Thoughts on Changing the Poker Hall of Fame Voting Process

Posted on September 27, 2014

The list of finalists for the 2014 Poker Hall of Fame is currently being voted on by living members and a media panel. This is usually the time of year we debate which players should win, or which players should have been included on the list. Instead, today I’ll present you with three thoughts on how the Poker Hall of Fame voting process should be changed.

1. Fan Voting – A Useless Gimmick?

A few years ago, the WSOP introduced the concept of fan voting as a way to stir up interest in the Poker Hall of Fame. Immediately there were problems when fans tried to push Tom “durrrr” Dwan through as a finalist. He initially made the list but was later removed because he hadn’t met the “test of time” clause.

Since then, the list of finalists has been a hodgepodge of deserving members, players who were obviously voted because they were having a good year, and popular poker players. Each year there are several players that hit the snub list with John Juanda perhaps being this year’s biggest snub.

The fact is that most fans do not have the breadth of knowledge required to make such a decision. It becomes a glorified popularity contest with some of the most deserving not even making the list of finalists.

It is perhaps time to do away with the fan voting or reduce it to just a couple spots on the finalist list. Have a panel of poker historians pick eight of the names on the list and open the voting up to fans for the other two and let it be known which names are the fans choices. That way fans can be included and we have a solid mix of candidates.

2. Online Poker Can’t Be Ignored

Daniel Negreanu was quoted recently as saying that Gus Hansen should be considered for the Poker Hall of Fame. That notion seems preposterous based on his online poker career. We all know that Hansen is a great live player and is the poster child for the maniac style of play. Online, he is the big fish you want at your game and high stakes poker games are regularly built around his bankroll.

Online poker can no longer be ignored when considering players for the Poker Hall of Fame. For example, one can argue that Chris Moorman is perhaps one of the greatest poker players in the game’s history and most of his success have been online. A player with his credentials in the live arena would be considered a virtual lock.

Most of today’s top players in the live arena got their start in the online arena. To ignore the part of their game that helped elevate them to the elite level is a disservice to the player and to the online game.

2. Tournament Poker Needs HOF Guidelines

When the Poker Hall of Fame was created, tournament poker was a very small part of the poker world, and you weren’t considered an elite player if you could not play high stakes cash games.

Nowadays, tournament poker is what fuels the game and there are players who have made successful careers out of playing tournaments. Tournament poker takes an entirely different skill set and some choose to focus on that brand of poker. The fact you can turn $500 into $50,000 or $10,000 into $1 million doesn’t hurt either.

The problem is that many old school players are stuck on the belief that you have to play high stakes cash games to have played high stakes. Tournaments with a buy-in of $5,000 and up obviously don’t qualify as high stakes in their minds.

Casual poker fans want to see poker tournaments on TV. It’s what many of them want to play. Tournaments drive poker, and elite tournament players deserve a solid chance at the Poker Hall of Fame without others claiming their accomplishments are not deserving.

Change the criteria and add criteria relevant to tournaments. For example, playing at high stakes could include tournaments at $5,000 and above. Perhaps the “played consistently well” criteria could include a clause about what types of events or a specific number of titles won.

The point is that tournament players deserve a shot at the Hall of Fame. Baseball and other sports include umpires, executives and managers and they don’t play the game. We shouldn’t shun a group of deserving players just because they don’t choose to play in Bobby’s Room or nosebleeds on Full Tilt Poker.

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