The 10 finalists for the 2020 Poker Hall of Fame class were announced by the World Series of Poker Thursday evening. The living members of the hall of fame will vote to decide which finalist gains entry into this elite group.
The finalists for this year are: Patrik Antonius, Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow, Matt Savage, Isai Scheinberg and Huck Seed.
This year has three first-time finalists, including the first “duo” nomination with McEachern and Chad getting the nod for their legendary commentary work on ESPN’s WSOP broadcasts. The two were the voice of poker for an entire generation of poker players and gave the play-by-play for nearly every historic WSOP hand.
The pair was on the mic for Moneymaker’s ace on the river to eliminate Phil Ivey in 10th place from the 2003 main event, his heads-up king-high bluff against Sam Farha in that same main event, and even some of the more recent memorable ones like Matt Affleck getting his aces cracked by Jonathan Duhamel’s pocket jacks to finish 15th in the 2010 main event, propelling Duhamel to victory.
Antonius and Scheinberg are the two other first-time nominees.
Antonius, a Finnish pro who made a name for himself with a couple of deep runs in World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour events in 2005, eventually became a feared cash game player and was a regular in the biggest online cash games during the late 2000s.
He consistently battled against the likes of Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan in the infamous “Rail Heaven” $500-$1,000 no-limit hold ’em games on Full Tilt Poker and played some of the most memorable hands in live poker history from his appearances on “High-Stakes Poker,” which was recently rebooted on PokerGO.
Aside from his high-stakes cash game expertise, Antonius racked up more than $12 million in live tournament earnings. His largest score came in 2018 when he finished second to Justin Bonomo in the Super High Roller Bowl China for $3.15 million. He also had a solid summer, cashing 10 times in the international-facing online WSOP.
Having just turned 40 earlier this month, it was the first year he was eligible for a nomination.
Like McEachern, Scheinberg was nominated as a non-player. He was the founder of PokerStars, which eventually became the world’s largest poker site. It was the site that held the $39 satellite tournament that Moneymaker won in 2003, giving him the $10,000 buy-in to the WSOP main event, which he turned into $2.5 million and arguably sparked the poker boom.
In 2011, PokerStars exited the U.S. market in the wake of actions taken by the government on Black Friday. It paid out its American players’ existing balances almost immediately. Full Tilt Poker, its main competitor was insolvent and was unable to pay its players back, leaving many American online players in a stressful financial situation.
PokerStars worked out a deal to acquire the now-defunct Full Tilt Poker in July 2012 and used its own funds to pay back the players. Despite the deal, Scheinberg was still facing charges from the U.S. government but recently settled those last September.
Veteran tournament director Matt Savage was left off the 2019 list but was a finalist in previous years. Savage, Chad and McEachern and Scheinberg are the only non-player nominees in this class’ finalists.
Six-time WSOP bracelet winner David Chiu and Swedish pro Chris Bjorin fell short of finalist status in 2020 after making the cut in 2019.
Last year, 2003 WSOP main event champion Chris Moneymaker and high-stakes cash game fixture David Oppenheim were voted in, becoming the 56th and 57th inductees. This year, only one person will be inducted.
According to the WSOP, the criteria for the induction is as follows:
• A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
• Be a minimum of 40 years old at the time of nomination
• Played for high stakes
• Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
• Stood the test of time
• Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
The inductee will be announced Wednesday, Dec. 30, prior to the start of the WSOP main event heads-up finale between Damian Salas and whichever player emerges victorious from the U.S. final table on Dec. 28. The heads-up battle will take place at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
A formal induction ceremony is expected to take place in late 2021. Here is a look at all 58 players that were inducted since the Poker Hall of Fames’s inception in 1979:
|Nick “The Greek” Dandolos||1979|
|Felton “Corky” McCorquodale||1979|
|James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok||1979|
|Walter Clyde “Puggy” Pearson||1987|
|Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson||1988|
|Jack “Treetop” Straus||1988|
|Fred “Sarge” Ferris||1989|
|David “Chip” Reese||1991|
|Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston||1992|
|Julius Oral Popwell||1996|
|Stu “The Kid” Ungar||2001|
|Johnny “The Orient Express” Chan||2002|
|Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin||2003|
|Brian “Sailor” Roberts||2012|
|David “Devilfish” Ulliott||2017|