Five Poker Icons That Belong in Hall of Fame
Today we take a different approach to the Poker Hall of Fame debate. Below are five people who we feel are deserving of the Hall of Fame but will likely never be inducted.
Isai Scheinberg is the primary founder of PokerStars, the largest online poker site in the world. The only reason he's not already in the Poker Hall of Fame is Black Friday.
PokerStars is the standard-bearer for online poker worldwide and one of the standard-bearers in live poker.
Scheinberg was one of the individuals indicted by the United States government on April 11, 2011. To this date, he has yet to answer charges or try to arrange a deal with the Department of Justice.
As long as he remains "at-large," the WSOP will not allow his name to be considered for the Hall of Fame.
If not for Black Friday, odds are that Howard Lederer's name would regularly be on the finalists list for the Poker Hall of Fame. The Professor has an impressive poker resume that includes two WSOP bracelets, two World Poker Tour titles and $6.46 million in live tournament earnings.
Lederer was also a well-known high-stakes cash-game player, regularly competing against the best players in the world both live and online. He was a regular player on several televised poker programs, including Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker.
Lederer was also the founding member and President of Tiltware LLC, the company that created Full Tilt Poker. From 2004 until 2011, Full Tilt was the second largest online poker site in the world and had the largest stable of online pros in the world.
Mismanagement of the company following the passage of the UIGEA in the United States ultimately led to the company's demise and the inability to pay former players their bankrolls.
While most put the failure of Full Tilt on Lederer's shoulders, it should be pointed out that he was not solely in charge in the years leading up to the company's collapse. The Poker Hall of Fame is supposed to recognize accomplishments in poker and one cannot deny that Lederer had the credentials for induction.
The most controversial name on this list is Russ Hamilton, and for good reason. Hamilton was identified as being the man primarily responsible for cheating players out of millions at UltimateBet. His actions led to distrust and ultimately ruined a well-trusted online poker site.
Looking back at his playing career, Hamilton had a career that spanned over 20 years prior to going into self-imposed poker exile. In 1994, he won the WSOP Main Event. That year they awarded the winner's weight in silver. Hamilton won the event and over 300 lbs in silver along with $1 million.
Hamilton's career included deep runs in many major poker events, including the Carnivale of Poker, the Four Queens Poker Classic and Amarillo Slim's Superbowl of Poker. He won over $1.5 million for his career, the majority pre Poker Boom.
Hamilton will never be considered for the Hall of Fame because of UltimateBet. He served as a "consultant" for the company and helped recruit several of the pros originally sponsored by the site, including Phil Hellmuth.
From May 2004 through January 2008, Hamilton and co-conspirators defrauded players of over $22 million. UltimateBet ultimately refunded $22.1 million to affected players, but the irreparable damage was done.
For those that think Hamilton should not even be on this list, keep in mind that not all poker players have clean pasts. Several were involved in illegal road gambling and Doyle Brunson famously threw the WSOP Main Event in 1972.
Granted, throwing an event doesn't equal defrauding players out of $22 million, but can you overlook one player's actions and not the other?
It is amazing that the woman synonymous for female poker excellence following the Poker Boom is not in the Poker Hall of Fame. Duke is a WSOP bracelet winner, former Tournament of Champions Winner, NBC National Heads-Up Champion and is one of only three women to finish in the top 10 in the WSOP Main Event.
Duke has over $4.2 million in live earnings and for a time was #1 on the ladies All-Time Money List. She is still #3 on that list behind Kathy Liebert and Vanessa Selbst.
Duke also did her part to grow poker away from the table. She was featured on many televised poker programs, wrote a book on her life in poker and was a long-time pro for UltimateBet.
Unfortunately, her association with UltimateBet is one thing that is keeping her from being considered for the Hall of Fame. Despite claiming no knowledge of what happened in the cheating scandals that rocked the company, many users frankly don't believe her.
The folding of the Epic Poker League, which Duke was commissioner of, before its advertised $1m freeoll also didn't help her image. Others do not like Duke because of her brash nature in and away from the table.
Daniel Negreanu has had a long-standing feud with Duke and many fans side with Daniel over Duke. Unfortunately, suspicion and popularly have tainted the career of one of the greatest female players in history.
Another player whose career fell victim to Black Friday is Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. Prior to Black Friday, he was a lock to get into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Ferguson had five World Series of Poker bracelets and was the 2000 Main Event Champion. He also held three WSOP Circuit rings, two of which were Main Event titles. Ferguson was also the 2008 NBC National Heads-Up Champion.
In addition to $8.28 million in live tournament earnings he was a well-known high-stakes cash game player and competed against the best competition in the world on a regular basis live and online.
The Full Tilt Poker saga has unfortunately tainted Ferguson's Hall of Fame career. He was one of the main directors of the company and the site's main programmer.
Ferguson was not demonized in the same way as Lederer, but the sheer amount of money that he received for his time with the company made him a target by former players wanting to be repaid.