Poker Hall of Fame Candidates for 2019 Announced

Poker Hall of FameChris Moneymaker is among ten exceptional poker players who were named as candidates for possible entry into the coveted Poker Hall of Fame this year.

As many as two players can be elected each year and it’s a good bet that a pair of the 10 hopefuls will be inducted after voting is conducted by 30 Poker Hall of Famers and 21 members of poker media. The results will be announced on July 15 in conjunction with 2019 WSOP Main Event final table festivities.

Along with Moneymaker, the nominees include Antonio Esfandiari, Huck Seed, Ted Forrest, David Chiu, Mike Matusow, Eli Elezra, Chris Bjorin, David Oppenheim and Chris Ferguson. The candidates were determined following a public nomination process and a further whittling down of the nominees to 10 by the Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council.

The only one of the 10 who hasn’t previously been a HoF candidate is Antonio Esfandiari. “The Magician” just turned 40 years of age six months ago, which is one of the prerequisites for induction.

The other criteria used by the WSOP to weed out non-deserving players includes the following:

  • Played poker against top players in the game
  • Played for the highest stakes around
  • Played well consistently and earned the respect of others
  • Stood the test of time

There is another requirement specifically for non-players, but it’s not really applicable this year as all who have been nominated in 2019 are top players. Non-players must have contributed to the success and overall growth of poker, creating lasting results.

Here’s a brief bio of each of the 10 nominees and their chances for induction:

Chris Moneymaker

While his career earnings of $3,763,401 may pale in comparison to other members of the 2019 class, there is no doubt that Moneymaker will be enshrined at some point – if not this year. His victory in the 2003 WSOP Main Event did more for the game of poker – perhaps ever – than any other single event.

The poker boom that ensued following his $2.5 million victory after winning an online satellite to earn his Main Event seat was second to none. Chris may have been at the right place at the right time considering the newness of online poker back then, but let’s not forget that he beat a bunch of pros as a recreational player and his name is now synonymous with the growth of poker.

Antonio Esfandiari

His biggest claim to fame is winning the largest prize in poker history, $18.3 million in the 2012 WSOP Big One for One Drop. Antonio has $21,835,100 in WSOP cashes and $27,728,437 throughout his career.

Capturing three WSOP titles and two more on the World Poker Tour will also tick the boxes for HoF voters. Like Moneymaker, Esfandiari is a likely Hall of Fame shoo-in – if not this year, then another.

Eli Elezra

He just won another gold bracelet at the 2019 WSOP – his fourth – and added $93,766 to his bankroll. Eli is a Seven Card Stud specialist and has amassed $3,770,618 in winnings on the tournament circuit.

Rumors that he hasn’t paid some gambling debts surfaced earlier this year and that may hurt Elezra’s chances of seeing his name called on July 15. Then again, the HoF is occupied by some characters who allegedly did far worse than pay back some loans in a timely manner.

Chris Ferguson

Based on his success on the poker tables, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson is without question a deserving Poker Hall of Famer. However, the Full Tilt fiasco and his avoidance in answering the critics who point to Ferguson’s role as a FTP board of director will forever haunt the talented poker pro.

Chris has more WSOP cashes than anyone not named Hellmuth, six WSOP titles, was the WSOP Player of the Year in 2017, and has winnings in excess of $9.2 million. All of those achievements are tarnished by the Full Tilt mess and the HoF voters haven’t likely forgiven Ferguson just yet.

Ted Forrest

With six WSOP gold bracelets and $6.3 million in lifetime winnings, Ted Forrest is another likely Poker Hall of Famer some day. Cementing that notion is the fact that he won titles in three consecutive WSOP events in 1993 – in three different variants.

Also prolific on the cash game tables, Forrest is well-respected in poker circles. It’s only a matter of time before he’ll be at the dais and making a speech regarding his induction.

Mike Matusow

If part of the criteria for HoF enshrinement were talking, “The Mouth” would have been inducted years ago. Seriously though, Mike’s resume speaks for itself with $9.5 million in career cashes and four WSOP titles.

He’s been cashing in tournaments for more than two decades, trash talking along the way. The former poker dealer may rub some people the wrong way, but he meets all the criteria for membership – and then some.

Huck Seed

His playing time in tournaments has diminished as of late, but Huckleberry Seed has stood the test of time regardless. He’s among the old school players, nailing the WSOP Main Event championship in 1996.

Four WSOP bracelets and $7,649,864 in scores punctuate a poker career that many players envy. The 50-year-old’s chances would be better if he made a couple recent deep runs at the WSOP.

Chris Bjorin

The WSOP’s bias toward favoring American players may perhaps keep Chris Bjorin out of the hallowed Hall. The 71-year-old Swede has cashed for more than $5.7 million, collecting two gold bracelets in the process. Nine scores at the WSOP Main Event stands out prominently on Bjorin’s poker resume.

David Chiu

A former poker dealer, Chiu has quietly put together a poker career worthy of notice. Five WSOP victories and over $8 million in tournament scores rank right up there with other Hall of Famers.

One of those scores was for $3.3 million at the WPT Championship in 2008. Like Bjorin, Chiu has been very consistent on the poker tables.

David Oppenheim

A penchant for high stakes cash games and the success that followed has put Oppenheim on the list of HoF candidates for 2019. His tournament winnings are less than $2 million and that will likely be a factor for Poker Hall of Fame voters.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett