There are currently 48 inductees, with Daniel Negreanu and Jack McClelland being the most recent to be awarded the honor last year. I believe something like 23 or so of those in the PHOF are still living. That group gets to vote on the 10 nominees along with an appointed group of poker media, with two nominees at most able to get the nod.
For several years I had the opportunity to vote for the Poker Hall of Fame and so have a bit of familiarity with the process. The 10 names are given to the voters, chosen by a group of folks at the WSOP from those submitted online. They aren’t the 10 most-nominated by the public, but rather the ones whom those doing the selecting think deserve to be finalists.
From there the “Blue Ribbon” committee of PHOFers and media have 10 points they are allowed to distributed among one, two, or three nominees. The points are then tallied, and the two getting the most are elected.
As I say, I had the privilege of voting for a few years there, and in fact if I hadn’t missed an email sent to an old, dormant account, I might still be part of the group voting. I didn’t mind losing my spot, however, for a couple of reasons. For one, I think any committee is benefited by changing members occasionally, if only to assure bringing in different views and perspectives. Secondly, people come and go a lot when it comes to the so-called “poker media,” which would also be a reason to revisit who is being included in that half of the group of voters.
I was also told at the time the WSOP was interested in getting more European media represented as voters, which I also thought was a good thing. In any case, it’s clear from the 10 names presented to voters this year that the WSOP is pushing to try to get some non-Americans voted in to the PHOF.
This year’s nominees are Chris Bjorin, David Chiu, Bruno Fitoussi, Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, Carlos Mortensen, Max Pescatori, Terry Rogers, Matt Savage, and Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott.
Bjorin’s a Swede, Fitoussi is French, Pescatori is Italian, and Mortensen was born in Ecuador and grew up in Spain. The two deceased nominees Rogers (Ireland) and Ulliott (England) are also non-U.S. Chiu was born in China and Juanda in Indonesia, though both are American. Meanwhile Harman and first-time nominee Matt Savage are both U.S. natives.
The idea of inviting the public to nominate 10 individuals for the PHOF and then have a committee vote to select inductees from that list began in 2009. Just for fun, here’s a rundown of who the finalists were for the six years prior to this one. The asterisks denote those inducted, and clicking the year gets you to a post written here about the PHOF class/winners from each:
In 2009, Sexton was the only inductee. The voting process was different then, but a stipulation requiring a nominee to get at least 75% “yes” votes (like the MLB Hall of Fame) made it hard for more than one to get in that year (and in fact almost made it so no one could get in).
2009: Tom Dwan, Barry Greenstein, Dan Harrington, Phil Ivey, Tom McEvoy, Daniel Negreanu, Men Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, Erik Seidel, Mike Sexton*
2010: Chris Ferguson, Barry Greenstein, Jennifer Harman, Dan Harrington*, Phil Ivey, Linda Johnson, Tom McEvoy, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Erik Seidel*
2011: Annie Duke, Barry Greenstein*, Jennifer Harman, Linda Johnson*, John Juanda, Marcel Luske, Jack McClelland, Tom McEvoy, Scotty Nguyen, Huckleberry Seed
2012: Chris Bjorin, David Chiu, Eric Drache*, Thor Hansen, George Hardie, Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, Tom McEvoy, Scotty Nguyen, Brian “Sailor” Roberts*
2013: Chris Bjorin, Humberto Brenes, David Chiu, Thor Hansen, Jennifer Harman, Mike Matusow, Tom McEvoy*, Carlos Mortensen, Scotty Nguyen*, Huckleberry Seed
2014: Chris Bjorin, Humberto Brenes, Bruno Fitoussi, Ted Forrest, Jennifer Harman, Bob Hooks, Mike Matusow, Jack McClelland*, Daniel Negreanu*, Huckleberry Seed
Also noteworthy from 2009 was how Tom Dwan -- then just 23 years old -- got picked by the public, and then was removed from the ballot by the WSOP.
In 2011 the so-called “Chip Reese Rule” was added, meaning no one under 40 years old could be nominated. That’s why Ivey and Negreanu were on the ballots before that date, and Negreanu only showed up again last year after turning 40. Ivey turns 40 next February, will be on the ballot next year, and will be inducted, no doubt.
Also, in 2012 Brian “Sailor” Roberts was not picked by the public to go on the ballot, but was a “write-in” nominee submitted by a PHOFer (I believe).
Gonna guess Ulliott, who passed away in April, gets in this year, with either Mortensen or Juanda nabbing the other spot. Who would you vote for, and who do you think gets in?