Who will earn entry in the Poker Hall of Fame this year? The public got a say in the nomination process, but once again, many worthy old-school European and international players were snubbed. Alas, the group of nominees this year includes several stellar pros and industry experts and leaders. The fate of the ten nominees (Lon and Norm will go in as a team) are now in the hands of the exclusive HOF selection committee. Each voting panelist, which includes Hall of Fame members, has 10 points in which they can allocate to anyone listed on the ballot. You can choose to place 1 on each candidate. Or you can give someone 10. In the past, if two people are deserving, many voting members will split it equally at 5 points each. Sometimes, there's one clear cut nominee and someone who's better than the rest of the pack, but not as immediate as the top nod (8/2 or 7/3).
The nominations for the Poker Hall of Fame in 2020 includes... Patrik Antonius, Norman Chad and Lon McEachern, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Jesus Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow, Matt Savage, Isai Scheinberg, and Huck Seed.
This year has a highly controversial nomination: Isai Scheinberg the founding father of PokerStars. Isai is a former poker player (a great stud players and highly underrated hold'em player) who had a vision to create an online poker site to bring players from all over the planet together to play poker at any time of the day. Thus, PokerStars was born.
Isai became public enemy #1 in the eye of US officials that wanted to catch Isai and PokerStars for operating in the USA after the UEGIA hit. The fed finally shut down PokerStars during the infamous sweep on Black Friday in 2011. It wasn't until most recently that Isai finally settled and appeared in court to face his charges as one of the 11 individuals indicted on Black Friday. He was not issued any jail time, but paid a small fine.
Patrik Antonius... He has been a force at the tables since his early 20s. The former tennis player turned poker pro destroyed the tables at the cusp of the poker boom. Antonius is worthy, but he's part of the batch of pros that will earn induction because of the 40-year old age requirement. I know it was put in forth to honor Chip Reese, but I always felt it should be 50 plus or higher to gain induction. Poker is not like most sports where athletes begin to decline in their late 30s. Heck, Texas Dolly played into his 80s. Many of the top pros I spent time with never truly matured until they hit 40 and some of their best years happened between 40-50. Antonious is deserving but if you're going to vote him in, then why not Thor Hansen, the Godfather of Scandinavian and Nordic poker.
Norman Chad and Lon McEachern... The broadcasting team from ESPN was an integral part of the poker boom (just liek Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten from the WPT). Both are deserving for their influence on the game. I am biased as a former poker reporter, but the Hall of Fame should follow what other leagues do and have a special section dedicated to journalists and another one dedicated to industry leaders. That way media folks like Norm and Lon can get their due. Since Norm and Lon earned well-deserved nods, how about Andy Glazer? Stan Sludikiff? Barry Shulman? Those gentleman also did a ton of work and goodwill to advancing poker.
Eli Elezra... Eli is the perfect example of someone who fits all the requirements. During his era, he was one of the best in both tournaments and cash games. He was also one of the prominent big dogs during the apex of the poker boom.
Antonio Esfandiari... The Magician has always been one of the best players among his peers when he first crashed the scene two decades ago. But I throw him into the same category as Antonious... they should earn enter, but there are lot older players who deserve entry first.
Jesus Ferguson... Love him or hate him, Jesus was one of the best players of his generation. He's a WSOP Main Event winner, just before the poker boom ignited. But he's a true character and might be the last poker pro with a cowboy hat to earn entry. Oh and of course, the Full Tilt Poker scandal is something that will most likely keep him out of the Hall of Fame for now.
Ted Forrest... The new-school kids never understood what the big deal about an old-school player like Ted Forrest. But again, he was one of the top players during his era. If you want to account for overall degeneracy then look no further than Ted. He's one of the craziest prop bettors of all time. For that alone, he should get his due. Okay, maybe we should start a Degen Hall of Fame as well.
Mike Matusow... Everyone knew Mike the Mouth was unhinged, but he definitely went off the rails no matter what era he played. During the height of the poker boom, Matusow was one of the "main characters" in poker that was beamed into your homes via ESPN. In the modern world, Mike the Mouth has taken his extreme politicized antics to social media and Twitter.
Matt Savage... The beloved tournament director from NoCal is a no-brainer. Of course, if there were a separate wing for poker industry types, Matt Savage would be a first ballot IHOF. But he's also one of the few crossover figures that is also worthy of a nomination into the regular Hall of Fame. I always felt that poker needed a real commissioner, sort of like an Adam Silver or Roger Goodell. Matt Savage would be the perfect Poker Commissioner.
Isai Scheinberg... Many of us would not be in poker without the clever hand of Isai Scheinberg. I'm biased as someone who made a ton of money with PokerStars both directly and indirectly (during the online poker cold war of the 00s). Heck, if it weren't for Isai, I never would have traveled to over a dozen countries all over the world and met some of my closest friends. I definitely would not be writing here at ClubPoker without the butterfly effect set forth by Isai. The indictment from the feds will turn off many voters. Plus, there's a strong anti-Stars sentiment in the industry, so which makes Isai a polarized figure. I have a feeling he will either get a lot of 10s or high numbers, or a lot of zeros. If I was still a voting member of the Hall of Fame (which I once had before I "retired"), I'd vote for Isai Scheinberg.
Huck Seed... Huck is another player who was at the top of his era. He won the Main Event and engaged in more silly high-stakes prop bets than you can imagine. Huck is also one of the nominees that garnered tons of respect from his peers like Erik Seidel. He's a pro's pro, so don't be surprised if current Hall of Famers help push Seed over the threshold.
We will find out the Poker Hall of Fame results for the Class of 2020 on Monday, December 28.
2020 Poker Hall of Fame Nominations
- Isai Scheinberg
- Eli Elezra
- Matt Savage
- Huck Seed
- Norman Chad and Lon McEachern
- Antonio Esfandiari
- Jesus Ferguson
- Ted Forrest
- Mike Matusow
- Patrik Antonius