Hall of Fame Poker

David Oppenheim, Chris Moneymaker Elected to Poker Hall of Fame

The third and final night of the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event final table is tonight, but there was other important poker business to take care of on Monday night as the two inductees into the Poker Hall of Fame were announced during a break in final-table action. The ten finalists were all deserving, but the two chosen for the honor this year were David Oppenheim and Chris Moneymaker.

David Oppenheim

David Oppenheim is likely unknown to most casual poker fans. In fact, I’ve been in the industry for almost a decade and a half and I rarely hear his name nowadays. That’s not because he is not an amazing player; it is simply because he is a cash-game specialist and cash games do not get tracked, reported on, and followed like tournaments do. He has almost $2 million in live tournament earnings, but high-stakes cash games are where he makes his bread.

During the World Series of Poker telecast, Phil Hellmuth said that Oppenheim is highly respected and an extremely deserving honoree. He added that he believes Daniel Negreanu gave him seven of his ten allotted votes, fearing that Oppenheim’s lack of name recognition would hurt his chances to even be nominated in the future.

In a prepared statement, David Oppenheim said the following:

Being recognized as one of the all-time greats by my peers is truly humbling and I am honored to have been selected to the Hall of Fame. I have been so fortunate to be able to do what I do for a living. I never planned to be a professional poker player, rather it was a passion that became my job.

People often ask me, how does one become a professional poker player? The answer is hard work and that goes for everyone that plays at the highest level. From the time I began playing I was incredibly passionate about and it led to me being able to travel this road that has been traveled by very few. Again, I am extremely grateful to be receiving this honor. Thank you.

Chris Moneymaker

David Oppenheim and Chris Moneymaker
Photo credit: WSOP.com

And then there is the name that virtually everyone who has played poker knows, Chris Moneymaker. The “everyman” with one of the most fitting names in the poker world made an improbable run in 2003 to win the WSOP Main Event after qualifying via a PokerStars satellite. He, along with improvement in poker television and the rise of online poker, jump-started the poker boom. Moneymaker was arguably the most important of that triumvirate, though, as people watching him win on TV, watching him go toe-to-toe with slick pro Sammy Farha (and deliver maybe the most important bluff in poker history), thought to themselves, “Man, if an accountant from Tennessee can win the Main Event, maybe I can, too!”

Moneymaker inspired millions to get into poker; his role in the growth of the game has resulted in the term “The Moneymaker Effect.”

He would probably be the first to admit that he is not a poker player on par with most of the other Hall of Famers, but he is certainly a really, really good player. His significance goes way beyond poker skill and even his World Series of Poker moment. Since he became a household name, he has become one of poker’s greatest ambassadors, happily traveling to tournaments and events, meeting fans, promoting poker, and always staying humble. It certainly says something about his place in poker history that Poker Hall of Famers and media members would vote him into the Hall.

The process of getting to this point began a couple months ago with a public nominations process. The top nominees were vetted by the Poker Hall of Fame’s Executive Committee to ensure they met the following criteria (as well as make sure that “Mickey Mouse” didn’t receive enough votes to be nominated):

• 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
• Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.

The ten finalists were:

Chris Bjorin
David Chiu
Eli Elezra
Antonio Esfandiari
Chris Ferguson
Ted Forrest
Mike Matusow
Chris Moneymaker
David Oppenheim
Huckleberry Seed

That list then went to the Poker Hall of Fame Election Committee, composed of the 30 living Hall of Fame members and a panel of 21 members of the poker media. Those electors were allotted ten votes apiece; they could distribute them however they liked. As mentioned, Negreanu (according to Hellmuth), gave Oppenheim seven votes. Hellmuth himself said that he gave all ten of his votes to Ted Forrest.

The two people with the most votes – Oppenheim and Moneymaker – were elected to the Poker Hall of Fame.


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