A Look at the 2012 Poker Hall of Fame Nominees

TAGs: brian roberts, Chris Bjorin, david chiu, eric drache, george hardie, Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, Poker Hall of Fame, Scotty Nguyen, Thor Hansen, Tom McEvoy

The list of nominees for the 2012 class of the Poker Hall of Fame were announced last week. It’s a pretty strong one, led by a former world champion, a five-time WSOP bracelet winner, and one of the toughest women ever to play the game.

In alphabetical order, here’s a look at the candidates, their claims to fame, and their likelihood of election to the Hall.

2012 Poker Hall of Fame NomineesChris Bjorin

Claim(s) to fame: All-time leading casher and money winner from Sweden; $5.29 million in 23 years of tournament earnings; 5th on all-time WSOP cashes list (65); 5th on all-time WSOP Main Event cashes list (7); 2 WSOP bracelets.

Likelihood of election: When it comes to the “test of time” selection criterion for the Hall, not many players have Chris Bjorin beat. His first tournament win came in 1990, and his first WSOP final table in 1991. Since then he has been one of the most consistent tournament performers in the world, earning more than six figures in 19 of the last 23 years. He’s in the top half of the field so far as likelihood of election goes, so his potential election probably rests on whether or not the voters decide to emphasize longevity or recognize an international player.

David Chiu

Claim(s) to fame: Respected high-stakes cash game player; $7.45 million in 16 years of tournament earnings; 4 WSOP bracelets; 2008 WPT Championship winner; all-time leading WSOP money winner in Limit Hold’em ($1.04M).

Likelihood of election: Chiu is a fearsome player at the poker tables, and is one of the seemingly rare players who has enjoyed big success both at the cash tables and in major tournaments. In another year with less accomplished and historically significant competition he would probably be a shoe-in. As it stands, he’ll be likely be overshadowed by John Juanda and Scotty Nguyen.

Eric Drache

Claim(s) to fame: Hired by Jack Binion as first WSOP tournament director; introduced side events at the WSOP; created satellite tournament concept; adviser to TV poker programs like NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship and High Stakes Poker.

Likelihood of election: Many of the most basic features of formats of today’s poker tournaments can be traced back to Eric Drache. Aside from the hole-card camera (whose inventor is already in the Poker HOF), there has been arguably no innovation more important to the growth of tournament poker’s popularity than the satellite tournament, which Drache popularized at the WSOP in the early 1980s. His work in TV has also helped to maintain the game’s popularity after the rush of the poker boom. With all that said, he’d have a better chance of making it if his three separate runner-up finishes in WSOP seven-card stud events had all been bracelet wins.

Thor Hansen

Claim(s) to fame: $2.9 million in 25 years of tournament earnings; 2nd all-time in earnings among players from Norway; 19th on all-time WSOP cashes list (47); 2 WSOP bracelets.

Likelihood of election: Imminently respected in the poker community for his skill and longevity – especially among Scandinavian players, who consider him the Godfather of Poker in that region – Hansen has been a mainstay at the WSOP and in poker tournaments throughout California and Europe for a quarter of a century. That said, he’s likely to be another casualty of a particularly strong list of nominees.

George Hardie

Claim(s) to fame: Turned Los Angeles’ Bicycle Club into a high-stakes poker haven; barred known cheaters, installed surveillance equipment, and made sure the Bicycle was known for its clean games; insisted on high standards for poker room staff; originated shootout tournaments.

Likelihood of election: George Hardie’s list of contributions to the game of poker is long, but none is more important than his reputation for cleaning the game up. In the early 1980s many poker rooms had a pretty nasty reputation for cheating and graft; Hardie’s efforts at the Bicycle Club helped to legitimize the game in a way that made its later explosion possible. There’s an outside chance that an older-skewing voting bloc that remembers what the game used to be like might push for Hardie’s election, but it’s slim at best.

Jennifer Harman

Claim(s) to fame: Regular in highest-stakes mixed cash games in Las Vegas; $2.64 million in 18 years of tournament earnings; 6th on all-time women’s money list; 4th on all-time WSOP cashes list among women (29); 2 WSOP bracelets.

Likelihood of election: Jennifer Harman covers one of the selection criteria particularly well. She has a reputation as a long-term winner in the high-stakes mixed games in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio, which features among its cast of regular players other members of the Hall like Barry Greenstein and Doyle Brunson. She was passed up last year because she’s still relatively young, though, and that’s probably what will happen again this year.

John Juanda

Claim(s) to fame: $14.19M in 15 years of tournament earnings; 7th on all-time money list; 5 WSOP bracelets; 7th all-time in WSOP cashes (62); 4th all-time leading WSOP money winner in 2-7 Single Draw ($521K).

Likelihood of election: Nobody in this field is a lock, but when it comes to tournament poker Juanda has accomplished more than most. His successes have spanned two distinct eras in tournament poker. Based solely on accomplishments at the table, he has to be one of the favorites this year. Whether or not he gets in will be down to other factors at play in the election process, including whether the voters opt to go for a historically-slanted choices like Brian “Sailor” Roberts or someone nominated for contributions to the game like George Hardie or Eric Drache.

Tom McEvoy

Claim(s) to fame: 1983 WSOP Main Event winner; first satellite winner to win WSOP Main Event; winner of Champions Invitational at 40th annual WSOP; $2.96 million in 30 years of tournament earnings; 4 WSOP bracelets; 29th all-time in WSOP cashes (43); author of popular poker books.

Likelihood of election: McEvoy has a fine pedigree, but he’s facing an arguably tougher list of fellow nominees this year than he did when he was nominated for the Hall in 2011. When you’re known mostly for playing tournaments, you’re at a serious disadvantage when your total earnings of under $3 million in 30 years are being compared to players who have earned four and five times that much in half the time. His strategy books might tilt things toward him a bit more, but it looks likely that McEvoy will be sitting out for a second straight year.

Scotty Nguyen

Claim(s) to fame: 1998 WSOP Main Event champion; 2008 WSOP $50K HORSE winner; $11.65M in 21 years of tournament earnings; 11th on all-time money list; 5 WSOP bracelets; 31st all-time in WSOP cashes (42); 6th all-time leading WSOP money winner in Omaha Hi-Lo ($591K); 1st all-time in WPT top-10 finishes (11).

Likelihood of election: Scotty Nguyen has been one of the single most successful tournament poker players of the last two decades; his success has come at the highest levels; the confident final moments of his world championship triumph (“You call now, it’s all over, baby!”) have become immortal; and despite his troubles at the 2008 WSOP $50K HORSE final table, fans love him. Like Juanda, Nguyen isn’t a lock for election, but he’s probably about as close as anyone could be.

Brian “Sailor” Roberts

Claim(s) to fame: 1975 WSOP Main Event champion; 2 WSOP bracelets; made a living playing high-stakes poker for four decades; the other third of the original “Texas Rounders,” along with Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim.

Likelihood of election: It might not be right, but Roberts seems like a one of the longer shots on this year’s list. He’s the only deceased player nominated this year, and his inclusion in the list of this year’s nominees came by a vote from one of the living members of the Hall – the first such nomination through this method. If Doyle Brunson were owed enough favors in the media and by other members of the Hall he might be able to twist enough arms to get Roberts in, but it seems unlikely in a year with this many strong candidates.

If you were going to bet on who will get in:

I’d tell you not to be such a degenerate. Picking favorites from this field is a tough call and there’s much easier money to be made on other prop bets. But if you forced me to choose, I’d pick Scotty Nguyen and John Juanda as my favorites, with Chris Bjorin as a backup .


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