PokerPlayer’s Big Issue: Is the Hall of Fame broken?

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 selected by a 39-strong panel of existing Hall of Famers and media. Both players also received heavyweight support from existing Hall of Famers prior to the results, with Doyle Brunson willing to put money on the outcome back on September 21. ‘@REALJenHarman – she will be inducted this year. Anyone thinks differently, look me up for a bet. $1,000 minimum, 10,000 maximum.’

When Brunson’s willing to bet on something 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 pushed both Harman and Juanda heavily.

‘There are two players on that list that continue, after 20+ years to play high stakes poker and nd 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 nd. 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 who tweeted: ‘So Devilfish has not been inducted into the poker hall of fame. That simply discredits the concept, revealing it as meaningless and stupid. I don’t say that because he was a friend; he was the biggest poker player in UK history. The HoF is like a map without Europe on it.’

Public vote

Jesse May is one of the select group of media that get a vote, and was at pains to point out that the ‘voting process is fair,’ but he wasn’t happy either.

‘I am extremely disappointed that a European has never been inducted into Augusta. Erm… I mean the poker HOF.’

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 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. It should truly reflect the characters in the game.

We say the WSOP should publish the list of the 39 people eligible to vote and try to make it more balanced. 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. This only gets worse as more Americans are inducted.

Devilfish was hugely influential in the UK but it would be impossible to gauge this from a gated villa in 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 doesn’t exist outside of America.

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