Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From the Mayfair Club to Poker’s Most Exclusive Club: Harrington, Seidel Newest Poker Hall of Famers

Poker Hall of FameThe votes have been tallied and today comes the announcement that Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel have become the 39th and 40th members of the Poker Hall of Fame. As I mentioned yesterday, the newest inductees will be recognized in a special ceremony at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino as part of the November Nine festivities.

Not a huge surprise to see these two emerge from the list of ten nominees. As was the case for Mike Sexton last year, various factors had combined to make Harrington a favorite this time around. And Seidel, too, had been getting a lot of attention as one of those several “gonna-get-in-eventually” future Hall of Famers whose time appeared to have come.

I think most observers will agree that both players are highly deserving.

Dan HarringtonHarrington’s four WSOP Main Event final tables -- including one victory -- is one of those jawdropping feats that has to be recognized as an accomplishment worthy of praise. The fact that he made those final tables in three different decades (’80s, ’90s, ’00s) and in events with fields of 152 (1987), 273 (1995, the year he won), 839 (2003), and 2,576 (2004) only makes it more impressive.

“Action Dan” has a second WSOP bracelet (also won in 1995) plus a World Poker Tour title (won in 2007), and has racked up about $6.5 million in tourney winnings while essentially being a part-time player. Also, his books -- especially the Harrington on Hold’em series -- have helped further establish his legacy as an important contributor to the game.

Seidel has also enjoyed a long, lucrative career with over $10 million in career tourney earnings and a whopping eight WSOP bracelets. Seidel’s WSOP wins have come in a variety of games, too, including limit hold’em, Omaha/8, pot-limit Omaha, Deuce-to-Seven, and no-limit hold’em.

Erik SeidelThe other part of Seidel’s resume that especially impresses is the fact that not only has he cashed 60 times at the WSOP, but he tends to make the most of his cashes, having made 33 final tables, too. That gets him into the all-time top five of both lists (most cashes, most final tables).

In a response to the news of his induction, Seidel made reference to his having gotten his start playing at the old Mayfair Club in New York with Harrington long ago. “Both of us refined our games at the Mayfair Club in New York,” he noted, saying “it’s an extra bonus for me to be going in with Dan Harrington” with whom he has “been great friends for my entire poker career.”

The fact that Harrington and Seidel are going in together will bring renewed attention to the Mayfair Club, a place where many others also played before becoming stars at the WSOP. Other regulars at the underground club (shut down finally in 2000) included Jay Heimowitz, Mickey Appelman, and Howard Lederer. Stu Ungar apparently would stop in there, too, as would Steve Zolotow, Paul Magriel, and others.

Mayfair Club on 'Poker After Dark'The club was featured one week on “Poker After Dark,” with club goers Heimowitz, Lederer, Appelman, Harrington, Zolotow, and Mike Shictman all playing. The club was apparently a model of sorts for the Chesterfield Club in Rounders (1998), the movie in which Seidel’s second-place finish in the 1988 WSOP Main Event (to Johnny Chan) was forever immortalized.

Both Harrington and Seidel were among the nominees on last year’s ballot, and I think when they did not get in last year just about everyone believed they would both be inducted soon. And as I say, I think the timing turned out right for both this time, partly because of the fact that both compared well to the other eight nominees.

I wrote a piece last week for Betfair Poker in which I discussed “Age and the Poker Hall of Fame.” There I pointed out how the great majority of the 38 individuals who had been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame -- all but three, in fact -- were aged 50 and above (or were deceased) when they got in. Harrington is 64, meaning only Tom McEvoy at 65 was older among this year’s nominees. And Seidel will be turning 51 a couple of days before the ceremony in November.

Among the other nominees, only McEvoy, Linda Johnson (aged 57), and Barry Greenstein (aged 55) were also more than 50. Even though there is no specific rule regarding a minimum age for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame, I think it still remains a factor for most voters, which means when it comes down to it, those candidates who are older will be competing against one another as long as the WSOP continues to limit the number who can be inducted each year (which I have no doubt they will continue to do).

All of which probably means McEvoy, Johnson, and Greenstein each have a good chance of making it in next year, since it is doubtful there are other players aged 50 or above who will emerge between now and 2011 to challenge them.

I’ve mentioned here before how I had the chance to participate in the voting for this year’s Poker Hall of Fame as one of the members of the media panel. I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in the process, and while I’m not going to share specifics of my vote, I will place myself in that group who believe Harrington and Seidel are both highly deserving of the honor. Congrats to both!

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