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A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about changed needed in the Poker Hall of Fame selection process. Among those, I advocated for a reduction in fan voting, the establishing of a Veterans Committee and a change in criteria.

The list of 2016 HOF finalists is now out and everyone is debating who should be in and who shouldn’t even be on the list. Once again looking at the process of induction, I have some additional thoughts on ways to change the PHOF process, including a way to address the controversy stirred by an inductee from 2015.

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 Up to Two Players – One Contributor

When considering how I would change the Hall of Fame voting process, one of the first things I would advocate for is somehow separating the induction of contributors from those of the players.

At first, I wanted to separate the induction of contributors and lump them in with those on the Veterans Committee, but Earl Burton of Poker News Daily made an interesting point on my Facebook page.

He said that there are enough players globally that we could reasonably vote in three or even three players a year and probably never run out of candidates. In addition, he advocated for having one “contributor, executive or other innovator that changed the game.”

I like of having the contributor slot separate each year and not impacting the number of player selections. As such, I believe we should have up to two players and one contributor added each year to the Hall of Fame.

Burton also advocated inducting one foreign player each year. While on the surface I like this idea, I only like if it doesn’t interfere with deserving players getting enshrined.

For example, if the PHOF were to go with my format and induct two players and one contributor, then we would have one American player and one Foreign player and one contributor from wherever.

What About Ambassadors and Player-Hybrids?

Daniel Negreanu pissed off a bunch of poker fans, especially Brits, when he said that we shouldn’t worry about whether a nominee is a good ambassador but rather we should look at their stats.

Overall, I totally agree with what Daniel said regarding inducting players. I’m an advocate of inducting the best players BEFORE you put in contributors etc. With that said, a little clause in the HOF guidelines states the following:

Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results

What does that have to do with what Daniel said you ask? Over the last few years, there have been those inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame that don’t fully meet the criteria based on stats. However, if you factor in other aspects of their career, they are a perfect fit. I call these inductees “player-contributors.”

Tom McEvoy, Linda Johnson, Dan Harrington and some may argue even Mike Sexton all did not quite have the HOF caliber stats of other inductees. However, in the case of each you can come up with other aspects of their involvement in poker that combined with their playing career makes them a perfect fit.

There are many arguing that David “DevilFish” Ulliot should be in the PHOF based on a combination of his stats and him impact on growing the game overseas. I’ve personally predicted that Chris Moneymaker will be inducted this year based on the impact of his winning the 2003 WSOP Main Event.

Do either of these players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame based on their stats? No. Moneymaker is no more than a flash in the pan former World Champion who has had a mediocre at best career. DevilFish was a great player, but not quite HOF worthy.

It is my feeling that the Poker Hall of Fame criteria should be cleared up to allow for the induction of these player-contributors and ambassadors of the game that clearly impacted the game in a way that is worthy of enshrinement.

If I were to change the last item on the HOF Criteria, it would read:

Or, for other poker professionals, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results

“Other poker professionals” could encompass players, contributors or executives that made a lasting impact on the game.

Do We Address High Rollers in the Criteria?

An interesting question that we are going to have to address within the next 10 year surrounds High Roller Events. How do they factor into the Hall of Fame discussion?

On the surface, one could easily make the argument that High Roller tournaments fit the criteria of playing for high stakes and against acknowledged top competition.

Some purists are going to point out that the played for high stakes requirement only applies to cash games. However, if you have a player such as Fedor Holz who is regularly competing every year in events from $25k to $300,000 each, how can you claim he isn’t playing high stakes poker? You cannot.

Read More: Do High Roller Tournaments Skew the View of the Poker World?

With that said, there will also be the detractors that also point out that the majority of those playing these events are mostly or fully backed. Otherwise, many of these players will not be able to play.

Do we modify the criteria to allow for this new paradigm of poker or do we make a different category to recognize the Fedor Holz’s of the world. Even if the majority of the major high stakes events were to go away within the next decade, you still have to address the impact of those events on the modern generation of high stakes pros who will come up for induction in the next decade or so.

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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.