Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Greenstein, Johnson Today Inducted into Poker Hall of Fame

Today, just a little bit before the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event final table gets back underway, they’ll have an induction ceremony to honor Barry Greenstein and Linda Johnson as this year’s newest members of the Poker Hall of Fame. (Pics below are from the live stream of the ceremony.)

I’m coming back here tonight to do some more “almost live” blogging once play resumes, but I thought I’d post a short observation about the Poker Hall of Fame here first.

I mentioned here a few weeks back how I’d been given the privilege once more to participate in the voting process for the Poker Hall of Fame.

After an online poll (plus some post-vote vetting by the Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council), a list of ten finalists was sent to a group comprised of the living Poker Hall of Famers and poker media. We then voted by allocating as many as 10 points to those we thought worthy of inclusion, with three being the maximum number of nominees for whom we could vote. The top two points-getters then got the nod. (I believe there’s a further provision that they both needed to get a minimum number of points to be inducted, although to be honest I’m not 100% clear on that.)

Barry Greenstein being inducted into the Poker Hall of FameIn any case, Greenstein and Johnson came out on top and will thus join the 40 other members of the Poker Hall of Fame, first established in 1979. While I’m not sharing specifics about how I voted, I will say I agree that both are worthy of being so honored. (I wrote a bit more about both Greenstein and Johnson in a Betfair poker post a couple of weeks ago.)

I was listening to the latest Wicked Chops podcast yesterday in which two other voters -- Steve “Chops” Preiss and Dave “F-Train” Behr -- talked a bit about the vote and how the credentials of the two inductees compared to those of the other nominees (among other items).

Chops says he’s writing a column about the topic for that new “Wicked Chops Poker Insider” site that one must pay for to read. As he made clear repeatedly during the podcast (much as he did last year on Wicked Chops and in BLUFF) he believes Scotty Nguyen deserves the nod. And as far as this year is concerned -- as I assume he’ll be arguing in that article -- Chops thinks Nguyen was a better candidate than either Greenstein or Johnson.

Clearly Johnson is one whose accomplishments as a player are quite modest, comparatively speaking, and thus it is safe to say that her candidacy was largely considered according to the lone criterion for non-players, namely, how well they “contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.”

On the podcast, both Chops and F-Train agreed that Johnson did not get voted in for a playing career which includes one WSOP bracelet (the $1,500 razz event in 1997), about $320,000 in lifetime tourney winnings, and not much evidence of having “played for high stakes” (among the criteria for players).

Regarding those credentials, F-Train noted that “if she were a man, she wouldn’t even be considered.” True, although really even as a woman her achievements aren’t all that eye-popping, even if winning that razz bracelet puts her into a relatively select group of women who have won bracelets in non-ladies events at the WSOP.

Linda Johnson being inducted into the 2011 Poker Hall of FameThe pair then discussed Johnson’s “non-player” résumé, with both concluding that while it is impressive, it isn’t enough for them to want to promote her to Hall of Fame status. F-Train wrapped up his judgment by again noting how Johnson being a woman might have helped her cause among the voters. “My thought about it was that ‘if this person were a man, would they get in the Hall of Fame?’ And I thought the answer was ‘no’.”

An interesting discussion. But it got me thinking about whether or not it is really right (or possible) to try to judge candidates without taking into consideration their sex, most particularly when it comes to the “non-player” criterion of helping grow the game.

I can see how when it comes to accomplishments at the tables, we shouldn’t get too carried away with a candidate being a man or a woman. Even if it is notable or relatively unique for a woman to win significantly, that shouldn’t unduly sway us into promoting her to membership into the Poker Hall of Fame over men with similar or better careers.

But one of Johnson’s primary “non-player” achievements was being a pioneer of sorts who helped bring more women into the game by providing an example to follow. In other words, the fact of her being a woman seems to matter here in a way that cannot be set aside. Can it?

Just a thought inspired by Chops and F-Train’s interesting discussion. They also talk Groupe Bernard Tapie-FTP stuff, the Party-bwin-MGM-Boyd agreement, the November Nine, and more items of interest, so check it out.

Meanwhile, I’ll come back later once the show begins on ESPN (at 9:00 ET, 6:00 Vegas time).

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