Poker Hall of Fame 2016 Tweaks

Congrats to both Carlos Mortensen and Todd Brunson on their induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. I consider both gentlemen friends and tough players. These two are a total contrast with Carlos being the wild aggressive tournament phenom, while Todd gets in due to his solid cash game grinding skills.

As is the case every year with the Hall of Fame, debates arise about the process and ultimately who should or shouldn’t get in. I’ve given it a lot of thought and would like to see a few tweaks:

A) Builder Category

Currently the criteria for this category reads like this: “Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.”

For the sake of clarity, I would like to see this phrase changed slightly to avoid confusion in the future. I would add, “To qualify, the person must have worked in the industry as a non-player, and/or created something that benefited the poker community as a non-player.”

I also find it difficult to vote for someone in the builder category when it takes up a spot that a player may have gotten. Since builders represent a small percentage of the nominees, my suggestion to address this is to induct a builder once every 4 years in addition to the two players that go in annually. That way people like Matt Savage, Steve Lipscomb, John Duthie, Bruno Fitoussi and others would compete against each other in this category and not be judged against players. It’s quite difficult to judge apples and oranges, so just the apples against the apples, and the oranges against the oranges.

B) Define criteria better

This is the current criteria for players:

A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination
Played for high stakes
Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
Stood the test of time

Some of these criteria are self explanatory, but there are others that are quite confusing and not clearly defined.

1. A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition

What defines top competition exactly? When the Hall of Fame was created, this could only happen if a player played the highest stakes cash games against the worlds best players. Since the 70’s poker has changed a great deal. You have online poker skills, tournament players, and a wide range of stakes that could be considered high stakes.
Frankly, in today’s environment this criteria is far too vague and leaves way too much room for interpretation. Any nominee that is going to make the list is going to qualify under this criteria, it’s implied and doesn’t really say much. We have never had a player nominee that wouldn’t automatically qualify under this criteria. It’s quite silly actually. I would discard it entirely.

2. Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination

You can’t be more clear than this!

3. Played for high stakes

What qualifies as high stakes? Is $5-$10 no limit hold’em a high stakes game? Are $1000 buy in tournaments considered high stakes in 2016? I think we should actually clarify this clearly and adjust when necessary. So for cash games I would go with $400-$800 limits and above. For no limit cash games, $25-$50 blind minimum.
What are high stakes tournaments in 2016? I would say at a minimum you would have to go with $10,000 buy ins to consider it high stakes and even that is a stretch. It may be more accurate to say, “Above $10,000 buy ins.”

4. Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers

This seems impossible to actually define. Ultimately the voters votes answer this question. Which peers? Media votes in the poker Hall of Fame, are they peers? Do they have any insight into how good the cash game players are? What does “consistently well” mean exactly? I have played terrible at times over the last 20 years. This criteria is too similar to the last criteria “Stood the Test of Time.” I would change it to, “Their poker skills earned the respect of their peers.”

5. Stood the test of time

How much time exactly? How does one define this? If John Smith was the best player in the world from ages 25-50 but at 55 was just awful, did he stand the test of time? How much time? If Joe Blow had millions of dollars playing poker in his 20’s and 30’s but went broke in his early 40’s against tougher competition, did he stand the test of time? For this criteria we should add “Stood the test of time over a period of 15 years or more.

If I had my say I would change the criteria for players to look like this:

1. Must Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination
2. Played for High Stakes.
-Tournaments with buy ins over $10,000
-Limit Cash games $400-$800 and above
-No Limit Cash games of $25-$50 and above
3. Their poker skills are well respected by their peers
4. They were exceptional in at least one of these areas:
-Cash Games
-Online Poker
5. Stood the test of time over a period of 15 years or more

C) Change the voting process

Currently living members of the Hall of Fame and certain media members are given ten votes they can divvy up any way they want between one to three nominees. This system is broken and gives voting blocks far too much power. Get three living members to throw all ten of their votes at a nominee and he is very likely to get inducted. It shouldn’t be this way and I hope they strongly consider dumping this method.

An alternate method I think is far more fair is to have every voter vote for exactly two people and rank them #1 and #2. The most #1 votes gets in. If there is a tie, the #2 vote acts as the tiebreaker. For the second player, the second most #1 votes gets in, and the same process would occur in a tie. Or, you could simply assign a point value to those picks giving 2 points for a #1 vote and 1 point for a #2 vote.

This doesn’t solve the problem of voting blocks but it curbs it and allows people to vote with their conscious rather than voting based on politics or to manipulate the vote. For example, say I thought John and Bill both deserve votes equally. If I know Bill has no chance to get in, I then throw all my votes to John increasing the chances of him getting in. With my system, I would simply put Bill down as my #1 and John down as my #2.

D) Fan voting

There is a place for it. However, not all spots should be decided by fan vote otherwise it would simply become a popularity contest. I am unaware of who the panel is that decides who is on the nomination list, but I think what would work best is to reserve four spots for a fan vote and have the other six spots decided by the panel and living members.