Poker Hall of Fame to Honor Carlos Mortensen, Todd Brunson

The Poker Hall of Fame has announced its Class of 2016 will consist of Carlos “The Matador” Mortensen and Todd Brunson.  The PHOF, owned by Caesars Entertainment and run in close conjunction with the World Series of Poker, announced the pending enshrinement of Mortensen and Brunson today in a brief presser at WSOP.com.

hall-of-fame-logoThe two players will be honored in a formal enshrinement ceremony.  That ceremony takes place in less than two weeks, on Wednesday, October 26 at 7:00 pm at Binion’s Gambling Hall in downtown Las Vegas.  Binion’s is widely regarded as the “birthplace of poker” in Vegas, and was the original home of the World Series of Poker, from 1970-2004, until the WSOP moved to its current off-Strip home at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

Mortensen and Brunson become the 51st and 52nd members of the Poker Hall of Fame.  The other eight finalists were Chris Bjorin, Humberto Brenes, Eli Elezra, Bruno Fitoussi, Chris Moneymaker, Max Pescatori, Matt Savage and David Ulliott.  All ten finalists were under consideration following a public-nomination process earlier this fall, possible tweaking of the finalists’ list by the PHOF’s Governing Council, and a final ballot — consisting of ten “votes” per eligible voter, distributed at will, by each of the 44 official voters.  Those 44 voters consist of all living PHOF enshrinees, plus a select roster of invited poker media.

The Poker Hall of Fame does not release an accounting of the final voting, so it will remain unknown as to whether other finalists were strongly considered for election.

Mortensen, from Spain, is not only a former WSOP Main Event winner [2001], but is also the only WSOP Main Event winner to have also won the World Poker Tour’s World Championship, the crowning jewel on that rival tour.  Mortensen, now a permanent Vegas resident, has won more than $12 million in poker tourneys during his career.

“I have been playing poker professionally for more than 20 years,” commented Mortensen. “This game has given me so many things that I have come to cherish. I’ve always wanted to be included among the great players who make up the Poker Hall of Fame. To be included with the legends makes me very happy. I want to thank my friends, the poker fans, and all the people who vote for me. I take this honor very seriously.”

Brunson, the son of poker legend Doyle Brunson, received the nod in his first year as a finalist.  More known as a cash-game expert than a tourney player, Brunson nonetheless has won a single WSOP bracelet and has accrued over $4.3 million in tourney earnings.

“It’s a true honor to be inducted by my peers into this prestigious institution,” said Brunson. “I literally grew up attending these ceremonies and have always respected and admired its members. To join their ranks is the honor of a lifetime.”

While both honorees are deserving, and Mortensen in particular was at the top of many outside watchers’ lists, the twin selections won’t do much to dispel the notion that the PHOF has become increasing clique-dominated and Vegas-centric, in large part under the voting control of Todd Brunson’s dad, Doyle.  The European-born Mortensen is only one of a large handful of very deserving nominees from that side of that Atlantic, virtually all of whom remain on the outside of the PHOF, looking in.  Mortensen’s own relocation to Las Vegas a few years back couldn’t have hurt his cause, as it seems that living in Las Vegas is a big plus for anyone hoping to be enshrined.

Brunson, while certainly a deserving candidate, was very arguably not among the -most- deserving three or four candidates this time around.  His election here as a first-time finalist has already stirred rumblings on social media in the few hours following the Class of 2016 announcement. Those rumblings will likely add fuel to calls for Caesars and the WSOP to overhaul the PHOF’s election process, finding a way to de-emphasize the “Big Game” clique that continues to skew the PHOF’s growth and prominence.

In a future post, we’ll explore some of the ways in which the PHOF could improve its election structure and make itself more the universal promotional tool of poker that the game deserves.

Nonetheless, congratulations go to both Carlos Mortensen and Todd Brunson on their election to the Poker Hall of Fame.

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