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Sep 23, 2015

Why Daniel Negreanu is Wrong about Poker Hall of Fame

By RTR Dennis

One thing you have to respect about Daniel Negreanu is that he's never afraid to lay out his true opinion on anything poker related. But the key word here is "opinion," and sometimes it's very easy to contend what Negreanu says on certain matters. This is definitely the case with some of his recent comments on the 2015 Poker Hall of Fame class. That said, let's discuss key excerpts from Negreanu's thoughts on the Poker HOF and why he's wrong.

Negreanu believes Voting Requirements should be Strictly about Poker

Poker HOF nominees break down into two categories: players and contributors. But there are times when this line is blurred and Negreanu doesn't like it. For example, he cites 1983 WSOP champ Tom McEvoy, who fought to have smoking banned from poker rooms. 'Kid Poker' believes that this makes McEvoy worthy of being nominated as a contributor, but it shouldn't have helped him get into the HOF as a player.

This year Negreanu thinks Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott and Jennifer Harman may get an extra push because Devilfish passed away while Harman is a woman. Kid Poker doesn't argue that neither is deserving of a Poker HOF induction; he merely thinks that Ulliott and Harman should be judged entirely on their poker skills/accomplishments, with no other factors coming into play. Here are excerpts from what Negreanu wrote at FullContactPoker.com:

On Ulliott - "We recently lost quite a character in Dave "DevilFish" Ulliot to a battle with cancer. He was great to have at a poker table and helped make televised poker more interesting. He also had a great career, standing the test of time and continuing the grind until his death. Having said all that, his passing should have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he earns your vote."

On Harman - "She remains the only woman in the entire world to be a winner in those (Bellagio) games. An argument could be made that Vanessa Selbt could hang with the big boys if she put in the effort, but as of today, she hasn't gone that route. The closest thing to a "Jennifer Harman" in terms of being able to hack it with the big boys in the big mixed games, is Maria Ho. Having said all that, Jennifer Harman being a woman should have NOTHING to do with your vote. Your vote should be based on the players skill level, not their gender."

Here's why Negreanu is Wrong

Towards the end of his post, Negreanu offers up John Juanda as an excellent example of somebody who meets all the criteria for Poker Hall of Fame voting. He's a highly successful player who may indeed be the best player out of the 10 nominees on the ballot. And if Juanda is one of the two inducted nominees, he will certainly be deserving of it. But this isn't to say that non-poker factors shouldn't come into the equation when considering Harman and Ulliott, especially since they are/were both good players.

As for Ulliott, even if sentiment isn't listed criteria for the voting, it should not be discounted. Many would have no problem honoring Devilfish with an HOF induction in the year of his death, even if it puts him in the Hall sooner than expected. Ulliott did more for poker than just make millions in tournaments - he entertained people who watched poker shows, brought true personality to the game and inspired many to take up poker. All of this should be a factor for his induction as a "player" because it's very relevant and important.

Moving to Harman, excelling in live high stakes games was not just about the cards for her. The two-time WSOP champ also had to overcome a fair amount of sexism throughout her decades in poker, which makes playing at the highest level that much harder. More importantly, she's been a true trailblazer for poker and, as Negreanu points out, no woman has done what Harman has at the highest stakes.

Sure being a woman or being honored months after you've passed away aren't what voters are supposed to judge HOF nominees on. But again, external factors should definitely come into the equation at some point, especially regarding Harman and Ulliott this year.