Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 Hall of Fame Inductees: Erik Seidel and Dan Harrington

By Pauly
New York City

This just in... the class of 2010 for the Hall of Fame will include Dan Harrington and Erik Sediel.

They beat out a tough ballot of ten potential Hall of Famers...
2010 Poker Hall of Fame Ballot:
Chris "Jesus" Ferguson
Barry Greenstein
Jen Harman
Dan Harrington
Phil Ivey
Linda Johnson
Tom McEvoy
Daniel Nereanu
Scotty Nguyen
Erik Seidel

* * * * *

At my first WSOP in 2005, I had no clue about the Hall of Fame ceremony. I knew that the HOF existed and could rattle off a few greats of the game who were enshrined in the hall, but aside from those poker gods, I was clueless about the overall HOF procedures. Heck, up until ten minutes before the press conference, I had no idea that Jack Binion and Crandall Addington were the ones who got the nod. I cite a wicked hangover as one of the contributing causes to my nonplussed behavior. But I was also tightly wrapped up in my own little world. If you've read Lost Vegas, then you know the kinds of behind the scenes stresses that I had to deal with during the summer of 2005. A result of that fallout was walking into the Rio and not having a fucking clue about the HOF.

At that point in the WSOP, I was exhausted and drained and sort of operated on vapors and pure instinct. I'm sure that Nolan Dalla sent me an email about the HOF ceremony, but it either got lost in the shuffle or I simply ignored it as I wandered around in a semi-translucent haze.

In 2005, the Hall of Fame ceremony took place on the same day as the Media/Celebrity tournament and WSOP press conference, which occurred on a day off before Day 1A. The media tournament was my biggest concern and the only reason I showed up at the Rio on a rare day off. The press conference was something that I knew I'd have to sit through before we got to play cards. But the HOF was an afterthought.

I showed up at the final table area, where I had been sitting for five weeks straight, and hoped to find my usual seat in between Otis and BJ. I arrived early, set up my laptop, and then went to the media room to chat with friends. The press conference was coupled with the Hall of Fame ceremony, so the folks at the WSOP killed two birds with one stone and was able to take advantage that all of the out-of-town and mainstream media had gathered in one place. When I returned to media row, the final table area was packed with clean-cut people with fresh badges, many of whom I had never seen before. My chair was also missing. Someone walked up to the media row and stole my chair. I had left a black sports jacket hanging on the back of the chair, and luckily, they didn't steal the jacket. Instead, they snagged the chair, but was kind enough to toss my jacket underneath the desk. I scanned the crowd but could not locate the chair thief.

I spent the rest of the press conference on my knees pecking away at my laptop. For one season in the South Riverdale Little League, I was the starting catcher for the Pirates. As a Yankees fan, I loved Thurman Munson, but he had just passed away in a tragic plane crash, so I had to look to Johnny Bench as a stand-in idol. Twenty plus years later, I did my best Johnny Bench imitation as I crouched in media row and frantically scribbled down quotes at the press conference and made sure I accurately got key phrases from the HOF inductees.

To this day, I'm bummed out that I let the chair thief tilt me because my ire overshadowed the significance of the HOF. That's one of my biggest regrets of the 2005 WSOP, but it was also a valuable lesson that I applied to subsequent WSOPs -- don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy special moments that don't happen every day.

In 2006, I was excited for the HOF ceremony and vowed to pay more attention, especially because Billy Baxter and T.J. Cloutier were the two players who got the nod. I showed up in much better condition (not even close to being as hung over from the year before) and I even arrived early. In 2006, the press conference and HOF ceremony got moved to one of the theatres inside the Rio. I sat in the back with Otis. That's when he snapped this infamous photo of me sharing how I felt about the situation...

I was let down because the HOF ceremony got rushed because of time constraints. The press conference went long because it was coupled with a press junket for Lucky You, the poker movie by Curtis Hanson that bombed. We knew it was going to be a dud after watching seven seconds of the trailer. Sure, we got to hear Drew Barrymore gush about Las Vegas and the poker scene, and it was kinda cool to hear Curtis Hanson discuss why he purposely chose specific unrecognizable locations to shoot certain scenes in order to show a different side of Vegas. Sadly, the Hollywood people ran long and as a result, the HOF speeches from Billy Baxter and TJ Cloutier got cut short. That might have been the most furious I had ever been with Harrah's, selling out their press conference to Hollywood types. I understand why they did it, but the movie was a utter bomb and did nothing to promote poker. Instead of hearing two greats of the game reflect upon their careers, we got ambushed by the Hollywood propoganda machine.

Yeah, my first two experiences with the HOF ceremony were bittersweet. I don't recall much about 2007. I know that I worked an insane schedule for Poker News that summer (the first year they had the official updates) and was caught up in my own personal hell, which I did my best to combat with coping aids. I think I was there (and I'm too lazy to sift through the Tao of Poker archives, which is another reason why I need an assistant, or at least get my own version of KevMath who will be the go-to guy when it comes to random Tao stats and moments), but I don't recall anything of significance from the ceremony. Most likely, I tuned out the chatter mainly because Phil Hellmuth was one of the inductees (along with Barbara Enright) and I was utterly miserable at the time working 110 hours a week for Poker News. My bad headspace and my reluctance to hear the Poker Brat brag about his greatness were among the reasons for huge gaping holes in my memory banks.

The 2008 HOF ceremony took place during the dinner break at the November Nine. Finally! A proper ceremony took place to honor that year's inductees: Henry Orenstein and Dewey Tomko.

Last year, the HOF ceremony was moved away from the November Nine theatre. It was still held during the dinner break, but Mike Sexton's induction occurred in the privacy of one of the ballrooms. The ceremony was limited to invited guests and specific media members. As a member of the HOF selection committee, I got an invite to the dinner. My +1 was my lovely girlfriend. We sat at the same table with Michalski and his date to the event (the younger sister of a known Dallas pro). We recorded a couple of episodes of Tao of Pokerati at the dinner, and we couldn't stop laughing at Fun Warren, who drew the rigorous assignment of keeping Padraig Parkison out of trouble, which was an impossible task with an open bar.
Tao of Pokerati at the 2009 Hall of Fame:
Episode 12.4: Hall of Fame Dinner: Voter Hesitation (1:13)
Episode 12.5: Hall of Fame Dinner: Touched by Sexton (2:45)
You can also read an expanded recap of the Hall of Fame Dinner that I penned for Tao of Poker.

Without a doubt, the Mike Sexton ceremony was my favorite HOF that I've attended since I became a part of the poker industry. Mike's acceptance speech was actually overshadowed by his brother Tom, who delivered a sensational introduction speech.

Flash forward to 2010. We're about two plus weeks away from the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. For a second year in a row, I was selected to be a panelist on the HOF induction committee. Last year, 30 people determined the outcome of the HOF, which included 15 living members of the HOF and 15 selected members of the press. This year, the committee expanded to 33 voters (16 living HOF members and 17 press geeks) and I got a nod once again. I don't think being on the HOF committee is like a judgeship where I'm appointed for life, so I have to be on my best behavior if I want to be invited back next year. I gotta say, getting tapped for the HOF committee was probably the coolest thing that happened to me in poker outside of the Poker Prof and Flipchip hiring me to cover my first WSOP.

The tone and levity of my writing might suggest that I take a not-so-serious approach to poker, however, I take the HOF with the utmost seriousness. Most of the time, poker writers are pretty much pointed in a general direction and told what stories to write (or more importantly, we learned which stories not to write about). However, in this instance, we're asked for our honest opinions about the players up for consideration, and the HOF ballot is one of the few times we can fully express ourselves without fear of retribution.

When voting for a specific player, we were asked to consider...
1. A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
2. Played for high stakes
3. Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
4. Stood the test of time
5. Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
If you take a close look, there is nothing about age. The unwritten age rule is something that some of the HOF voters took into deep consideration. You can call it the Chip Reese Rule if you want -- that no one under 40 will be elected to the Hall of Fame, because that was the exact age of Chip Reese when he got the nod in 1991.

The cool thing is that the powers to be allowed the committee to interpret the rules as we see fit. So if someone wants to base their votes on the best player regardless of age, without a doubt that's Ivey, but if someone wants to exclude Ivey because he's not 40 yet, then they had that right.

But the committee has spoken, and the two that will gain entry this year are Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel. Congrats to both gentlemen.
Current Poker Hall of Fame Members:
1979 Nick "The Greek" Dandolos, James Butler, "Wild Bill" Hickok, Edmond Hoyle, Felton "Corky" McCorquodale, Johnny Moss, Red Winn, Sid Wyman
1980 T "Blondie" Forbes
1981 Bill Boyd
1982 Tom Abdo
1983 Joe Bernstein
1984 Murph Harrold
1985 Red Hodges
1986 Henry Green
1987 Walter Clyde "Puggy" Pearson
1988 Doyle Brunson and Jack “Treetop” Strauss
1989 Fed "Sarge" Ferris
1990 Benny Binion
1991 David "Chip" Reese
1992 "Amarillo Slim" Preston
1993 Jack Keller
1996 Julius Oral "Little Man" Popwell
1997 Roger Moore
2001 Stu Ungar
2002 Lyle Berman and Johnny Chan
2003 Bobby Baldwin
2004 Berry Johnston
2005 Crandall Addington and Jack Binion
2006 Billy Baxter and T.J. Cloutier
2007 Barbara Enright and Phil Hellmuth
2008 Henry Orenstein and Duane “Dewey” Tomko
2009 Mike Sexton
2010 Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel
Photo credits: Flipchip


  1. oakwalds31:20 PM

    If you are on the committe then next year you must at least introduce Jesse Alto's name for consideration.  I know you've read a bit about him in Alvarez's Biggest Game in Town.  His resume ought to eventually earn him a spot.  Comparable to the baseball hall of fame posthumously inducting a player from the all black league.

  2. oakwalds31:33 PM

    Watch this and the first minute of part 2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPCZYujN-Zc

  3. Pauly3:27 PM

    Thanks oakwalds for sharing and reminding me (and Tao's readers) about Jesse Alto.

  4. Johnny Hughes8:26 AM

    Excellent choice. Great backgammon players included Seidel, Harrington, Stu Unger, and Paul Magriel.  I am writing an article about the smartest card player alive who played all games better than anyone because he was such a genius doing mental tricks that amazed me.  He could mulity 5 numbers by 5 numbers in his head, remember all the tourney bridge hands for thirty years, etc.