The World Series of Poker announced the 10 finalists for the 2021 class of the Poker Hall of Fame Tuesday afternoon. This year’s nominating process began on Sept. 30, with online voting open to the public through Oct. 14.
The finalists are as follows:
- Eli Elezra
- Antonio Esfandiari
- Chris Ferguson
- Layne Flack
- Ted Forrest
- Bertrand ”ElkY” Grospellier
- Mike Matusow
- Michael Mizrachi
- Matt Savage
- Isai Scheinberg
The other two first-time finalists are Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier and Michael Mizrachi. Grospellier is a triple crown winner, with a bracelet win and titles on the European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour. Mizrachi is a five-time bracelet winner, with a record three wins in the WSOP $50,000 buy-in mixed game event currently known as the Poker Players Championship. Mizrachi also has two WPT main tour titles to his name.
The iconic commentary duo of Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, as well as high-stakes legend Patrik Antonius failed to make the list after being nominated for the accolade in 2020.
Scheinberg and Savage were nominated as non-players again, while Elezra, Esfandiari, Forrest, Matusow and Forrest were nominated for their achievements on the felt for at least their second straight year.
According to the WSOP, the criteria for induction is as follows:
- A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition
- Be a minimum of 40 years old at the 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 of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results
Scheinberg is one of the more controversial non-players to be nominated for the Hall of Fame. The U.S. Government indicted Scheinberg in its slew of legal actions during Black Friday in 2011.
The Israeli founded PokerStars and built it into the world’s largest online poker site. It was the online poker room that held the satellite that put 2003 WSOP main event champion Chris Moneymaker into the $10,000 buy-in event, which arguably started the poker boom.
In the wake of Black Friday, PokerStars exited the U.S. market and paid out its American players’ existing balances almost immediately. Its main competition, on the other hand, Full Tilt Poker, was insolvent and unable to pay its players back, leaving many American online players in a stressful financial situation.
Scheinberg worked out a deal to acquire the now-defunct Full Tilt Poker in July 2012 and used its own funds to pay back players. Despite the deal, Scheinberg was still facing charges, but eventually settled them in September 2020.
Savage is a veteran tournament director and the other eight players on the list all have millions in career earnings and multiple WSOP bracelets or other major titles.
The 32 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame will collectively vote on which of these ten finalists will become the 60th inductee. The official announcement will come on Wednesday, Nov. 17 during the new WSOP Hall of Fame Bounty tournament.
Last year saw 1996 WSOP main event champion Huck Seed inducted. In the years before 2020, there were typically two inductees announced each year. The Hall of Fame was first founded in 1979.
Here is a look at all current members of the Poker Hall of Fame:
|Nick “The Greek” Dandolos||1979|
|Felton “Corky” McCorquodale||1979|
|James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok||1979|
|Walter Clyde “Puggy” Pearson||1987|
|Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson||1988|
|Jack “Treetop” Straus||1988|
|Fred “Sarge” Ferris||1989|
|David “Chip” Reese||1991|
|Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston||1992|
|Julius Oral Popwell||1996|
|Stu “The Kid” Ungar||2001|
|Johnny “The Orient Express” Chan||2002|
|Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin||2003|
|Brian “Sailor” Roberts||2012|
|David “Devilfish” Ulliott||2017|