Commentary

Analyzing the Hall of Fame nominees

Updated: September 24, 2010, 6:57 PM ET
By Gary Wise | Special to ESPN.com

• A gambler must have played poker against acknowledged top competition,
• Played for high stakes,
• Played consistently well, gained the respect of peers,
• And stood the test of time.
• Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.

These are the credentials under which the panel of 33 living hall of fame members and selected media members will decide how to vote on the 2010 Hall of Fame ballot. With 10 names to choose from, each panel member will submit his or her ballot by Oct. 1, using a 10-point must-use system. That is, a voter will have 10 points to distribute in support of up to three candidates. The top two players, as long as they receive 50 percent of the vote, will be inducted during the November Nine proceedings.

The voters have a tough task ahead of them because each of the candidates offer legitimate incentive to vote for him or her. What follows is a brief guide to the nominees and a look at why one would or wouldn't vote for them.

Chris Ferguson: You know him from the hat, glasses and plethora of abused fruits and vegetables lying in his wake, but "Jesus" also happens to be one of the most successful tournament players in poker history. A recent dry streak, thanks in part to a diversification of interests, doesn't change any of that.

Three reasons he deserves the vote:
1. 2000 World Series of Poker World Champion
2. Five WSOP bracelets, 59 WSOP cashes, over $8 million in ournament winnings
3. His alleged involvement with Full Tilt Poker has helped shape the poker world as we know it today

Why he doesn't: There are three guys on this list -- Phil Ivey, Scotty Nguyen and Erik Seidel -- who almost certainly have even better tournament records, and he doesn't have much of a cash-game reputation to hang that black cowboy hat on.

[+] EnlargeGreenstein
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesFor decades Barry Greenstein has been on top of the game. Will one of the most charitable poker players get the nod in 2010?

Barry Greenstein: For a live player to be as respected by the online community as "The Bear" is, he's got to be doing something right. He's here because he's successful, he's involved and he's one of the game's best ambassadors.

Three reasons he deserves the vote:
1. Three decades of cash game dominance
2. Over $7 million in tournament winnings as a side gig.
3. Tie: His book 'Ace on the River' taught the world how to behave like a professional. His early 'Robin Hood of Poker' philanthropic efforts showed that poker could hold a productive place in society.

Why he doesn't: As much as I'd love to have three WSOP bracelets and 44 cashes, those numbers don't stack up well amongst this company.

Jennifer Harman: While Greenstein has picked up the charity ball, Harman has run with it, an endeavor she could afford thanks to being the most successful female cash-game player in poker history. She's proof in the post-poker-boom world that a lady can be one of the boys.

Three reasons she deserves the vote:
1. The most successful woman cash-game player of all-time
2. Two WSOP bracelets and over $2.6 million in tournament winnings.
3. The ultimate symbol of gender integration in the poker world.

One reason she doesn't: Her numbers are drowned in gender-integrated company. To vote for a woman solely on the basis that her example has suggested gender doesn't matter doesn't seem right.

Dan Harrington: As I wrote recently, his excellence has transcended the usual need for color in establishing poker fame. Harrington epitomizes professionalism both at and away from the table, and has garnered universal respect as a result.

Three reasons he deserves the vote:
1. 1995 World Series of Poker World Champion
2. His back-to-back final tables in the 2003-2004 main events is amongst the more remarkable feats in poker history.
3. 'Harrington on Hold 'em' is probably the single most influential book of the poker boom, shaping tournament poker as we see it today.

One reason he doesn't: As remarkable a player as he's been, Harrington has always been a part-time player. $6.6 million in tournament winnings is solid, but that number is dwarfed in comparison to others on this list, and his 10 lifetime cashes at the WSOP hurt his argument for entry into the WSOP Hall of Fame.

Ivey: Do I really need to introduce this guy?

Three reasons he deserves the vote:
1. He's the greatest all-around poker player in the world.
2. Eight WSOP bracelets, 22 WSOP final tables, 40 WSOP cashes, nine WPT final tables, over $13.5 million in live tournament winnings, a reported $20 million in online winnings, and that's just the stuff we know about.
3. The most famous poker player in the world.

One reason he doesn't: His age forces the debate of whether he's done it for long enough. Chip Reese is the youngest enshrined Hall of Famer at 40 years and Ivey's still got a half-decade to go until he reaches that point. Other Halls wait until stars retire, but in a game where retirement comes with death at what point do we say enough is enough?

Linda Johnson: With all due respect to Barbara Enright, Johnson should probably have been the first lady ever enshrined in the WSOP Hall of Fame. She now has a chance to be the first lady elected instead.

Three reasons she deserves the vote:
1. The "First Lady of Poker"
2. 20 years of poker ambassadorship
3. She took Card Player Magazine from pamphlet form to what it is today, giving birth to the concept of "poker media" in the process.

One reason she doesn't: If Johnson gets in, it's on her broader accomplishments. One bracelet and $323,000 in winnings doesn't do much to qualify one for enshrinement as a player.

Tom McEvoy: One of the quieter world champions, McEvoy celebrated a resurgence last year when he won the WSOP's 40th anniversary Tournament of Champions on ESPN. He was the WSOP's first great product of the satellite system, which he rode to the 1983 world championship.

Three reasons he deserves the vote:
1. The first satellite winner-turned WSOP world champion.
2. Four WSOP bracelets, 38 WSOP cashes
3. Author of over a dozen books on poker, most of them written before poker's popularity made that a surefire winning proposition.

One reason he doesn't: McEvoy's poker play is hardly heroic. He doesn't play the biggest cash games, and his last bracelet came in 1992. With just under $3 milion in tournament winnings, he's competing with fellow authors Greenstein and Harrington, whose games are better respected and whose tomes have proven more influential in recent years.

Daniel Negreanu: If Ivey isn't the most famous player in the world, Negreanu is. With his combination of charisma, talent and results, his celebrity has gone mainstream, and he's earned it.

Three reasons he deserves the vote: 1. Over $12.7 million in tournament winnings, second all-time to Ivey.
2. 2004 WSOP Player of the Year, 2004 CardPlayer Player of the Year, 2004 WPT Player of the Year, two WPT victories, four WSOP bracelets and 47 WSOP cashes
3. Multi-media ambassador for the game.

One reason he doesn't: Two words - Phil Ivey. Like Ivey, Negreanu has all the stumbling blocks that come with being in his mid-thirties, but he also has the additional obstacle of Ivey being in his way. Negreanu will get in soon enough. It just won't happen until Ivey's gotten his day.

Nguyen: The "Prince of Poker" is living the American dream. He floated off Vietnam, came to America and got rich by playing a game he loves. In doing so, he became one of poker's best-known and best-loved characters.

Three reasons he deserves the vote:
1. 1998 World Series of Poker World Champion and the only winner of both that title and the $50,000 HORSE.
2. Over $11.3 million in tournament winnings, fifth all-time
3. Five WSOP bracelets, 37 WSOP cashes and eight WPT final tables. One of the most successful tournament players of all-time.

One reason he doesn't: In an industry where public image is everything, Nguyen embarrassed himself badly with a drunken tirade on route to his win in the 2008 WSOP $50,000 HORSE event. It tarnished his good guy image, some say permanently.

Erik Seidel
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesErik Seidel holds eight WSOP bracelets, but are they enough to make the WSOP Hall of Fame in 2010?

Seidel: Best known for his second-place finish in the 1988 WSOP main event, Seidel's career is littered with successes that transcend that one. He's as humble as he is respected in the world, a remarkable fact considering the heights he's climbed to.

Three reasons he deserves the vote:
1. Eight WSOP bracelets and 59 WSOP cashes.
2. Over $10 million in tournament winnings.
3. Rounders. Sorry, Siedel.

One reason he doesn't: Again, Ivey. Both players have eight bracelets, but Seidel is 50-years-old. Still, the two hold the record for bracelets won without gaining entry, so its a matter of when, not if.

Let us know how you would vote in the comments section. The deadline approaches …

Gary Wise is a poker columnist for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @GaryWise1.

Gary Wise has contributed to ESPN.com since 2007. He is well-studied in the history of poker and presents a unique tableside view of the goings-on in the poker community. Google author profile

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