2015 Poker Hall of Fame: ‘It’s like a map without Europe on it’

The Poker Hall of Fame should be a cause for celebration but there’s a rift brewing between America and the rest of the world

The two inductees for the 2015 WSOP Hall of Fame have been announced, with Jennifer Harman and John Juanda getting the nod to join the elite group that now numbers 50. Both players made the public shortlist and were then selected by a 39-strong panel of existing Hall of Famers and select media people.

Both players received heavyweight support from existing Hall of Famers prior to the results being announced, with Doyle Brunson willing to put money on the outcome back on September 21.

When Brunson’s willing to bet on something that he’s personally involved with, you’d have to be a fool to take him up on it.

Daniel Negreanu posted a blog on September 9 outlining the criteria you had to meet to make the Hall of Fame and pushing both Harman and Juanda.

‘There are two players on that list that continue, after 20+ years to play high stakes poker and find success: Jennifer Harman and John Juanda. JJ plays the biggest no limit hold’em games in the world in Macau and abroad, and despite skipping the WSOP 2015 entirely, he just won the biggest EPT event in their history.

As for Jennifer, she is easy to find. She is sitting in the same place she has been for decades, in the Bellagio poker room playing the world’s biggest mixed games.’

It meant there was no space for the late Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott despite a huge outpouring of public support after his death in April that saw him make the shortlist.

It’s impossible to argue with the inclusion of Harman and Juanda. Both deserve their places in the Hall of Fame. But the omission of Ulliott left a lot of people unhappy, including Victoria Coren and Jesse May.

Joe Beevers posted a blog congratulating Harman and Juanda, but pointed out that the Hall of Fame is fast becoming an irrelevance outside of America. ‘There are zero living non Americans in the PHOF and the only non American name I can see in the list of (now) 50 is Edmond Hoyle inducted in 1980 (he died in 1769). Sounds like they have a fair system here with no bias whatsoever right? Yeah right. So when is a Hall of Fame not a Hall of Fame? When it’s a club.’

Jesse May revealed that he was one of the 39 who voted on this year’s inductees and was at pains to point out that the ‘voting process is extremely fair.’

So what’s going wrong? Poker might be dominated by players from the USA, but it’s a global game and a Hall of Fame that ignores the contribution of players and personalities from around the globe isn’t true to the game or worthy of its name.

This isn’t about Juanda and Harman. And it’s not about Devilfish. Arguing about individual names on the list is a pointless exercise, but a Poker Hall of Fame should be more inclusive.

We say the WSOP should publish the list of the 39 people eligible to vote. Or try to come up with a system that provides more balance and accurately reflects the poker world.  One big problem is that the existing Hall of Famers have the bulk of the vote but aren’t geographically representative of the poker world. Devilfish was hugely influential in the UK – especially in the early growth of the game – but it would be impossible to gauge this from a gated villa in Las Vegas.

It’s easy to justify the status quo by arguing the merits of individuals that make it into the Hall of Fame. It’s harder to justify the fact that for the Hall of Fame, poker seemingly doesn’t exist outside of America.

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