Wide Open Field as 2013 Poker Hall of Fame Finalists Announced (Part 2)

Welcome back, friends, for Part 2 of 4Flush’s extended look at the ten finalists for 2013 enshrinement into the Poker Hall of Fame.  Yesterday, we looked at the qualifications for five of the ten finalists, and today we return with the other five.

Without further ado… :

Mike Matusow

Previous Finalist Appearances: -none-

Pros: Huge, polarizing, TV persona.  Four WSOP bracelets and over $9 million in career tournament earnings, which is 25th on the Hendon Mob’s all-time list.  Two other WSOP main event final tables.

Cons: Sorry, this is the “LOL/WTF?!!??” nomination among the finalists, showing the potential flaws of fan-based nominations.  Matusow’s got plenty of plus marks, but every bit as many minus marks.  There are probably 30 or 40 poker people more deserving of Hall of Fame enshrinement than Mike Matusow, who admittedly is only 48 or 49 and has put up plenty of strong performances in a relatively short career.

Still, those career tourney earnings are inflated by cashes in closed-field, made-for-TV events, Matusow’s off-table issues are well-known and certainly aren’t a plus, and there’s a sense that the majority of his career has been a giant freeroll paid for by Full Tilt Poker, to whom his parting memory was welshing on a largish loan when the site’s assets were acquired by PokerStars.

HOF enshrinement has to be more than just the numbers; if not, Layne Flack would be a finalist every year.  Maybe someday Matusow is a Hall of Famer, but right now, if he was the only finalist, my ballot would be returned empty.

Tom McEvoy

Previous Finalist Appearances: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Pros: Has the signature win all poker players covet, the WSOP main event in 1983.  McEvoy won another bracelet that year and a third later that decade, and probably would have been the WSOP’s Player of the Year in 1983 if they’d had that award back then.  He’d have been in the running in 1997, too, when he had two seconds and a third.  McEvoy turned to writing poker columns and books to supplement his poker career long before the game went mainstream, and authored or co-authored over a dozen strategy books with players such as TJ Cloutier.  Respected enough within the industry to serve as a longtime spokesplayer for leading online site PokerStars.  He (along with Scotty Nguyen) has also been a finalist all five years of the current-format PHOF voting.

Cons: Generally denigrated by the “cool kids” of poker, meaning your typical online 2+2-er who knows the ins and outs of reverse implied pot adds but who thinks Titanic Thompson was a boat captain.  The reason?  McEvoy satellited in to the WSOP event that he won, and it’s his only truly big score.  His strategy books were okay at the time of writing, but have dated somewhat with more advanced strategies and concepts being introduced into the game.  (Nonetheless, the McEvoy/Cloutier book on pot-limit hold’em remains a good primer for most players.)

Carlos Mortensen

Previous Finalist Appearances: -none-

Pros: One of the best statistical resumes of the finalists.  Mortensen owns three WSOP bracelets, including his signature win in the 2001 WSOP main event, and is also a three-time WPT champ, including a giant $3,970,000 payday for winning the WPT’s 2007 Five Star World Poker Classic.  Mortensen’s $11.5 in career tourney earnings is second among all of this year’s finalists, narrowly behind Scotty Nguyen.  He’s the only player to have won both the WPT’s and WSOP’s “main” championships, and made a deep run for a second WSOP ME crown this year, when he bubbled the final table in tenth — just missing the November Nine.

Cons: Another underappreciated talent (though not to the extent of David Chiu), and only recently has become a full-time Las Vegas resident, with all the extra attention that entails.  One of the reasons Euro pros have fared poorly in past voting is a simple case of “out of sight, out of mind.”  Mortensen might not get there this year, but he certainly merits being a finalist.

Scotty Nguyen

Previous Finalist Appearances: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Pros: Colorful TV persona, to be sure.  Excellent tournament resume, including signature WSOP triumphs in the 1998 main event and 2008 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tourney.  Overall, five WSOP bracelets, one major WPT title, and a host of smaller wins.

Cons: “Baby,” baby.

Scotty Nguyen’s public gaffes have negated a good chunk of his playing accomplishments, from his neverending drinking escapades to his public “drunk rampage” meltdown during the 2008 WSOP H.O.R.S.E. event, which he won nevertheless.  (I saw a bit of that in person.)  Sometimes it’s just hard to take Nguyen seriously, as later that year when he made the rounds of the Amazon Room, trying to offer cash tips to poker writers to write nice about him.  Great poker accomplishments, true.  But, gahh.  Someone else can vote for him, I guess; I wouldn’t.  I don’t see that he’s given anything to the game beyond his own tourney accomplishments.  You’d think he’s been around long enough to do something good for poker as a game, but I couldn’t name it if he has.  But numerically?  Yeah, Scotty qualifies.

Huckleberry “Huck” Seed

Previous Finalist Appearances: 2011

Pros: Veteran tourney pro with a decent highlights resume: $7.5 million in tournament earnings, four WSOP bracelets including the 1998 main event, and wins in the 2010 NBC National Heads-Up Championship and the 2011 WSOP tournament of championships.

Cons: Another secondary “red pro” at Full Tilt, but not stained to nearly the extent of that site’s primary owners.  The odd thing about looking at Seed’s tournament career, however, is how many of the significant scores have come from small-field, made-for-TV tourneys, making the overall feel of Seed’s accomplishments significantly smaller than someone such as Carlos Mortensen.  Seed has generated a lot of online support, and he’s a popular, affable pro, but I don’t think he’s amassed a Hall of Fame career to this point.

. . . . .

So there you have it.  Combined with yesterday’s post, it’s a decent look at what each of this year’s Poker Hall of Fame finalists has to offer to the voting panel.  Each of the ten has strengths; each also has identifiable weaknesses as a candidate.

I see no clear-cut favorites here, which makes this an exceptionally difficult year to pick out the two eventual enshrinees.  Any picks are an effort in limb-walking, but this columnist’s choices are Carlos Mortensen and Jennifer Harman.  Both are for-sure picks at some point, which is why they’re among the likeliest to get the honor this time around.

If it’s not Mortensen or Harman, then I think the choice comes down to Bjorin, Scotty Nguyen (based on statistical achievement only) or McEvoy.  Thor Hansen, David Chiu and Huck Seed fall into the “eventually, but not quite yet” camp, while the nominations of Matusow and to a lesser extent Brenes aren’t to be taken too seriously.

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