Finalists Named for Poker Hall of Fame, Ivey and Eskandani Added to List of Hopefuls

Officials from the World Series of Poker have announced the finalists for its 2017 Hall of Fame inductions, and Phil Ivey stands out as a strong first-ballot contender.

Mori Eskandani and Phil Ivey

Mori Eskandani (left) and Phil Ivey (right) helped show the world what high-stakes poker looked like, and both are first-time finalists in 2017 for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. (Images: All In Magazine, YouTube)

The nomination process got underway in June, and a panel of experts has received a shortlist of ten fan favorites, from whom they will pick one or two winners. Public voting asked poker fans from around the world to nominate one player or industry member who was worthy of a place alongside 52 of the game’s leading figures throughout history.

Following a set of criteria for Hall of Fame consideration, all nominees must be at least 40, have played for high stakes, and have achieved a certain level of notoriety among top pros, the ten names to make this year’s list of possibilities, in alphabetical order:

David Chiu
Mori Eskandani
Ted Forrest
Thor Hansen
Phil Ivey
Mike Matusow
Max Pescatori
Matt Savage
Huckleberry Seed
Dave Ulliott

Poker Hall of Fame

Best of the Rest

Although Eskandani and Ivey look like strong candidates this year, a few others on the list of finalists could also make a claim for being considered frontrunners:

David Ulliott: Also known as the Devilfish, Ulliott was not only one of Europe’s top earning tournament players prior to his death in 2015, he was also one of the most charismatic. Never short of some needle or a song, Ulliott was always popular wherever he played.

Mike Matusow: If the only voting criterion was personality, Matusow would already be in the WSOP HOF. Undoubtedly responsible for making TV poker entertaining in the early noughties, Matusow would certainly liven up the induction ceremony.

Matt Savage: Aside from helping to ensure WSOP, WPT, and other high profile tournaments run smoothly, Savage has been instrumental in standardizing tournament rules around the world. The founder of the Tournament Directors Association, Savage’s influence on the game is without question.

– DS

Industry Innovator

Two of the 10 nominees are newcomers. Player and TV producer Eskandani may have earned only $563,442 in live tournaments (“only” by HOF standards), but perhaps more significant to the poker community, he also is responsible for creating some of the biggest poker shows on TV. He and his company, Poker PROductions, have been the creative cameras behind High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark, the National Heads-Up Poker Championship, and WSOP broadcasts on ESPN since 2011.

Earlier this year, Eskandani received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual American Poker Awards, hosted by the Global Poker Index.

Eskandani was an earlier pioneer in poker-boom TV. In 2004, he partnered with Henry Orenstein, inventor of the hole-card cam and 2008 HOF inductee, to create Poker Superstars, one of the first shows to mix high-stakes poker action with high-stakes poker lifestyles at a time when poker was growing in popularity across the world.

Ivey’s Image

Eskandani’s TV vision for poker has transformed the game and turned it into a spectacle that people want to watch as well as play. And if there’s a player who has emerged from this television landscape a winner, it’s Phil Ivey.

A regular on Eskandani’s shows, Ivey quickly became known around the world as the unshakeable highest-stakes player who could face off against venerable old cowboys and hotshot young internet kids alike, for tens of thousands of dollars at a time, if not more.

Ivey’s reputation as one of biggest cash game players and one of the most successful tournament players in history precedes him as a strong frontrunner, in part thanks to his portrayal on TV by Eskandani.

Ivey recently turned 40, which means this is his first year of eligibility. Pros and fans alike have long called him the greatest living all-round player in the world, with only Daniel Negreanu, inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2014, capable of contending otherwise, stats-wise

At present, Ivey has almost $24 million in live tournament winnings, 10 WSOP bracelets and, and online and cash game earnings in the incalculable 10s of millions. By all objective measures he’s a poker prodigy, like a Stu Ungar with fewer demons. Unger was selected for the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2001.

With the fate of the ten nominees now in the hands of the 27 living HOF members as well as an 18-person media panel, these two newbies could edge out others who have for a longer time been waiting to be considered.

However, with the other eight also having strong cases for the honor, it will be wait-and-see for the voting that determines who will be the two inductees announced at a special ceremony at the Rio in Las Vegas on July 21.

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