how many of us are either playing or involved in the game because of Moneymaker.

Then again, maybe the committee will continue trying to induct international players and maybe put in DevilFish, Fitoussi or another deserving international player.

So what do you think? Who should be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017? Is Ivey still a slam-dunk? Leave us a comment below and tell us!

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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.

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