Every year, the Poker Hall of Fame inducts up to two new members to its ranks. As is customary around this time of year, the list of ten poker finalists for this year’s class was subsequently released on Sunday. The majority of the list is comprised of repeat finalists with one notable addition.
Antonio Esfandiari is the new name on the list. The Magician is best known for winning the first-ever Big One for One Drop Event. One name that’s drawing a bit of criticism is six WSOP bracelet winner Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. Considered to be one of the people responsible for the collapse of Full Tilt Poker, some poker fans believe that he is undeserving of the Hall of Fame.
Poker Hall of Fame Finalists
On Sunday, the Poker Hall of Fame announced their list of ten finalists for 2019. Below are the finalists in alphabetical order:
- Chris Bjorin
- David Chiu
- Eli Elezra
- Antonio Esfandiari
- Chris Ferguson
- Ted Forrest
- Mike Matusow
- Chris Moneymaker
- David Oppenheim
- Huck Seed
Antonio Esfandiari is the only person on this list that has not been a finalist in past years. That’s because he just turned 40 late last year, meeting the “Chip Reese Rule” where players have to be at least 40 to garner induction.
Three international players made the finalists list. Eli Elezra, Chris Bjorin, and David Chiu have all been on the list in the past with the only player not currently living in the United State being Bjorin. Elezra recently won his fourth career WSOP bracelet in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Event.
Controversy Over Choices and Omissions
There’s always controversy surrounding the finalist list for the Poker Hall of Fame and this year is no different. On this occasion, the inclusion of Chris Ferguson raised the eyebrows and ire of many fans. Ferguson was the technology officer and a primary owner of Full Tilt Poker pre-Black Friday. Moreover, many feel he is one of the people directly responsible for the collapse of the website. Many feel that he should not even be allowed back in poker, much less begin considered for the Poker Hall of Fame.
Other controversies arose over the snubbing of industry leaders, particularly Matt Savage and Jack Effel of the WSOP. Many believe that Savage should already be in the Hall of Fame for his work in the industry. They think that the inclusion of Ferguson but snubbing of Savage is a major problem.
Savage even took to Twitter asking if a broke poker player has actually “stood the test of time,” but Savage did not elaborate on which player that he meant.
Who Will Be Inducted in 2019?
If you look at the past history of Hall of Fame inductions, the WSOP likes to either put in two really big poker names or one big name and one contributor. This year’s class has only one name that some would consider a star-caliber finalist, and that is Antonio Esfandiari.
Esfandiari has been on just about any major poker TV show you can think of and is an extremely popular player. His induction would be very high profile for the Poker Hall of Fame. Naturally, this would be the safe pick by the committee.
A candidate that may have a better shot of being inducted this year over any other is Chris Moneymaker. While many don’t consider Moneymaker to have the pedigree to get into the Hall of Fame based solely on his playing career, many feel that his 2003 WSOP Main Event win sparked the Poker Boom and the success that the WSOP has enjoyed since that time.
This is the 50th World Series of Poker and it would make sense to induct a man into the Poker Hall of Fame that helped to spark the massive growth of the series. Therefore, Moneymaker inducted alongside Esfandiari this year should’t come as too much of a surprise.