The Poker Hall of Fame has long been fodder for discussion. While it began in 1979, it became fair game for social media debate when…social media began.

 

When it first started in 1979, the goal was to recognize some of the greats of poker who paved the way for the game to grow. They inducted seven players that year to set a HOF base. Going forward, they inducted one person per year – with the exception of 1988 – until 2002. There wasn’t a set standard for Hof inductions at that point, so some years saw one new member, other years brought in two new ones.

Two became the standard from 2010 through 2019. Suddenly, in 2020, during the pandemic, the WSOP reduced that number to one inductee. That was Huck Seed.

In 2021, the WSOP made it official that the Hall of Fame would accept only one new member each year going forward. It started with Eli Elezra in 2021.  And prior to the 2022 HOF public voting process, the WSOP confirmed that only one person/team would receive the honors each year into the foreseeable future.

2022 HOF Process

As in previous years, the Poker Hall of Fame operated as per usual. The public voting process considered all nominations that adhered to the criteria:

  • Players must have competed against acknowledged top competition, played for high stakes consistently well, stood the test of time, and be at least 40 years old at the time of nomination.
  • Non-players must have contributed to the overall growth and success of poker with indelible positive and lasting results.

When the WSOP closed public voting and tabulated the results, there were ten nominees, some of whom had been nominated in past years as well, as indicated by the years listed here:

  • Josh Arieh
  • Layne Flack (2021)
  • Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier (2021)
  • Kathy Liebert
  • Mike Matusow (2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
  • Lon McEachern & Norman Chad (2020)
  • Michael Mizrachi (2021)
  • Brian Rast
  • Matt Savage (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021)
  • Isai Scheinberg (2020, 2021)

The 32 living members of the Hall of Fame then voted. Each had ten points to allocate across the spectrum or in bulk. They did so. And while we do not know the final votes, the WSOP announced that Layne Flack won the most. He was the 2022 inductee.

At the induction ceremony on July 10, just prior to the Poker Hall of Fame Bounty NLHE tournament, Flack’s friend Derick “Tex” Barch said that Flack had been like a brother to him. “Through good, bad, and all his mischief, Layne had your back.”

One Per Year

There are two sides to the argument, as is often the case.

The WSOP and those in agreement feel that one inductee per year is enough. It allows that one person (or team) the full attention that an inductee to the Hall of Fame deserves. It also keeps the HOF from being overrun with members to the point that the entity loses its prestige, that its members lose their status as honored VIPs in the poker community.

The other camp, those believing that there should be at least two inductees each year, believe that there are too many qualified people that have yet to be inducted. They see the list of potential nominees increasing each year, especially and exponentially as many people who shone during the poker boom are hitting and passing the minimum age of 40.

In fact, a quick look at the nominees for 2022 showed Mike Matusow lose his eighth nomination and Matt Savage his seventh. Isai Scheinberg lost three years in a row, but many feel he was snubbed for many prior years due to his outstanding status as a wanted man by the US government stemming from Black Friday, a man who had yet to face the music. (Scheinberg and the US Department of Justice did, in fact, settle the matter in 2020.)

Possible Solutions

One way to handle the matter is to separate posthumous inductions to the Poker Hall of Fame. This would have allowed Flack to be honored for his poker career and a new living member added to the HOF at the same time.

Another idea is to let the living HOF members decide how many people receive honors each year. If they choose to vote in one, two, or three – or more – let it be their decision.

The option to let the public decide on the number of inductions each year would likely result in a vast majority voting for multiple inductions. However, it would be a vote of the people and perhaps better reflect the views of the masses in the poker community.

Open an Actual Hall of Fame

While on the topic of the Poker Hall of Fame, this seems like a good time to reignite the conversation about a physical place to represent the HOF.

There had been a wall at Binion’s in Downtown Las Vegas. It consisted of plaques, but it was a place for poker fans and players to browse the names and recognize those who came before, those who helped create the game that it is today. It is now gone.

The Poker Hall of Fame would mean more to the general public if they could see it, if there was an interactive way to find out more about the members.

The new location of the World Series of Poker presents a unique opportunity to create that physical space, a poker museum of sorts. Bally’s and Paris hosted the WSOP on the Las Vegas Strip for the first time in 2022, and it was an overwhelming success. It appears that Caesars Entertainment will keep the WSOP at those two locations for the foreseeable future.

In addition, Bally’s is in the process of transforming into the Horseshoe Las Vegas. Jack Binion’s Steakhouse opened within the past month, and more changes will become evident throughout the year. With the throwback to the Horseshoe brand, it would be an ideal time and place to establish an actual Poker Hall of Fame. There are empty spaces on both floors of Bally’s – both the casino floor and the lower floor with games and the food court. There also appears to be available space in the walkway between Bally’s and Paris.

Increase Awareness

Many poker fans know nothing about the Poker Hall of Fame. Even those who are aware of it often miss the narrow pubic voting window open during the World Series of Poker. The plethora of news during that time often drowns out the call for public nominations.

Perhaps the public voting window should open prior to the start of the WSOP. As the series gets underway, the WSOP could increase the focus on that voting process before closing the window.

When the WSOP introduced the Poker Hall of Fame Bounty NLHE tournament last year, it was an opportunity for living members of the HOF to interact with the poker-playing public in the tournament. The bounty aspect was also a fun way to incorporate members’ induction years with the bounty amounts.

That tournament returned this year. Instead of a freezeout, which attracted 468 players last year, it was a reentry event this year and brought in 865 entries. The prize pool stopped at just under the $1.5M mark. Its popularity would have been an ideal opportunity to highlight the HOF members in the tournament…but that opportunity almost passed them by.

As a PokerNews source relayed to me, many players in the tournament had no idea which of their opponents were members of the Hall of Fame. They wore no special indicator – a button, name tag, etc. – that would make their presence known. And the only reason there was a group picture of the HOF members in the tournament was because a member of PokerNews management suggested to the WSOP staff that a picture be taken to commemorate the occasion.

Further, a PokerNews source told me that the WSOP neglected to inform at least one member of the HOF, who lives in Las Vegas, of the tournament. There was no WSOP invitation, only another member who told that person about the tournament, which prompted that HOF member showing up to play.

The HOF must respect its members – not only the living members but also the families of those who have died. The Poker HOF Bounty tournament should be a reunion and one that welcomes members of the greater poker community to rub shoulders with.

There is only one Poker Hall of Fame. It should be promoted, materialized, and treated with the respect that a HOF and its members deserve.

 

Jennifer Newell

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Jennifer Newell

Author
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs.