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Predictions for the 2018 Poker Hall of Fame

The list of finalists for the 2018 Poker Hall of Fame was released late Sunday. This year’s list of finalists is as balanced a list as we’ve seen in recent years.

Below is a tweet listing the finalists:

This is one of the years where we don’t have any heads scratchers amongst the finalists, but in the end, only about five have a realistic shot of getting in this year.

Thanks For Playing – See You Next Year

There are a few players that regularly make the list of finalists or that are new to the list and are definitely deserving of induction into the Poker Hall of Fame, but for one reason or another, they just don’t make it. From this years list, Chris Bjorin, David Chiu, Mike Matusow, and David Oppenheim are those that are a safe bet to miss out on induction yet again.

Chiu and Bjorin are both players that have made the list three out of the last four years and while they both have outstanding resumes, they never seem to have the support from the voting panel to win induction.

Mike Matusow has made the list of finalists the last two years and has been a finalist in the past. The major knock on Mike over the years has been consistency. Does he deserve to be in? You could make arguments either way, but compared to the others on the list, it’s going to take him a while to get in.

David Oppenheim has made the list of finalists for the first time. While a stellar cash game player, his resume outside of cash games is lacking compared to other players. If you’re of the mindset that only the best cash game players should be in the Hall of Fame, then Oppenheim fits that mold. For those that look at the game as it evolved and consider Oppenheim based on that, he is probably ranked dead last on the list of finalists.

Which Player Will Be Inducted?

Now that we have eliminated 40% of the field automatically, we can focus on the other 60%. Half of the remaining finalists fall under the “player most likely to be inducted in the next two to three year.” I only say this because I expect Bruno Fitoussi, Huck Seed and John Hennigan to all get into the Hall of Fame but spread out over the next three years.

Out of the three, Hennigan is most likely to get in this year based on his track record. His performance at the 2018 WSOP just bolsters his chances. Also, there are more rumblings about finally getting him into the Hall of Fame, so it seems his time has come.

Between Seed and Fitoussi, it’s really a pick ‘em on which will go in first. If you look at the player’s impact on the game, Fitoussi should go in first because of his impact on the game in France. Fitoussi is the perfect person for the Hall of Fame because he not only has played well but he has helped bring new generations of players into the game. I personally rank him as a player-contributor, and the Hall of Fame has inducted several that fit that mold (Linda Johnson and Tom McEvoy as examples).

Then There Are the Contributors

Matt Savage and Mori Eskandani are the two names that made the list strictly on their contributions to growing the game of poker. Both are going to get in. That’s a fact. The question is, who will go first.

I honestly expected Eskandani to go in last year but it seems increasingly likely based on the recent buzz that Matt Savage is the likely contributor to go first. Depending on whether you’re a poker fan or a player, you could make arguments for either over the other.

Personally, I don’t have a preference on which should go first as I feel that contributors should go in separately from players. Put in two players each year and have a special election/induction every four to five years for contributors.

No, I Didn’t Forget Moneymaker

Then there’s 2003 WSOP Main Event Champion Chris Moneymaker. Does he deserve to go in on the strength of his poker resume? Hell no.

Look at the last criteria for HOF consideration:

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

Let’s drop the “for non-players” and apply that to Moneymaker. Since the turn of the century, has there been any player that has had more influence on the game than Moneymaker? His win inspired generations of poker players and helped change the course of poker history.

How many of us would even be playing poker if not for seeing Moneymaker’s win or the ESPN broadcasts from that year? The majority of us employed in poker right now would not be here if not for the aftermath of that victory.

His win has “indelible positive and lasting results,” and is certainly worthy of enshrinement.

With that said, it is hard to see the HOF panel giving the nod over other worthy candidates and contributors. If Moneymaker were to ever get into the HOF, I’d like to see it done as a special occasion. The 20 year anniversary of his victory in 2023 would seem a fitting time.

Savage and Hennigan in 2018

Ultimately, I think it will be John Hennigan and Matt Savage inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2018. Out of all the players on the list, Hennigan has the best overall pedigree and it seems he has the most support from those that have publicly spoken about the HOF.

I don’t see two players getting inducted this year but rather one player and one contributor and Savage seem to have a bit more support than Eskandani. Even so, Eskandani getting the nod over Savage wouldn’t be a tremendous shock and would essentially give Savage a lock on induction in 2019.

We won’t have long to wait to find out who’ll get in. The HOF committee has until July 8 to vote and those selected will be inducted during the WSOP Main Event festivities on July 13.

Good luck to all the finalists!

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