Poker Hall of Fame Breakdown (Part Vier: The Final Battle)

by , Sep 28, 2010 | 1:36 pm

In the last article we looked at the last four candidates for Poker Hall of Fame. So now its time to break down the votes that each player would get depending on the criteria of the hall, as well as some other fairly easy to determine metrics. What I will do is look at each criteria and metric and see who has the “edge”, similar to how its done in sports matchup previews.

The Hall of Fame’s criteria are:

  • Player must have played against known top competition
  • Played for high stakes
  • Played consistently well, gaining respect of peers
  • Stood the test of time
  • Contributed to the overall growth and success of the game (this normally applies to non-players, but I think players should help in this aspect as well)

Some additional criteria to consider include:

  • Tournament Success
  • Cash Game Success
  • Depth of Poker Knowledge (NLHE specialist vs. mixed game master)
  • And..finally…public perception (because this is really important these days)

But, of course, there is a little battle to settle. While Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel cleared the hurdle, Barry Greenstein and Scotty Nguyen are neck-and-neck, so before we can do anything we have to settle a simple question, who (in my mind) is worthy of a vote?

Scotty Nguyen vs. Barry Greenstein

I thought this would be a little easier than doing the rest of this article, because I just have to boil things down to the facts. While Scotty Nguyen has a more impressive tournament record and holds some pretty prestigious accolades, he is only a tournament player. Barry Greenstein plays both cash and tournaments, but he hasn’t even cashed in the Main Event yet. I won’t count media perception, because again I maintain Scotty’s actions in the 2008 HORSE event is not enough for me to punish him for this. In fact, his interaction with his fans on twitter (or at least someone that works for Scotty is) eclipses that of almost any pro out there. Barry does have a feather in his cap though, being the Robin Hood of Poker and donating vast sums of money to charity. So this boils down to does the ability to play both cash and tournaments beat the ability to win big tournaments consistently?

In the end, I’ve surprised even myself, and I’m giving the edge and the tiebreaker to Scotty Nguyen for his impressive tournament record beating Greenstein’s cash chops. It really just comes down to feel and a coin flip, and I would want to take both, but if I have to choose one I’ve gotta take Scotty, he’s just too damn entertaining.

Edge: Nguyen

So there you have it, Scotty, Dan, and Erik would be the people I would vote for based on this year’s ballot. Now we’ll go through each part of the criteria to determine who has an edge, then based on the edges people have, assign a number of votes. I won’t go into whether I value one category higher than another, but hopefully my final rankings won’t be too “WTF?!”

Played Against Known Top Competition, Played for High Stakes, Stood the Test of Time, and Played Consistently Well

I lumped these together because honestly, there really isn’t a distinction between the three. They all have done these aspects equally well in their own ways.

Edge: Draw

Contributed to the Growth of the Game

  • Seidel was on the design team for Full Tilt Poker, and as such helped contribute to the growth of online poker with the US’s #2 trafficked cardroom.
  • Harrington has written many books about tournament and cash poker, elevating the knowledge base of thousands of poker players since he has written the book.
  • Nguyen’s entertaining personality helps TV poker continue to be a draw for the casual fan.

Edge: Harrington (and a big one at that)

Tournament Success

  • Harrington has reached the final table of the main event 4 times, winning it once. He also has another bracelet and a WPT title.
  • Nguyen has 5 bracelets, one in the 1999 WSOP ME and another in the 2008 $50k HORSE. Also has a WPT title.
  • Seidel has 8 WSOP bracelets and 1 WPT title.

Edge: Nguyen (for his big wins) and Seidel (for sheer volume)

Cash Game Success

None of the players are big on their cash game play, only Dan Harrington has much evidence of this given his books on the subject. Seidel played in the Mayfair Club, but that was over 20 years ago.

Edge: None, with a slight tilt to Harrington for at least having evidence of still being a cash game player.

Depth of Poker Knowledge

  • Based on accomplishments alone, Harrington is strictly a NLHE specialist, while he may dabble in other games, he doesn’t have much hardware to show for it.
  • Seidel has bracelets in 2-7, Omaha, and Hold’em
  • Nguyen has bracelets in NLHE, HORSE, and Omaha

Edge: Nguyen

Public (read: My) Perception of the Player

  • Scotty’s double edged sword is that he has a lively personality, but it can get him in trouble.
  • Erik is definitely a poker player, he was against hole card cams and doesn’t have a personality that people can latch onto.
  • Dan is a teacher, and is given mostly positive coverage. While he also doesn’t have as much of a personality as Scotty, he’s definitely known for his green Red Sox cap and his demeanor at the table.

Edge: Harrington

Final Verdict

I have ten votes to give. I tend to weight contributions and public perception slightly higher than raw accomplishments, because poker is still growing and we need people to help grow the sport. Those people that have done so should be given their just rewards. Likewise, I then look at tournament accolades next, followed by how deep a player’s knowledge of the game is.

And the results are:

  • Dan Harrington: 5 (for his contributions to the game, his public perception, and to a lesser extent his tournament play)
  • Scotty Nguyen: 3 (for his tournament accomplishments and depth of knowledge)
  • Erik Seidel: 2 (for his tournament accomplishments alone)

I will confess, when I started this, I had a heavy bias toward Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel. But over the course of this process, Scotty came in as a dark horse and ended up with more votes than Seidel at the end of the day. I feel confident in this vote, and while I don’t have a say this year, I hope that this analysis helps others draw their own conclusions. And they’ll have to do it fast, voting ends on Friday.


  • DanM

    I like the Scotty pick! He actually got one of my votes last year, but probably won’t this year.

  • http://pokershrink.blogspot.com Poker Shrink

    Harrington, Seidel, Nguyen, Greenstein, Ivey, Negreanu all will or should make it to the HoF eventually. This year I think the nod must go to Harrington with 5-7 votes.