Poker Hall of Fame--Who Shouldn't Make it... This Year
Going back to the Poker Hall of Fame nominations, you’ll remember they are Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Erik Seidel, Chris Ferguson, Barry Greenstein, Tom McEvoy, Dan Harrington, Linda Johnson, and Scotty Nguyen. I’ve already made a case for those Texas Hold em poker players that I don’t think should ever be in or may be better expressed as "shouldn’t be in yet and yet is a long, long, long time" unless they do something else soon, soon, soon: Tom McEvoy and Jennifer Harman. I think Linda Johnson, despite not really being known to play poker online, should get in, probably not this year, as there are more compelling candidates which I’ll get to.
Today, I’m going to look at players like Johnson who shouldn’t get in yet. On Pokerati a discussion broke out in their comments section between BJ Nemeth and owner operator Dan Michasomethingski. They kind of advanced an idea that there should be a Chip Reese threshold. The vague parameters of the Hall of Fame voting included a stipulation that there should be sustained success over a period of time against the best players.
Reese is the youngest ever inductee at 40. Legally, in the United States he played for 19 years. 40 is a nice round number, 19 not so much. Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu are the two youngest candidates but are 1-2 in lifetime tournament winnings. They aren’t some single score Main Event Champion like Jaime Gold, they’ve crushed live tournaments.
Phil Ivey has crushed everything else too. If you were going to put somebody in the Hall of Fame younger than Chip Reese Phil Ivey is the guy. At the same time he’s only 34. Six years less than Reese feels like you are making a statement. Afterall, Reese is widely regarded as the best player of his generation and he for the most part avoided the tournaments scenes where Ivey really broke out as a player.
Considering Ivey has played, legally, we all know Jerome got into some Atlantic City casinos with helpful documents a little earlier, 13 years that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either. If we were going to make an age or years played threshold rule it should be a neat, tidy number. Thus, the best age is probably 41 or 36. That’s 20 or 15 years of playing.
As Reese is already in at 40 throw out the 41. 36 year olds probably make a lot of sense as inductees, until the gambling ages go down. There are precictable problems with this mandate. Obviously, some online American players have already amassed giant winnings before 21. Some even go and play the live tournaments in Europe legally before 21 (see former Gulf Coast Kevin Eyster) and then there are European under-21s that do both from home.
Anette Obrestad is likely going to make the Hall of Fame one day. She won her first World Series of Poker (Europe but it still counts) bracelet at 18. That would make her eligible, reasonably, at 33. Three years younger than 36. Not really fair to Ivey especially as he got his start at a similar age but was barred from tournaments because of legalties.
Thus, if we were to set an age deadline, the current number Chip Reese sits on seems the best fit. Ivey and Negreanu will both make it one day, but it’s not unfair for them to have to wait until they are 40 to do so. That’s four years for Negreanu and six years for Ivey. Granted, as Nemeth pointed out in his debate if either were to drop dead, or the even younger Tom Dwan for that matter, they’d get into the Hall of Fame without ever doing another thing, so that’s makes them already worthy so why not go in now.
There’s truth you can’t argue in that sentiment, but sometimes you have to pay your respect to those that came before you, and in a game which is kind of a sport (but not) that nobody retires from an arbitrary minimum age makes a little bit of sense. The Poker Hall of Fame ain’t going anywhere.