Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 Poker Hall of Fame Ballot Has Arrived

2010 Poker Hall of Fame BallotLate Friday those of us who will be voting this year to determine who will be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame received our ballots. Time to put on the thinkin’ cap.

The ten names that appear on the ballot are the same ten who were earlier reported as being the most-nominated during the two months that polls were open this summer over on the WSOP site. In other words, no one was added or removed from the list, as happened last year when Tom Dwan’s name was removed.

The voting procedure isn’t exactly what I’d anticipated, but seems fair enough. We are only allowed to vote for three of the 10 nominees, and our votes are to be weighted according to how strongly we favor each candidate. The weighting is done via a “10-point must system,” sort of like what they use in boxing, I think.

Basically the system dictates that the voter must assign 10 points total when scoring. In this case, we can vote for zero, one, two, or three of the nominees. If we choose to vote for three, we then distribute 10 points among the three, giving more points to those we favor more. Get it?

In the end the “two individuals receiving the majority of votes” will be inducted. A little ambiguous, perhaps, but I think that what is intended there is that the two who receive the most points will get in, provided both get votes from at least half the 33 voters (16 living Poker Hall of Famers & 17 media).

Here, again, are the criteria by which nominees are to be judged: (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; or (5) for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.

I have an idea already which candidates I plan to vote for, though I haven’t decided yet how I want to distribute my 10 points. The deadline to submit ballots is October 1. How would you cast your vote?

To help you think about it, here’s a list of the 10 with a few details about each:

Chris FergusonAfter earning a Ph.D. in Computer Science at UCLA, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson won the WSOP Main Event in 2000, the first of five bracelets he earned at the Series from 2000-2003. He’s also won three WSOP Circuit events, and has somewhere around $8 million in lifetime career tourney winnings (dating back to 1993).

A fixture at the WSOP, where he enters dozens of events each summer, the 47-year-old Ferguson has a whopping 63 total WSOP cashes, which puts him third on the all-time list behind Phil Hellmuth and Men Nguyen. That includes an impressive 30 WSOP final tables.

Ferguson also has a NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship (2008) plus two runner-ups in that event (2005, 2006), as well as a WPT final table.

Thanks in large part to the fact that his WSOP successes came just before and as the poker “boom” was hitting, Ferguson has become one of a few iconic figures in poker over recent years thanks to frequent appearances on television, thus finding a place on many poker fans’ short list of favorite players.

Barry GreensteinLike Ferguson, Barry Greenstein studied computer science in college and graduate school, but stopped short of the Ph.D. Until his mid-30s he worked for the computer software company, Symantec, at which point he left that position to play poker full-time.

Greenstein has accumulated more than $7 million in tourney winnings since 1992. In addition to his three WSOP bracelets (2004, 2005, 2008) and two WPT titles (2004, 2006), the 55-year-old Greenstein has long been regarded a top high stakes cash game player, including being a prominent figure in the “Big Game” at Bobby’s Room in the Bellagio. Indeed, Greenstein has said he only got into tournament poker at the behest of his children who wanted to see him television.

For a time Greenstein donated his tourney winnings to charity, earning him the nickname “the Robin Hood of poker,” although he found the expense of the tournament circuit too great to continue doing so. That was one of the topics I asked Greenstein about when I had the chance to interview him -- in Bobby’s Room, actually -- in the spring of 2009 (Part 1 & Part 2).

Greenstein has also written a well-regarded “advanced poker guide,” titled Ace on the River (2005), in which he addresses a lot of issues and concerns faced by the professional poker player, including those beyond the table.

Jennifer Harman-TranielloJennifer Harman-Traniello also is known for being a long time participant in the “Big Game,” as well as being a proven player (like Greenstein) in many different games. At the WSOP she has 26 cashes (dating back to 1996) and two bracelets, both in open events.

The story goes that prior to winning her first bracelet in the $5,000 buy-in Deuce-to-Seven Lowball event in 2000, Harman-Traniello had never even played the game, having received a quick five-minute tutorial before the tourney began from Howard Lederer. Her other bracelet came in 2002 in a $5,000 limit hold’em event.

Harman-Traniello (aged 45) has a couple of WPT final tables to her credit as well, helping add to her more than $2.5 million lifetime tourney earnings. She also contributed the chapter on limit hold’em to Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2 (2004).

All serious conversations about the “best female poker player” include Harman-Traniello, with many arguing -- including fellow nominee Daniel Negreanu -- that Harman-Traniello deserves the honor.

Dan HarringtonOn a recent episode of ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 WSOP Main Event, Dan Harrington was at the feature table, and it was mentioned that “Action Dan” has made an incredible four final tables at the Main Event.

Harrington’s first ME final table was in 1987, when he finished sixth. He then won the ME in 1995, and got back to the final table in 2003 (finishing third) and 2004 (finishing fourth). A remarkable feat, really, considering the time span and the field sizes for those latter two (873 in 2003, and 2,576 in 2004).

A champion backgammon player and chess master, in poker Harrington (aged 64) has amassed over $6.5 million in career tourney earnings over the last 25 years. He has two WSOP bracelets (the other came in a $2,500 no-limit hold’em event the same year he won the ME, in 1995), and a WPT title (2007).

Harrington has also exerted enormous influence on tournament poker strategy thanks to the well-regarded Harrington on Hold’em series of books (published 2004-2006) he co-authored with Bill Robertie.

Phil IveyPhil Ivey is 34 years old. Most know the story of his having snuck into Atlantic City poker rooms when underage (with his “Jerome” fake I.D.). Thus might his “career” be described as having lasted about 15 years to this point, with his first tournament cashes coming about a decade ago.

Relatively speaking, then, it has been a brief career for Ivey, at least when compared to the careers preceding the induction of many of the other 38 players currently in the Poker Hall of Fame. But when it comes to just about any other measure of comparison with other players, Ivey’s superiority is hard to deny.

During that brief time, Ivey has earned more than $13.5 million in tournaments alone, a figure that puts him at the top of the Hendon Mob all-time money list. He has 40 WSOP cashes, including 22 final tables and eight bracelets (the first in 2000, the most recent in 2010). He’s also won a WPT title (2008), and has made nine WPT final tables.

In addition to his tourney successes, Ivey is universally acknowledged as one of the best cash game players -- of all variations of poker -- and like Greenstein and Harman has been a fixture in the “Big Game.” His online success is well-documented, too, with a recent report noting that he’d won over $19 million on Full Tilt Poker since 2007.

Linda JohnsonKnown for some time now as “The First Lady of Poker,” Linda Johnson has been a player three decades, although her accomplishments are easily the most modest of the 2010 nominees.

Johnson has earned around $320,000 in tourneys since her first cash in 1989. Johnson won one WSOP bracelet in 1997 in the $1,500 razz event. She has 10 cashes in the WSOP overall, including three in 2010.

Johnson (aged 57) has nonetheless contributed significantly to the growth and well being of poker in other ways, most conspicuously as the publisher of CardPlayer magazine for eight years during the 1990s. She’s also a guiding force behind the Tournament Directors Association, and last year founded, a site that helps poker players more easily donate to charities.

Johnson holds a kind of “ambassador” position for poker not unlike that of 2009 inductee Mike Sexton, with many in the poker world especially appreciative of her many important contributions to the game’s welfare.

Tom McEvoyTom McEvoy is best known for having won the 1983 WSOP Main Event after having won his entry into the $10,000 tournament via a satellite, the first such player to do so. Incidentally, the idea for satellites is often credited to Eric Drache, another player/contributor to poker whom some believe belongs in the Poker Hall of Fame.

McEvoy (aged 65) won four WSOP bracelets altogether (the last in 1992), and by my count made 19 WSOP final tables (the last in 2002). He’s earned more than $2.9 million since his first cash back in 1982. He also won that “WSOP Champions Invitational” in 2009, besting a field of 20 former WSOP ME champs.

McEvoy is additionally known for his successful efforts to eliminate smoking in poker rooms as well as for having authored or co-authored a number of poker strategy books (including several with Poker Hall of Famer T.J. Cloutier).

Daniel NegreanuLike Ivey, 36-year-old Daniel Negreanu strikes most as being on the young side when it comes to discussions about the Poker Hall of Fame. Yet his accomplishments during what is also essentially a 15-year career are similarly impressive, and compare well to those who have played much longer.

Negreanu has won four WSOP bracelets (1998, 2003, 2004, and 2008) and two WPT titles (both in 2004). He’s racked up more than $12.5 million in career tourney earnings since his first recorded cash in 1997, and was sitting atop the all-time leaderboard until Ivey recently passed him.

Like Greenstein, Harrington, and McEvoy, Negreanu is a poker author, having published numerous columns and three books of strategy (two of which are compilations of his columns).

Negreanu is also a ubiquitous figure on television, having appeared on all of the most popular poker shows and even having had a show (“PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge”) built around him. Additional cameo spots in the occasional film (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), music video (Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas”), or commercial (Pepsi) have helped increase the profile of “Kid Poker” for non-poker audiences as well.

Scotty NguyenScotty Nguyen, a.k.a. the “Prince of Poker,” has earned over $11.5 million in tournament winnings over the last 20 years (fifth on the all-time list), highlighted by a victory in the 1998 WSOP Main Event.

His line during the final hand of that tournament -- “You call, it’s gonna be all over baby!” -- delivered to his opponent Kevin McBride just before McBride did call (and it was all over), helped provide one of the most memorable moments in WSOP history.

The 47-year-old has five WSOP bracelets altogether, plus a WPT title and eight WPT final tables. Nguyen’s most recent WSOP bracelet was won in 2008 in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event or “Player’s Championship.” His boorish, drunken behavior at that final table, presented in detail on ESPN’s coverage, has been the subject of much discussion, with some believing it might have hurt his chances for making the Poker Hall of Fame.

Nguyen nevertheless remains a huge fan favorite, something I witnessed again first-hand last summer when covering him in the latter stages of the 2010 WSOP Main Event (where he finished 209th).

Erik SeidelErik Seidel began his poker career back at the famed Mayfair Club in New York in the 1980s, where Harrington also played. A much-respected player with a long career of consistent success, the 50-year-old has collected over $10 million in tourney winnings over the last 22 years.

Seidel’s first tournament cash was perhaps his most famous. In what was reportedly the first major event he ever played, Seidel took runner-up in the 1988 WSOP Main Event to Poker Hall of Famer Johnny Chan, the final hand of which was immortalized in Rounders (1998).

Seidel has since won eight WSOP bracelets (from 1992 to 2007), cashing 60 times at the Series. Among those 60 WSOP cashes are 33 final tables -- including a couple this past summer -- putting him in the top five for both lists (most cashes, most FTs). He also has a WPT title and this year took second in the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

There they are. Okay, so you have 10 points you can give to three (at most) of these nominees. How you gonna distribute ’em?

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Blogger Otis said...

As the average age of poker players worldwide grows younger and younger, I think people who vote on the Poker Hall Of Fame are going to find themselves in an interesting place. There are going to be a lot of kids who could fit almost all the criteria before they are 30 years old (see: Mercier, Jason).

As a neo-purist, I have a hard time accepting that kids belong in the Hall of Fame. It's not an age discrimination thing so much as they volatile nature of the poker world. a true Hall of Famer, as I see it, is one who can withstand poker's changes over many years. Tom McEvoy may not have done as much as some in the last ten years, but he's still around and still on tour. He's also managed to maintain a halfway decent reputation (read: he has not gotten wasted during the televised final table of a huge event and made an ass of himself).

I'd say every one of the nominees deserves to be in the Hall of Fame…some day (with the possible exception of one person, who if my above comments were interpreted correctly, shouldn't be hard to figure out) . Further, I think they all will be the Hall of Fame some day. But I don't think there should be any rush to get them there. A lot about a person's reputation can change over a couple of decades (see Hamilton, Russ).

Simply put, many of the people on this list are simply too young to be Hall of Famers. They have the skills, the track record, and the reputation to be there, but there time is much farther down the road. They have proven almost everything except their ability to survive the next 20 years in the game.

Of the ten, would feel comfortable with three or four getting the nod, but I think I would probably vote for three on a with a 6-2-2- vote.

9/13/2010 2:16 PM  
Blogger Rakewell said...

Without question, you should tear up your ballot in protest of the outrage that your friend the Grump did not make the list.

9/13/2010 3:37 PM  
Blogger taffcasinofuller2010 said...

It's really hard to choose who among them will be inducted into the Poker Hall of fame but I think who ever it is, deserves it.

10/20/2010 4:57 PM  

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