World Series of Poker officials have announced the opening of nominations for the 2013 Poker Hall of Fame. As in previous years, the nomination process is open to the public, before PHOF officials winnow the list down to ten finalists, who are then voted on by the 19 living members of the PHOF and a roughly equal number of veteran poker media.
The interesting thing is that despite the announcement of the nomination process being opened, as is usually done around the start of the Main Event, there aren’t any links to the online nomination page from either the WSOP home page or the page that is linked from that home page, the history page showing all previous PHOF inductees.
Instead, the only link to the actual nomination submission page is buried within a press release that’s already far down (now on Page 2 and headed for Page 3 soon) on the list of WSOP news and press releases.
I guess that’s one way to hold down the number of nominations received, and if the above paragraphs look like link hell, that’s exactly the point.
On to the players themselves. This year’s inductees, and there will almost certainly be two, will be elected sometime in September or thereabouts, and enshrined in a ceremony held in conjunction with the Main Event’s “November Nine” final table. Here are the mandatory criteria:
- A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
- Played for high stakes
- Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
- Stood the test of time
- Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
The nonspecified criteria, but one that’s generally understood to be in place, is that “stood the test of time” means that a nominee must be age 40 or older. Whether that’s fair or not is beyond the scope of this piece, but it’s safe to say that the list of possible nominees still under age 40 is more impressive than those that are likely to be finalists this time around.
Last year, Eric Drache and Sailor Roberts were selected, and the other eight codgers and codgerettes who were finalists were as follows: Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, Chris Bjorin, Thor Hansen, Scotty Nguyen, Tom McEvoy, David Chiu and George Hardie.
Finalists from earlier years that didn’t make the last ten in 2012 include Annie Duke, Marcel Luske, Huckleberry Seed, Jack McClelland, Chris Ferguson, Men “The Master” Nguyen, and two players who were once finalists but are still under 40 — Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu. Tom Dwan also made the top ten in nominations back in 2009, but was pulled from consideration before being declared a finalist, being way too young.
If one assumes that Annie Duke will be voted into the PHOF about when hell freezes over — or one year before the planned induction for Russ Hamilton, then among the others Huck Seed seems most likely to return to the ranks of finalists. McClelland will get some consideration as well, while Ferguson has been tainted by the Full Tilt affair, as has Howard Lederer, who may go in about the same time as his sister, Annie.
Who else is out there in the plus-40 class? There are a handful of old-timers from organized poker’s early decades, though none with the cachet of a Doyle Brunson. The same’s starting to hold true for poker’s old guard, where people such as Ted Forrest are probably high up on the list of people yet to make the “finalist” cut. Some people might think Layne Flack is a serious candidate; I don’t.
It might be time for the WSOP to start looking at the organizational side again, which in addition to McClelland could include people such as Matt Savage, Jack Effel or Nolan Dalla.
2013 is shaping up to be a wide, wide open year for nominations and inductions. In previous years it’s been pretty obvious who would get the call, even if Hardie, the founder of the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, took a lot of observers unawares. This time around it’s anyone’s guess.
One thing’s for sure, though: The young giants of the online game still have several years to wait. The Tom Dwans, Victor Bloms and Phil Galfonds of the poker world might be every bit as good as the names above, but their time isn’t here yet.