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WSOP Opens 2015 Public Nominations for Poker Hall of Fame

World Series of Poker officials have announced that this year’s public nomination process for the Poker Hall of Fame has now been opened to the public.  Each year, the Caesars-owned PHOF selects one or two of poker’s elite for induction at a formal ceremony in November.  On occasion no one has been elected in a given year, but over the last WSOP execs have tweaked the induction process a bit to virtually ensure at least one ceremonial inductee.

hall-of-fame-logoThe public nomination process is open through August 15th, and allows fans of the game to nominate a single player or poker-industry person through the WSOP’s Poker Hall of Fame nomination page.  Visitors may nominate only a single poker star, with the qualifying criteria for formal nomination and induction remaining unchanged from last year.

Those criteria:

  • A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
  • Played for high stakes
  • Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination
  • Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
  • Stood the test of time
  • Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.

The criteria themselves have evolved over the years as well, with the age-40 minimum the most impactful of the changes to the process done over the last decade.  Last year, Daniel Negreanu squeaked over the age-40 boundary and was immediately awarded with enshrinement by his peers, though no similarly luminous poker star is newly eligible for Poker HOF consideration.  Phil Ivey, for example, is 39, and won’t be eligible until the 2016 election cycle.

Following the six-week public nomination process, the results are tallied and culled by the WSOP’s Hall of Fame Governing Council.  On occasion, initial nominees have been pulled from the list of preliminary top ten vote-getters and have been replaced with other deserving nominees, most often industry execs with little poker-fan recognition.

From there, the voting goes to an elite panel of living Hall of Fame enshrinees and select media representatives (the latter most often selected from the WSOP’s existing media partners).  That final group of more than 40 people then decides who gets elected by allocating shares of their own vote to the most deserving nominees.  The year’s inductees will be announced in early fall.

The final phase is supposed to rely on the historical knowledge of poker’s most knowledgeable and veteran participants, though in practice it’s been something of a weak link.  The poker players have most often seen fit to honor their own, meaning friends and competitors from their own area and playing groups, meaning that in recent years the Poker Hall of Fame has remained a US- and male-centric shrine that’s increasingly overpopulated with players from the first decade or so of the Vegas poker scene.  The existing election structure ensures that any changes or improvements to that skew will occur only slowly, if at all.

As for who’s likely to be elected in 2015, it’s a wide open chase.  Last year Negreanu and long-time poker-room and former WSOP exec Jack McClelland were both honored.  The eight finalists from 2014 who weren’t elected and are thus among the favorites to return as finalists this time around are:

  • Chris Bjorin
  • Humberto Brenes
  • Bruno Fitoussi
  • Ted Forrest
  • Jennifer Harman
  • Bob Hooks
  • Mike Matusow
  • Huckleberry Seed

Recent public attention following the untimely death from cancer of British poker star David “Devilfish” Ulliott makes it likely that he’ll be among the 2015 finalists when that list is announced.  Other over-40 players and industry officials who have made the final ten in recent years include David Chiu, Thor Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, John Juanda, industry exec George Hardie and Marcel Luske.

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