Jennifer Harman and John Juanda. Those two were the answers to the question of “Who’s next to go into the Poker Hall of Fame?” And as far as answers go, those two were excellent ones. Both highly deserving, both meeting all criteria. Both should be the subject of very little dissent or disagreement. But that’s the fun of a Hall Of Fame, isn’t it? The discussion of who might be great enough to make the grade never ends. And there’s always some debate as to whether those voted in were the most deserving options.
Let’s have a quick look at Harman and Juanda, so as to quickly establish why there’s so little room for disagreement. Let me say immediately, when I had to choose names and assign points for this year’s Hall of Fame vote, both Juanda and Harman were on my list. (You have 10 points to distribute among three or fewer names. On my personal list, Juanda got four points and Harman three. On the final ALL IN Media House submitted vote, which factored in my vote and several others, both Juanda and Harman got three points.)
Juanda is easy: More than $17 million in tournament winnings, five bracelets, a WSOP-E main event title, and lots of time sitting in the biggest cash games in the world. His nickname of “Luckbox” is as far from the truth as you could possibly get. The man is good. And he’s been good for a long time. Easy choice, easy vote.
Likewise, Harman is a no-brainer. She’s one of only two women to win multiple bracelets in open events, but more impressive by a long shot is Harman’s consistent presence in the highest stakes cash games going. And her part in playing heads-up against billionaire banker Andy Beal as a chosen representative of the best poker players in the world is the stuff of legends. And books. Beal vs. Harman and The Corporation is the subject of maybe my favorite poker book, The Professor, The Banker, And The Suicide King.
There’s no doubt that the voters gave their support to two worthy nominees. The poker community was quick to acknowledge that fact. Hall of Famers like Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu quickly tweeted that their votes had gone to the duo of Harman and Juanda.
Like always, though, the conversation also turned to who didn’t get in. The name that immediately popped up as a possible glaring omission was Carlos Mortensen. We could get worked up over it, but Mortensen’s numbers suggest that admission probably isn’t far away. There’s nothing controversial about it if he gains induction in 2016 instead of 2015.
There is one very real area of concern, however, and that is the international component to the Hall—or, more accurately, the lack of one.
There is one very real area of concern, however, and that is the international component to the Hall—or, more accurately, the lack of one. The roster is very American-centric. Yes, Juanda is Indonesian-born, but he’s a longtime U.S. resident. And this U.S. bias is becoming increasingly difficult to overcome, at least as far as voting is concerned.
The voting panel is made up of all the living members of the Hall Of Fame as well as a media panel. While the voting of the HOF-ers doesn’t necessarily correlate one-to-one with the final results, it’s certainly a huge factor. Every year, more U.S.-based poker personalities are voted into the Hall and become voters themselves, and they are more likely (likely, not certain) to vote for players with whom they’re familiar. See the problem here?
Brunson put out a tweet last week that raised a few eyebrows:
Maybe Doyle just didn’t express himself clearly within the confines of 140 characters, but the suggestion that he was absolutely certain of Harman’s status is concerning.
But that’s a discussion for another day. The most important point remains that Jennifer Harman and John Juanda are greatly deserving Hall of Famers. They have met all the criteria, and continue to play the game at the highest level. They will be honored on Friday, November 6, at a ceremony that kicks off November Nine weekend.
And immediately after that, we can start arguing about next year’s class …