Head-to-Head: Who belongs in the Poker Hall of Fame

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Aug 24, 2012 Posted in Op-Ed, Poker Player News | 3 Comments »

poker hall of fameIn this column PokerNewsBoy.com welcomes guest columnist Johnny Sep of www.podcastvegas.com who collaborated with me on this project.

Johnny Sep’s initial thoughts on the Poker Hall of Fame:

Every year the buzz begins over who will be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has inducted some incredible players, along with some “not so incredible” players who maybe could have been omitted; however, it is still the greatest honor that can be given to any player.

The Chip Reese Rule requires players to be at least 40 years old to get in to the Hall, and I feel like the age requirement should be higher, but mainly I feel that players who are still active should not be heading to the Hall of Fame. That’s not to say a HOF induction is a retirement card, I just believe players going in to the HOF should be in the twilight of their career. Some players who meet the age requirement but still play full time are left off of my list because I think they still have plenty of time to cement their legacy, or destroy it in some cases (looking at you Howard Lederer).

Steve Ruddock’s initial thoughts on the Poker Hall of Fame:

The Poker Hall of Fame has one of the most diverse and eccentric collections of characters of any Hall of Fame in existence –which is saying something considering there are only 42 inductees! The list includes outlaws, murderers, and cheats, as well as a collection of fairly insignificant individuals with one or two sentence bios that must have done something to get inducted (what it was they did is something only a few people probably still know).

In all honesty the Poker Hall of Fame seems to have started off as a publicity stunt, with Edmund Hoyle and Wild Bill Hickok among the inaugural class, but over the years it has morphed into one of the biggest honors a poker player can receive.

For me being selected into the Poker Hall of Fame is not an exercise in statistics or a player’s skill set; it’s more about selecting players that have lived and breathed poker throughout their lives. Players who have advanced the game and made an impact on the game to the point that when you hear their name the first word that pops into your head is simply “Poker”.

I’m also not overly concerned with having a few bad apples in the bunch (this is poker after all) and I don’t think a player should be omitted for their personality flaws so long as their accomplishments/exploits warrant it. One area where I disagree with Johnny is in the criteria for induction, as I feel that being European or a woman is a major part of advancing the game, and these players should be viewed as pioneers and trailblazers.

Here is a look at our 10 picks lined-up side-by-side and below you will find our arguments for each person.

Steve’s Picks

Johnny’s Picks

Barry Shulman

Barry Shulman

Jennifer Harman

Jennifer Harman

Ted Forrest

Lee Jones

Mike Caro

Scotty Nguyen

John Duthie

Andy Beal

Terry Rogers

Donald Trump

Marcel Luske

Humberto Brenes

Carlos Mortensen

Cyndy Violette

Tony G

Tom McEvoy

Jack McClelland

Titanic Thompson


Amazingly, with 10 choices we only came to agreement on two players, Barry Shulman and Jennifer Harman. For each of our other eight selections we both made our case, and gave the other a chance at a rebuttal.

Barry Shulman

Johnny’s case for Barry Schulman

Schulman bought Cardplayer Magazine in 1999, and since then, along with his son Jeff, he has turned the Magazine in to a poker media empire. The influence of Cardplayer in the poker world cannot be questioned: They bring top notch news reporting and great articles, they also take strong stances on controversial topics and could possibly be inducted in to the HOF as an entity. The man at the helm is no slouch at the tables! Winning the 2009 WSOPE Main Event was a great cap on a successful poker career for Schulman, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I am confident that he will get there.

Steve’s case for Barry Shulman

Barry Shulman is best known as the head honcho at Cardplayer Magazine, which was THE magazine for close to a decade in poker. Later in life Shulman has started putting together an impressive resume of poker accomplishments including winning the 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event, a 3rd place showing at the 2010 PCA, as well as winning a WSOP bracelet back in 2001.

Jennifer Harman

Johnny’s case for Jennifer Harman

Jennifer Harman is everything Annie Duke pretends to be. She is a consummate professional who has swum with the sharks at the male dominated, high-stakes, poker games for as long as anyone. She always acts professionally and tastefully. She is philanthropic and wonderful role model for female poker players. Recently it was announced that she will appear in a reality show about the power women of Las Vegas, thank god they finally got it right and decided to put the spotlight on Jen instead of the less worthy, more vocal female players.

Steve’s Case for Jennifer Harman

Possibly the greatest female player in the history of the game, Jennifer Harman has proven she can play against ANYONE. Harman is also one of the most accomplished female tournament players, with two open-event WSOP bracelets, despite not playing a full schedule of tournaments and focusing on cash games.

Lee Jones

Johnny’s case for Lee Jones

Lee Jones literally wrote the book on Limit Hold’em. If you ask any serious limit player to name a book that helped elevate their game you will almost unanimously hear “Winning Low Limit Hold’em”. In addition to his writing credits Lee also became the Poker Room manager at Pokerstars in its infancy and has overseen things at the world’s largest online poker room for some time now. Online poker definitely deserves some representation in the Hall and I can think of nobody better and more deserving then Lee Jones to be that representative.

Steve’s Case against Lee Jones

I actually have no case to make, and I think this is a great pick by Johnny.

Marcel Luske

Steve’s case for Marcel Luske

One of the first true European superstars in the game, Marcel Luske simply does not get the credit he deserves as a player and an ambassador for poker. Having semi-retired from playing poker, Marcel now spends his time trying to implement a uniform set of rules for poker rooms around the world.

Johnny’s case against Marcel Luske

I know he had a degree of fame throughout the poker boom, and I know he has done important things for standardizing rules in tournament poker, but Luske would be another example of someone getting in based on where he was born over his actual accomplishments. He may make it in one day, but that day is pretty far removed from today.

Donald Trump

Johnny’s case for Donald Trump

This one may stir up some controversy but I stand by my opinion that The Donald deserves induction in to the Poker Hall of Fame. Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s anyone who knew tournament poker knew that the United States Poker Championship was a big deal. Trump was the face and host of that tournament for a number of years as it was held at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City annually. Aside from the USPC Trump has also owned or branded tons of casinos with poker rooms. Without Donald Trump live poker may not have gotten as popular as it was throughout the 80’s and 90’s. He provided a huge outlet for the game to grow.

Steve’s case against Donald Trump

This one is a head-scratcher in my opinion. Trump is not responsible for bringing poker to the East Coast, he was merely a businessman that saw opportunities in Atlantic City casinos, and promoted it. Proof of this is his utter dismissal of the USPC when it was no longer profitable.

Ted Forrest

Steve’s case for Ted Forrest

Ted Forrest is considered one of the best high-stakes poker players in the game’s history, and he has pretty much “been there, done that” in every aspect of poker from, No Limit Holdem tournaments, to mixed cash-games. He is truly one of the most overlooked players in poker history.

Johnny’s case against Ted Forrest

Ted Forrest deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but as a poker fan I feel like he isn’t ready for that swan song yet. Give the man a few more years and let’s see what happens.

Scotty Nguyen

Johnny’s case for Scotty Nguyen

Scotty Nguyen is a prime example of a deserving player whose action could hurt his induction in to the Hall. Scotty was never caught cheating or angle shooting, but in a moment I am sure he wishes he can redo he embarrassed himself and his legacy at the final table of the 50k WSOP Players Championship in 2008. I don’t know if Scotty has worked past the negative impact of that moment, but I do know that there are very few people with the accomplishments he has who are not already in the Hall of Fame. Scotty will get in eventually (as long as he doesn’t screw it up) but I think an induction is getting overdue.

Steve’s case against Scotty Nguyen

I think Scotty is a Hall of Famer in the end, but for me there are simply too many deserving players in the queue ahead of him, because Scotty is simply a one-dimensional tournament player, nothing more and nothing less.

Carlos Mortensen

Steve’s case for Carlos Mortensen

If Ted Forrest is overlooked than Carlos Mortensen is invisible! Stack up his career accomplishments against anyone and the case could be made for Mortensen being the better tournament player. 2001 WSOP Main Event champion, three-time WPT Champion (including the $25k Championship), over $10 million in career earnings… Need I say more?

Johnny’s case against Carlos Mortensen

Again, I think that Steve is picking people who all deserve to be in the Hall (except Caro obv) but he is picking them way to young. Mortensen is a shoe in, in 10 years I will be livid if he is not in the Hall of Fame.

Andy Beal

Johnny’s case for Andy Beal

Andy Beal may not be a name that everyone thinks about when they think poker, but if you have ever read “The Professor, The Banker and The Suicide King” it is a name you will never forget. Andy Beal did what everyone dreams about: He played the best players in the world heads-up and figured out how to beat them. He dragged them into his territory and almost crumbled the high stakes poker economy single-handedly. To this day, if a rumor of Andy Beal being back in Vegas pops up the forums are a buzz and grown men shiver. He is the monster under the bed, the urban legend that every high stakes poker pro has heard about, only he is real and he is legit and he can come back and make the best players in the world uncomfortable at any point in time.

Steve’s case against Andy Beal

While I completely disagree with this pick, Johnny makes a very good case for the Texas banker. Unfortunately, a Poker hall of Fame career cannot be made in a single match, even if it turned into a book.

Tony G

Steve’s case for Tony G

Antanas Guoga, AKA Tony G, is one of the most recognizable players in poker and it’s high-time the poker world starts to realize how important his contributions to poker have been. Love him or hate him, Tony G makes for good television, and as the founder of PokerNews he has managed to perform both at the poker tables and away from them. Tony is also the only poker player I know of to march in the opening ceremony of the Olympics!

Johnny’s case against Tony G

Tony G is qualified! For the Hall of Fame and whatever else you want to put him in, he is savvy both on and off the table and the guy may be the single greatest character in poker history.

Humberto Brenes

Johnny’s case for Humberto Brenes

No one can argue that “The Chark” is a character. Some people find his table antics amusing and some find them out of line. Either way, the man found a way to reinvent himself during the poker boom. Several deep runs in the WSOP Main Event gave him the exposure he needed to build a brand, and some damn good poker chops have given him some impressive results. Brenes makes a fine representative in the Hall of Fame for the Hispanic community and has put in the time and effort to earn himself an induction in the Hall.

Steve’s case against Humberto Brenes

Humberto is much like Scotty Nguyen, a one-dimensional tournament player. Down the road I would have no problem with Humberto being honored with a Hall of Fame induction, but there are simply too many more-deserving players in line ahead of him.

Mike Caro

Steve’s case for Mike Caro

Before the poker boom there weren’t too many names in poker more well-known than Mike Caro, and before he took on the role of author and poker theoretician, “The Mad Genius” was one of the best Draw Poker players in California. Some of his early concepts proved to be wrong, and others are now outdated, but along with David Sklansky, Caro was the first to test the boundaries of the game’s strategies, and he should be honored for doing so (he may have failed many times but this is because he was constantly testing and trying) . While many now scoff at Mike Caro he was a very important person in the poker world throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Johnny’s case against Mike Caro

In my opinion there are very few people less deserving of the HOF as “The Mad Genius of Poker”. Caro’s books are full of misinformation and his current writing is incoherent babble about strategies that were barely relevant 15 years ago. Mike fancies himself an expert on outdated games against outdated players; he is more like the “The Court Jester of Poker”.

Titanic Thompson

Johnny’s case for Titanic Thompson

Titanic Thompson may be the greatest proposition gambler to have ever lived. His legendary stories include rigging a watermelon counting contest and driving a golf ball on top of a frozen lake. His stories are the stuff of camp fires and his legend grows every time something is written about him. Titanic made his living many ways, cards being just one of them, but there is no denying his legend. He was the hustler’s hustler and one of the last of an era. Thompson deserves to be recognized by the Hall of Fame.

Steve’s case against Titanic Thompson

Titanic was on my short-list, so I’ll agree with everything Johnny said above and add that he was a masterful card cheat and played in some of the highest stakes poker games in the country.

John Duthie

Steve’s case for John Duthie

John Duthie has a somewhat impressive resume when it comes to poker results, but he is far more well-known for his contributions behind the scenes as one of the founders of the European Poker Tour. Without Duthie and the EPT it’s hard to imagine what the European poker scene might look like today.

Johnny’s case against John Duthie

John Duthie’s poker accomplishments are decent enough to hold up against some of the world’s better players, but I am not from the school of thought that being foreign born gives you a right to be in the Hall of Fame, I do not agree that Duthie deserves entry.

Cyndy Violette

Johnny’s case for Cyndy Violette

In 1984 Cyndy won the largest tournament prize ever won by a woman up to that point when she won a 7 Card Stud Tournament at The Golden Nugget. 20 years later she won a WSOP bracelet. She has stood the test of time and is probably the second most deserving female behind only Jennifer Harmon. She made poker sexy in the 80’s at a time when very few females were playing and winning money in poker, she is way too often overlooked for her contributions to the advancement of females in poker.

Steve’s case against Cyndy Violette

This is another choice that I really can’t argue. Cyndy was a top-level tournament and cash-game player and is still a winning player some 30 years into her poker career.

Jack McClelland

Steve’s case for Jack McClelland

Considered one of the best tournament directors of all-time, Jack McClelland has been on the final short-list of Poker Hall of Fame nominees the past few years, and it’s high time that he receive the honor he deserves. McClelland’s name is used as the litmus test for tournament directors and officials. McClelland is the Gold Standard of tournament directors.

Johnny’s case against Jack McClelland

I also cannot argue much with this choice. Jack deserves a spot in the Hall as much as anyone.

Tom McEvoy

Johnny’s case for Tom McEvoy

McEvoy is the perennial bridesmaid of the Poker Hall of Fame and I can’t really figure out why. He is a WSOP Main Event Champion, but more importantly he was the first man ever to win that tournament after qualifying through a satellite. Satellites are a huge part of the game now, some netting the winner a million dollars, and it all started with McEvoy. On top of his poker accomplishments he is also a very well respected poker author and historian. An induction in the Hall of Fame is well overdue for McEvoy and I am truly shocked that someone so deserving has been left out for so long.

Steve’s case against Tom McEvoy

If McEvoy was the inspiration for satellites, or helped bring them into being I might agree, but as it stands he is a one-hit wonder (McEvoy has 4 WSOP bracelets but other the Main Event his largest cash prize is a mere $117,000). I wouldn’t be mad if Tom McEvoy got into the HOF, but I wouldn’t vote him in.

Terry Rogers

Steve’s case for Terry Rogers

If you want to trace No Limit Holdem’s roots in Europe look no farther than Irishman Terry Rogers. Rogers brought No Limit Holdem back to Ireland in 1979 and his private club, The Eccentrics Club, produced some of the best players of the time including was Padraig Parkinson, Donnacha O’Dea, Scott Gray, Liam Flood, George McKeever, and 1999 WSOP Main Event Champion Noel Furlong. Rogers was also the driving force behind the Irish Poker Open, which still lives on to this day.

Johnny’s case against Terry Rogers

Damn, why didn’t I think of that? Great choice, the man brought Hold’em to Europe, one of the legit reasons for inducting a foreign born player.

Final Thoughts

We kicked around a lot of names while making this list (Eric Drache, Nick the Greek, James McManus, Al Alvarez, David Sklansky, Joe Hachem, Doc Holliday, Norman Chad, Guy Laliberte, and many others) in the end we settled on the above players and personalities. Feel free to leave your thoughts on our picks or suggest your own below.


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3 Responses to “Head-to-Head: Who belongs in the Poker Hall of Fame”

  1. Kevin Wright says:

    Very well written gentlemen. Great points from both sides.

  2. Beat by rags says:

    Very nice article, if I read it all it has to be good !! Nice job

  3. Steve Ruddock says:

    Thanks guys! and yes it clocked in a little longer than we had anticipated, lol!

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