Poker Hall of Fame

Published: 14/08/2012
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Established in 1979, the Poker Hall of Fame was the brainchild of Benny Binion, the same casino owner who founded the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP). When Harrah’s Entertainment acquired the WSOP in 2004, it also gained all rights to the Poker Hall of Fame, which today gives virtual recognition to the game’s most influential players and other important contributors.

As of 2012, there have been 42 individuals inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, among who 18 are living members. In order to gain nomination, a player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition, played for high stakes and stood the test of time by playing consistently well and gaining the respect of peers. Non-players are considered who have “contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.”

The very first members enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame were the “lucky seven.” They included professional players Red Winn, Sid Wyman and Nick “the Greek” Dandolos as well as inaugural WSOP champion Johnny Moss. Felton “Corky” McCorquodale was added for his contribution of bringing Texas Hold’em to Las Vegas. Lawman James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok (1837-1876) was included for his legendary stature in the game, and writer Edmund Hoyle (1672-1769) was inducted for his impact on card games in general.

From 1980 until 1987, only a single new member was inducted each year: Walter Clyde “Puggy” Pearson, Henry Green, Red Hodges, Murph Harrold, Joe Bernstein, Tom Abdo, Bill Boyd and T “Blondie” Forbes. In 1988, Jack “Treetop” Strauss was inducted along with Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, who still plays in Las Vegas today and is widely regarded as the “Godfather of Poker.”

Thereafter, induction reverted back to one per year, and in some years leading up to the turn of the new millennium there were no inductees at all. Among those making the cut in that period were players Roger Moore, Julius Oral “Little Man” Popwell, Jack Keller, Thomas Austin “Amarillo Slim” Preston, David “Chip” Reese and Fred “Sarge” Ferris. Benny Binion was also honoured during that time, in 1990.

In 2001, Stu “The Kid” Ungar was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, followed by Lyle Berman and Johnny Chan in 2002 and then “Bobby Baldwin in 2003. By this time, poker was becoming one of the hottest trends in the world, televised regularly, the subject of movies and the focal point of attention each summer at the much anticipated annual WSOP in Las Vegas.

As Harrah’s Entertainment took over the rights to poker’s main event, the decision of who to include each year in the Hall of Fame also fell to the company and they put the WSOP in charge of the process. Their first choice in 2004 was Berry Johnston, the player with the most WSOP cashes at that time. In 2005, they selected two of the WSOP’s founders, Crandell Addington and Jack Binion, Benny’s son.

For the 2006 induction ceremony, players J.T. Cloutier and Billy Baxter were feted. In 2007, Phil Hellmuth was selected along with the very first female inductee, Barbara Enright—the first woman ever to win a WSOP open event bracelet.

Since then, honoured players have included Dan Harrington, Erik Seidel, Mike Sexton, Henry Orenstein and Duane “Dewey” Tomko. For 2011, Barry Greenstein was inducted alongside the second female inductee, Linda Johnson, the acclaimed “First Lady of Poker.”

The enshrinement ceremony is now held in conjunction with the final table of the WSOP Main Event, which takes place each autumn in Las Vegas. Since 2009, nominations have been accepted from the public at large, with the caveat that nominees must be at least 40 years of age—a rule intended to prevent the process from becoming a popularity contest.

Published on: 14/08/2012

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