Now through Friday, Dec. 11, poker fans can head over to WSOP.com/PHOF and make nominations for the Poker Hall of Fame. This year, only one honoree will be inducted, as was the case from 1980-2004.
The open-nomination process is held to identify other worthy nominees to round out the final ballot. In addition, the 2019 finalists all remain eligible for induction including Chris Bjorin, David Chiu, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow, and Huck Seed.
The final ballot will be revealed by Caesars Entertainment on Wednesday, Dec. 16. That list will then be sent to the 32 living Hall of Fame members to cast their votes. Unlike years past, there is no mention of select members of the poker media being allowed to vote. The sole 2020 inductee will be revealed and honored during the WSOP Main Event heads-up finale on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
Whoever is selected will become the 59th individual inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame and follow in the footsteps of Chris Moneymaker and David Oppenheim, who comprised the class of 2019.
In order to be eligible for the Poker Hall of Fame, nominees must meet the following criteria:
- A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
- Be a minimum of 40-years-old at time of nomination
- Played for high stakes
- Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers
- Stood the test of time
- Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible
positive and lasting results
The 2019 Candidates Still Eligible (in alphabetical order)
The 73-year-old Swedish-born poker pro, Chris Bjorin, sits second on Sweden’s all-time money list, only behind 2014 WSOP Main Event winner Martin Jacobson. Bjorin’s consistent tournament poker success is marked by more than $5.7 million in earnings. He also has two bracelets to his credit, 92 WSOP cashes (seventh-most), and has the fifth-most WSOP Main Event cashes with seven. Still going strong, he has cashed for six-figures in 19 different calendar years across his career.
David Chiu’s tournament poker career dates back to 1996, and in the intervening more than two decades he has racked up more than $8 million in earnings, including five WSOP bracelet wins and a $3.3 million 2008 WPT World Championship win where he defeated Gus Hansen heads up.
With 74 total WSOP cashes, the 57-year-old’s five bracelets came in limit hold’em, seven-card stud, and Omaha hi-lo, showcasing his versatility.
After being born in China, Chiu moved to the U.S. at age 18 and was a restaurant owner in Colorado before transitioning into dealing poker and then playing full-time.
Eliahu “Eli” Elezra is a 58-year-old Israeli poker professional now residing in Las Vegas. The former lieutenant in the Israeli army picked up the game after suffering a leg injury during the Lebanon War in 1982. While bedridden, the boredom led to cards and it now leads to a finalist list for the Poker Hall of Fame. But not before several jobs and business ventures, including gutting fish in Alaska and opening 30-minute photo processing shops in Las Vegas.
Elezra is mostly known in poker circles for high stakes cash game action, but with a poker career spanning 20 years, the affable Elezra has also won four WSOP gold bracelets, a WPT title, amassed 64 WSOP cashes and more than $3.7 million in tournament winnings. The married father of five is now a long-time Las Vegas resident and has been a regular in the poker scene here for two decades.
Known as “The Magician” from his previous occupation, Esfandiari became first-time eligible in 2019 after turning 40. Esfandiari may be best known for winning the inaugural WSOP Big One for One Drop $1 million buy-in tournament and its $18.3 million first-place prize, but the Magician has had a terrific tournament career since taking up the game in 2002. He sits ninth on the all-time money list with more than $27 million, including three WSOP gold bracelets and two WPT titles.
The Iranian-born Esfandiari is known for his talkative and outgoing personality at the tables and has even turned that charm into part-time work as a color analyst on ESPN WSOP telecasts.
Chris “Jesus” Ferguson has been playing poker since 1993 and playing it well. He’s won over $9 million playing tournament poker, including winning the WSOP Main Event over Poker Hall of Famer TJ Cloutier in 2000 for $1.5 million. In 2017, he claimed WSOP Player of the Year honors.
However, the 57-year-old, who has his doctoral degree in computer science, was also embroiled in the Full Tilt scandal in 2011, which some feel hurts his chances of induction.
A six-time WSOP gold bracelet winner, Forrest captured his latest bracelet by slaying Phil Hellmuth heads up to win the razz event at the 2014 WSOP. The 55-year-old New York native has won more than $6.3 million during his career spanning three decades.
Forrest’s first cash at the WSOP was a victory at the 1993 WSOP when he won Event #11, the $5,000 buy-in stud event. But if that wasn’t a coming out party, it only took two days longer to cement his name in poker circles. He went on to win Events #12 and #13 too – incredibly winning three WSOP gold bracelets in three consecutive events in three variants of poker – the first and only time that has occurred in WSOP history.
Forrest’s resume is littered with success in every major variant of poker, and he’s captured a WPT and National Heads Up title. He’s also a noted cash game player, even taking part in the famed high-stakes heads-up cash games with Andy Beal.
Fifty-two-year-old Mike “The Mouth” Matusow has four bracelets and more than $9.4 million in tournament earnings to his name. He has many deep runs in large-field events and has final tabled 15 WSOP events, including the Main Event in both 2001 and again in 2005. He also has five WPT final tables and won the $20,000 buy-in NBC Heads-Up Championship in 2013.
Huck Seed is a four-time bracelet winner with $7.6 million in earnings. Seed has demonstrated great versatility in his game with bracelet wins in Razz and PLO, the 2010 WSOP Tournament of Champions, and in the 1996 Main Event. He also has two $50K Poker Players Championship final table appearances and a win in the NBC Heads-Up Championship. Since his first tournament result in 1990, Seed has posted earnings in the six-figures in 22 different calendar years.