The finalists for the 2016 class of the Poker Hall of Fame have been announced. Fan voting was held earlier this summer, resulting in the list of 10 finalists.
Jennifer Harman and John Juanda were inducted into the hall in 2016 and there was a major uproar from within the poker community over what was viewed as a snub against the recently deceased David “DevilFish” Ulliot.
This year’s group of finalists is an interesting mix of players, history makers and one of the most influential industry professionals in the game.
Today we will look at the chances of the individual finalists and give our predictions on who will likely be inducted.
The Five With Zero Shot at Induction in 2016
The list of ten finalists is almost akin to Academy Award nominations in that it is an “honor to be considered for the award.”
Like most award shows, there are nominees that for one reason or another you know have zero shot of winning in a given year.
That’s the same with the list of ten finalists. Most, if not all are deserving of eventual entry into the Hall of Fame but compared to other finalists, you know they are not getting in this year.
The five that I feel are on this list are Chris Bjorin, Humberto Brenes, Todd Brunson, Eli Elezra and Max Pescatori.
I really hate saying this about Bjorin because I both played with him and interacted with him on multiple occasions in the past. The problem is that he is just too low profile and doesn’t have the “sexy results” that many other nominees have.
Humberto Brenes certainly has a solid career, but can one argue that it is truly HOF worthy? Yes, he has two bracelets and is a popular character in the poker world, but I feel it will take a while for him to get in because he doesn’t have the results to trump those of other players.
In the case of Max Pescatori, I again believe he is the beneficiary of popular press from deep runs and bracelet win at the World Series of Poker. Once again, can you argue that he has a better resume than or has been more influential on poker than other names on the list?
In the case of Eli Elezra, one could argue both ways on whether they should be in the Hall of Fame. For Elezra, I think that in future years, he could be the “best candidate” based on his combined resume. This year isn’t that year though.
For Brunson, my personal belief is that the “WSOP Effect” got him on this year’s list. Otherwise, I don’t see the average poker fan thinking that his resume is enough to warrant their vote. Chances are that they saw his two $10k final table runs and then his 154th place run in the Main Event, realized he was Doyle Brunson’s son, and voted for him.
Fitoussi and Savage Will Wait Another Year – Or More
The remaining five finalists have solid arguments for induction but ultimate both Matt Savage and Bruno Fitoussi will be the odd men out. For those that love Matt Savage, this is not a knock against his importance in the poker world but rather a reflection of just how strong the overall class is.
My personal belief has always been that players should get in first and that professionals last but the WSOP has had a history of putting in one player and one contributor or player-contributor hybrid as I like to call them.
Savage and Fitoussi both actually fit this mold and in subsequent years, I think both get in. In fact, if not for the inclusion of Moneymaker on this year’s list, I would have selected Fitoussi to get in as a player-contributor.
They will both get in, just not this year. I will put one caveat to this. Should Moneymaker not be inducted this year, then I believe Fitoussi will be put in due to his influence in the growth of poker in France.
DevilFish Like to Be Snubbed Again
I know some of you aren’t going to like this prediction, but I do feel that David Ulliott will once again not make it into the Poker Hall of Fame. One could argue that if the Poker Hall of Fame were based in Europe rather than the United States, Ulliott would have been inducted BEFORE last year.
Last year, I wrote that the Hall of Fame committee made the right choice in selecting Juanda and Harman over DevilFish and some of you REALLY didn’t like that take. I understand Ulliott’s influence on the game of poker overseas and I never had any problems with the man. I was only able to interact with him a couple of times in the past but he was very gracious.
However, if you think my take last year was bad, you’re going to be really pissed of in the person I think that will get into the Hall of Fame over him.
Mortensen and Moneymaker to Be Inducted in 2016
My personal belief is that Carlos Mortensen and Chris Moneymaker will be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2016. Out of everyone on this year’s list, there’s no player with a better tournament pedigree than Mortensen. The one real knock on Mortensen over the years is that he is mostly known as a tournament player and some will argue he really doesn’t meet the criteria of playing high stakes, which most take to mean playing in high stake cash games.
However, one could argue that Mortensen for many years not only played in many high stakes tournaments, but also dominated them. He has $11.97 million in career earnings, good for 25th on Poker’s All-Time Money List. He’s #1 all-time in Spain.
Mortensen has two WSOP bracelets and three WPT titles, including the 2007 WPT Championship. He won the 2001 WSOP Main Event and was the last big-name poker pro to win the Main Event. In 2013, he nearly made the November Nine, finishing in 10th place.
For years, many have argued that Mortensen was the most successful tournament pro not already in the Poker Hall of Fame. I believe he will be inducted this year – his fourth year of eligibility.
The other person that I believe will be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame this year is Chris Moneymaker. Half of you are going WTF while the rest of you are nodding along in agreement.
If you think about it, there is perhaps no name more synonymous with the growth of poker since 2003 than Moneymaker is. His epic win in the 2003 WSOP Main Event ignited the imagination of every poker player and turned a whole new generation onto the game.
Does Moneymaker have the pedigree or the stats to deserve induction into the Hall of Fame? Hell no. If he were any other player, he would be considered a glorified flash in the pan. However, look at the last criteria of membership:
Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
Moneymaker is not necessarily a “non-player” but I lump him into the category of player-contributor. After his win in the 2003 Main Event, he became the face of online poker and poker in general. He has served as one of the games biggest ambassadors and is one of the longest serving PokerStars pros.
Bluntly, the majority of us would not be involved in poker if not for Moneymaker and the influence of his big win. We wouldn’t be debating which players are going into the Hall of Fame and personally, I’d probably still be working in the IT field fixing computers or running some company’s network in Central Virginia.
Chris Moneymaker and Carlos Mortensen are likely not the two choices that most would pick for this year’s Poker Hall of Fame class, but between pedigree and influence, they are the ones that are the most deserving.
I say this every year as a reminder: PHOF criteria for players says NOTHING about being an ambassador nor should it. Rate them on RESULTS.— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) September 10, 2016