Daniel Negreanu Offers Thoughts on Poker Hall of Fame Voting Process

Last week, Todd Brunson and Carlos Mortensen were announced as the newest members of the Poker Hall of Fame. Their selection came after an initial public nomination period, a vetting of the nominees and a paring down of the list to ten finalists, and lastly a vote by a panel of living Poker Hall of Famers and select media members. Most of the process is quite opaque; unlike, say, in baseball where the ballots of every Hall of Fame voter are published, we rarely get to see behind the curtain for the Poker Hall of Fame. That doesn’t mean the process is necessarily bad, but Daniel Negreanu – who was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame two years ago – believes some changes need to be made.

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu

On his blog at FullContactPoker.com, Negreanu detailed the adjustments he would make to the election process. He first addressed qualifications and inclusion of non-players, often called “builders.” After the eligibility criteria for players, the one for builders reads, “Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.”

Negreanu first said he would like to revise that a bit for clarity, adding, “To qualify, the person must have worked in the industry as a non-player, and/or created something that benefited the poker community as a non-player.”

He also feels strongly that builders should not go up against players for election to the Hall of Fame. He not only would not want to vote for a builder over a player, but he feels it is too difficult to compare them against each other. His idea is to have a separate vote for builders once every four years.

“That way people like Matt Savage, Steve Lipscomb, John Duthie, Bruno Fitoussi and others would compete against each other in this category and not be judged against players. It’s quite difficult to judge apples and oranges, so just the apples against the apples, and the oranges against the oranges,” Negreanu wrote.

That out of the way, Negreanu moved on the criteria for poker player eligibility for the Hall. First, let’s take a look at what those criteria look like at the present:

  • A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
  • Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination
  • Played for high stakes
  • Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
  • Stood the test of time

Negreanu feels that the first criterion, playing against “top competition” is too vague and should just be eliminated.

“Any nominee that is going to make the list is going to qualify under this criteria, it’s implied and doesn’t really say much,” he wrote. “We have never had a player nominee that wouldn’t automatically qualify under this criteria. It’s quite silly actually.”

The same almost goes for “Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers.” In this case, Negreanu believes the “played consistently well” part should just go away. Again, too vague and too difficult to define.

For the high stakes requirement, Negreanu would like to see that specifically defined. For tournaments/tournament players, it should be buy-ins over $10,000. For cash games, it should be Fixed-Limit $400/$800 and above and No-Limit $25/$50 and above. Negreanu would also like to add a qualifier that says a player was “exceptional” in cash games, tournaments, or online poker.

And the last change Negreanu said he would make is to make “stood the test of time” more clear:

How much time exactly? How does one define this? If John Smith was the best player in the world from ages 25-50 but at 55 was just awful, did he stand the test of time? How much time? If Joe Blow had millions of dollars playing poker in his 20’s and 30’s but went broke in his early 40’s against tougher competition, did he stand the test of time? For this criteria we should add “Stood the test of time over a period of 15 years or more.

Overall, Daniel Negreanu’s changes to the Poker Hall of Fame requirements amount to reducing subjectivity as much as possible.

Negreanu would also like to tweak the voting process. He feels the current system of voters allocating ten votes to finalists as they see fit “is broken and gives voting blocs far too much power.”

“Get three living members to throw all ten of their votes at a nominee,” he said, “and he is very likely to get inducted. It shouldn’t be this way and I hope they strongly consider dumping this method.”

Negreanu’s solution:

An alternate method I think is far more fair is to have every voter vote for exactly two people and rank them #1 and #2. The most #1 votes gets in. If there is a tie, the #2 vote acts as the tiebreaker. For the second player, the second most #1 votes gets in, and the same process would occur in a tie. Or, you could simply assign a point value to those picks giving 2 points for a #1 vote and 1 point for a #2 vote.

This doesn’t solve the problem of voting blocks but it curbs it and allows people to vote with their conscious rather than voting based on politics or to manipulate the vote.

He would also like to see the number of finalist spots determined by fan vote reduced from ten to four, with the other six determined by the Hall of Fame voting panel.

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