It was announced earlier this week that 10 finalists would be in the running for induction into the very-esteemed Poker Hall of Fame. The PHOF Governing Council, whose members are responsible for the vetting process of the finalists, works closely with the World Series of Poker to ensure only the best players in poker are put up for nomination.

As it stands now, 6 of the 10 nominees have made the list in years past. Those include Jennifer Harman, David Chiu, Chris Bjorin, Bruno Fitoussi, Carlos Mortensen and John Juanda. The remaining 4 are first-timers to the ballot – the late David “Devilfish” Ulliot, Terry Rogers, Max Pescatori and Matt Savage.

The following criteria is required for consideration:

  • The player nominated must have competed against top-level players in tournaments or cash games.
  • Must be at least 40 years old.
  • Participated in high stakes cash games.
  • On top of playing well on a consistent basis, they must be acknowledged by their peers regarding their play.
  • As implied above the nominee must have endured the test of time.
  • Contributed to the overall growth and popularity to poker, especially if the nominee is considered a non-poker player in the traditional sense.

In case you’re unfamiliar with how the voting process works then let me be the first to tell you – I have no clue either. From what I’ve read at other media outlets and poker forums, the process is extremely secretive and the WSOP is completely non-transparent when it comes to sharing anything regarding the percentage of votes needed to earn induction or why they generally choose only 2 players (sometimes less) to enter the Hall of Fame every year. What IS known is that voting is decided by the living members of the PHOF themselves and 16 members of the poker media.

For the time being, I would imagine just being nominated is quite the achievement. It is the ultimate recognition for poker players and ambassadors alike and a culmination for years, if not decades, of hard work. Sheer numbers tell you that the Poker Hall of Fame doesn’t just let anyone into their ranks without earning it. As it stands, there are currently only 23 living members, with only 48 players TOTAL having been enshrined since 1979.

My personal vote(s) for the 2015 Poker Hall of Fame

While I’m a huge fan of most of the players on this list, I think the most deserving would be John Juanda and David Chiu – assuming the PHOF Governing Council sticks to its normal 2 inductee per year limit. I think the one “dark horse” candidate that could make it might be Jennifer Harman, who is generally regarded as one of the more elite women poker players of all-time and has participated in the largest cash games in Vegas. For now, I’ll stick to my first two candidates and explain my selections below.

The case for Juanda is easy. The man is just a monster on the felt, plain and simple. He’s the owner of 5 WSOP bracelets and has over $17 million in tournament cashes in a career that has spanned well over 2 decades. It is rumored he’s also one of the more consistent winners in cash games all around the world. He was one of my favorite players to watch on TV and was always a good sport whether he was taking a bad beat or winning a tournament.

David Chiu’s case is almost as simple. He’s an established player who has won 5 WSOP bracelets and is one of the more underrated guys in the game. Chiu has been acknowledged by many of his peers as a master at all poker variations, not just the ever-popular No Limit Texas Holdem. He’s approaching almost $8 million in tournament winnings for his career and could potentially join Scotty Nguyen (and possibly John Juanda above?) as one of the only Asian poker players inducted in the Hall.

Regardless of how the voting concludes, this should be one of the better classes to be inducted in recent years. I wasn’t a big fan of the induction of tournament director Jack McClelland last year, nor was I particularly impressed with the voting in of Tom McEvoy the year before that. However, I think if the voters get it “right” – and I say that pretty loosely considering how mysterious the voting process is – poker fans should be happy with the end result. Good luck to the nominees!

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