Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Poker Hall of Fame: Will Anyone Be Worthy?

The Poker Hall of FameYesterday the names of the nine finalists to be considered for induction into this year’s Poker Hall of Fame were announced.

You might recall how the process by which Hall of Famers would be named was changed somewhat this year. Rather than just have a small group of insiders pick one or two for the honor behind closed doors, the process was opened up a bit, with the public invited to participate in online voting during WSOP.

Toward the end of the Series the WSOP Commish Jeffrey Pollack announced the names of the top 10 vote-getters, then explained how the next step of the process would be for a group called the Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council either to remove or add names before sending the list along to the people who’d be voting on whether folks would get in. (In other words, while the public got to start the process, the insiders still get to control who gets considered for real.)

The Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council didn’t add any new names to the list of top 10 vote-getters, and only removed one -- Tom “durrrr” Dwan. Thus, the nine who are to be considered are Barry Greenstein, Dan Harrington, Phil Ivey, Tom McEvoy, Men Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, and Mike Sexton.

The real voters consist of the living Hall of Fame members -- of which there are 15, they say -- and 15 more members of the poker media. They’ll be submitting their ballots by October 2, and for someone to picked he’d have to have at least 75% of the voters say “yes” to the question of his candidacy. The winners are to be announced in a ceremony on November 7 to take place during a dinner break at the 2009 WSOP Main Event final table.

The criteria for selection are that (1) “a player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition,”(2) “played for high stakes,” (3) “played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers,” (4) “stood the test of time,” and (5) “for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.”

Also, interestingly, when the voters send in their ballots they are being invited to write in candidates for 2010. Those write-in candidates will be automatically added to the list next year (i.e., will not have to be picked either by the public vote or the HOF Governing Council adding their names to the ballot).

So, really, while the public does now have a “say” in the whole process, there are a lot of checks along the way to ensure that the public doesn’t say anything too terribly crazy. That said, the new process does add some suspense to the whole business of picking Hall of Famers, and certainly makes the HOF a more prominent part of the WSOP and professional poker scene.

Indeed, one element adding suspense is the fact that while everyone is curious about who might get picked, there remains another possiblity -- that no one will make it at all.

Wouldn’t that make for an awkward award ceremony? It could happen.

Voters are only allowed to vote for three of the nine finalists. That makes it impossible for all nine to make it in this year, since there’s no way all nine can get 75% of the voters to say “yes” for them. If my math is correct, the highest number of Hall of Famers we can possibly see will be three. Let’s say all 30 voters cast ballots, and all 30 submit the maximum three “yes” votes. That’s 90 votes, and with 30 voters a person would need at least 23 “yes” votes to make 75%. Three players could get there, but that would leave less than 23 votes as a remainder.

So there’s no possiblity of all nine making it. But there is a possibility that none of the nine make it. In fact, given the way the process has been set up, I’d say there’s a real chance of that happening.

Look at the list of nine candidates again. Then look at the criteria. There are ways of weeding out certain folks, sure. The younger guys, though worthy in other ways, probably can’t reasonably be said to have “stood the test of time” yet. A couple of others might have lost some support (or “respect of peers”) thanks to some extracurricular stuff. That said, I think any voter is probably going to have at least five or six guys who rank as legitimate choices here, and so when voting for three will be necessarily made to vote “against” two or three they feel probably deserve the honor, too.

Let’s say five of the nine finalists end up getting a significant number of votes here. In fact, let’s go so far as to say the voters will only be focusing on five guys. Which ain’t gonna happen (each of the other four will probably get at least a vote or two, probably more), but let’s pretend it does.

So the 90 votes would be divided among those five. If divided evenly, none of them will come close to making it, as each will only get 18 votes, or 60% -- well shy of the needed 75%. And, like I say, there probably won’t be 90 votes submitted for just five players, as the others will take some of those votes away. There will have to be overwhelming support for one candidate for him to get in, and given the group that has been proposed, the votes might be divided in such a way as to make it hard for that to happen.

In the end, one guy will probably make it, actually, but I’d be surprised if two are inducted. And, like I say, zero is possible -- unless the Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council steps in and changes the rules after the voting, which could well happen if no one gets the 75%. They could decide to allow the top vote-getter in regardless of how many votes he gets, so as to ensure at least one player gets in. In fact, that option probably should have been included from the start -- and I’d bet it will get included going forward if it does happen that no one gets the 75% this year.

’Cos while the whole idea of having a Poker Hall of Fame might be debatable, if yr gonna have one, you have to put people in it now and then.

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Blogger Gene said...

That's the way all awards shows should be, people show up ready to pick up the prize, and the guy on the podium reads the envelope, shrugs and says, "Nah. None of you really deserve it. Come back next year. Losers."

The odd thing is that all nine of the nominees deserve to be first-ballot electees to the Poker Hall of Fame...if we're operating on the assumption that a Poker Hall of Fame is a good idea in the first place. But if three is the max who can be elected...and they're gonna have nine nominees at a time...and you need a whopping 75% of the electors to vote for could be a long, frustrating wait for some folks.

It's easy this go-round to say that voting for Ivey and Negreanu is premature, though they're both deserving of enshrinement. What happens over the next few years when players like Gus Hansen, Erick Lindgren, Jennifer Harman, and Allen Cunningham are nominated? At one point do voters say that Ivey and Negreanu have waited long enough, regardless of their age? And what happens, say, to someone like Tom McEvoy, who figures to slip through the cracks and always be an also-ran to higher-profile players? He never gets elected, that's what.

Not sure why I care so much about something I really don't care that much about, but that's poker for you.

9/09/2009 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Spaceman said...

Here's my dream scenario: Mike Sexton and Erik Seidel make the 75% criteria for inclusion, but Phil Ivey misses the mark and the reason given is that he's just too young, he needs to wait until it's his turn, etc. Then the next day - don't forget they're inducting the new class the night before the November Nine begins - he goes out and crushes the Main Event final table, giving him three bracelets in one year for the *second time in his career* (and eight total), vaulting himself into first place on the all-time money list ahead of Jamie Gold and forcing the HOF to induct him the next year because his feats are impossible to ignore.

At least, that's how my screenplay goes. Whether or not the producers make any changes is out of my control. :-)

9/09/2009 10:40 AM  
Blogger Sean G said...

I don't think your "nobody inducted" scenario is too unlikely. In a way, I kind of hope for it, as they'll look at the whole process next year and fix it up.

I'll otherwise echo the first comment here, in that eventually the waiting list is going to be so long this "one or two a year" process will leave a lot of quality, important players out in the cold.

9/09/2009 12:37 PM  
Blogger Lucypher said...

The older guys should get more consideration. Greenstein, Harrington, and Sexton are all deserving and will hopefully be inducted. At the very least, these three should be inducted well ahead of any of the others.

9/09/2009 3:52 PM  
Anonymous CADmunkey said...

Haha the beginning of Genes comments post made me chuckle. Despite the possibility that noone will make it, I really hope either Greenstein or Seidel get in.

9/14/2009 9:37 AM  

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