The Poker Hall of Fame (PHOF) is an exclusive club of professional poker players who have been awarded for their achievements and overall contributions to the poker industry. It is considered to be the highest honour a professional poker player can receive in his lifetime. The group of poker players inducted into this exclusive club are known as ‘Poker Hall of Famers’ and this list includes legends like Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Stu Ungar, Mike Sexton, and Billy Baxtor.
History of Poker Hall of Fame
The club was started by Benny Binion, owner of the Horseshoe Casino, in 1979 as a way to preserve the legacies of the greatest poker players in the world. He also created it with an intention that it will become a tourist attraction for his casino. Known for his creative marketing strategies, this became one of his most famous ideas till date. For those who have guessed it by now, Binion was also the founder of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) which is considered to be the most prestigious poker tournament in the world.
In 2004, Harrah’s Entertainment (which later rebranded to Caesars Entertainment) obtained the rights of WSOP and the Poker Hall of Fame. As of today, WSOP directly handles the membership to PHOF. Currently, there are 60 people who have been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame as of 2021. The first person to be inducted into PHOF was Johnny Moss in 1979.
Criteria for PHOF
Annually, Poker Hall of Fame elects one or two members into the club out of a list of nominees. The requirements to become a nominee as given by WSOP are:
A player must have played poker against top players/pros
Be a minimum of 40 years of age at time of nomination
Played high stakes poker
Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
Stood the test of time
For non-players, the person should have contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
In 2009, then-WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack announced that the process for becoming a PHOF member would undergo a slight modification. After this, PHOF also started accepting nominations from the public, this was done to create more interest in the Hall. This proved to be a success as brands like partypoker and PokerStars launched campaigns for their representatives to be inducted.
The age bracket for nominations was also revised after Tom Dwan, who was 23-years-old at the time, was a finalist due to being nominated by the public. This is why the minimum age requirement for PHOF was bumped up to 40. It was due to this that Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey were only inducted upon reaching the required age bracket.
The induction ceremony for PHOF is now held alongside the final table of the WSOP Main Event. The 2006 PHOF inductee, T.J. Cloutier said in his acceptance speech, “It’s one of two things I’ve always wanted to win.” This quote summarises how prestigious it is to be chosen to be a member of PHOF. Barbara Enright was the first woman to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. Enright in her speech mentioned that her induction was a “lifetime achievement honour.”
Before being acquired by Harrah’s Casino, awards design and manufacturing company, R.S Owens & Company were commissioned to design an award for Poker Hall of Fame. This award was an 8-inch-tall piece of glass with a hand of cards sandblasted at the bottom, the winner’s name, and the words ‘Poker Hall of Fame.’ The award design also has a gold emblem bonded circle to the glass and the Binion’s Horseshoe Casino logo in it along with three gold-plated stacks of chips at the base.
Johnny Moss – He was a professional poker player and the first person to win the WSOP Main Event by the vote of his peers in 1970. He again won the Main Event title in 1971 and 1974. He is one of the only two players who have managed to win the WSOP Main Event three times. He was among the first people to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979.
Doyle Brunson – He is a poker pro who has played poker professionally for over 50 years. Brunson is often hailed as the ‘Godfather of Poker’ and has won the WSOP Main event twice, one in 1976 and the other in 1977. He has 10 WSOP bracelets to his name and is one out of three players who have won WSOP bracelets in four consecutive years. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988.
Stu Ungar – Hailed as one of the greatest poker players of his time, Ungar was one out of the two players to win a WSOP Main Event three times. Along with Moss, Brunson, and Johnny Chan, he is one of the four to win WSOP bracelets in four consecutive years. Apart from WSOP, Ungar is also the only person to ship Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker three times, considered the second prestigious poker title at the time. Before his untimely death in 1998, Ungar had clinched four WSOP bracelets. He was posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2001.
Johnny Chan – He is one of the few players who have added 10 WSOP bracelets to his list of accomplishments. Included in this list are two WSOP Main Event titles that he consecutively shipped in 1987 and 1988. A clip of his 1988 WSOP heads-up match was featured in the popular movie Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. Chan was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002.
Phil Hellmuth – With 16 WSOP bracelets in hand, Hellmuth currently holds the highest number of WSOP bracelets won by a single player. In 1989, he denied Chan his third Main Event win and shipped the 2012 WSOP Europe Main Event. He also holds the record for the greatest number of WSOP cashes (161), according to Hendon Mob. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007.
Barbara Enright – She is a professional poker player and editor-in-chief of the Woman Poker Player Magazine. She is also an ambassador of the Poker League of Nations and was the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets. Apart from this, Enright is also the only woman to make it to the final table of the $10,000 WSOP Main Event. In 2007, she along with Hellmuth were inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. She became the first woman to receive this honour.
Daniel Negreanu – Popularly known as ‘KidPoker,’ Negreanu is a Canadian professional poker player with six WSOP bracelets to his name. He also won two World Poker Tour (WPT) titles and the Global Poker Index in 2014 also ranked him as the best poker player of the decade. He is also the only player to be named WSOP Player of the Year twice, in 2004 and 2013. He was also WPT Player of the year in 2004 and 2005. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2014.
Phil Ivey – This American poker pro has won 10 WSOP bracelets in his career and is regarded by his peers as one of the best poker players in the world. He is also tied with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan for the second most bracelet wins. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2014.
Other notable names that have been inducted are Billy Baxter and T.J. Cloutier in 2006, late poker commentator Mike Sexton in 2009, nine WSOP bracelet holder Erik Seidel in 2010, Vietnamese poker pro Scotty Nguyen in 2013, WSOP 2003 Main Event winner Chris Moneymaker in 2019, Huck Seed in 2020, and most recently Israeli poker pro and businessman Eli Elezra in 2021.
Donna Amo is a writer at Gutshot Magazine. She is a graduate from Sophia College of Women, Mumbai with a degree in English Literature. When this October born foodie is not writing content or poetry, she spends her time laughing at memes or watching series. Based out of Mizoram, she is drawn to all things nature and has a soft spot for puppies.