Op-Ed: Chris Moneymaker Long Overdue for Poker Hall of Fame Induction

Chris Moneymaker is not only worthy of induction into the Poker Hall of Fame, but the most important Main Event champion even deserves his own wing. The Class of 2019 nominees were recently released and the winners will be announced on July 8 at the WSOP.

Chris Moneymaker Poker Hall of Fame

Chris Moneymaker is partially responsible for poker’s current popularity. (Image: Wikipedia)

Moneymaker is deserving of a HOF nod for numerous reasons, all of which I will explain in this article. But the main reason is, let’s be honest, it’s hard to argue that if not for the former world champion’s run in 2003, poker would likely be a less popular game right now.

Forums such as CardsChat might not even be in existence today, for all we know. But despite my belief that Chris is worthy of Poker Hall of Fame induction, I can also see the argument against it.

Moneymaker Not Deserving?

Chris Moneymaker is an interesting Poker HOF candidate. His accomplishments as a poker player alone simply aren’t near enough to even be considered. He has just $3.7 million in live tournament cashes – $2.5 million of that in the 2003 WSOP Main Event – and he’s played very little high stakes poker. According to the criteria for players, he doesn’t stack up.

Poker Hall of Fame Players-Only Criteria

  • Must have played against acknowledged top competition.
  • At least 40 years of age or older.
  • Played for high stakes.
  • Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers. Has stood the test of time.

Moneymaker has met the first three prerequisites, although he hasn’t played high stakes in years. But he simply hasn’t produced any major results in tournaments or high stakes cash games since he won the 2003 Main Event.

So, the argument against his induction is certainly valid. After all, he is a poker player and his overall results over the past 16 years have been lackluster. In fairness to Chris, he doesn’t play near as often as a regular grinder and only enters a couple of WSOP events each year.

Fortunately for the former accountant, he could still get in as a contributor to the “overall growth of the game.” And that’s why I believe he’s deserving.

Strong Class of Finalists in 2019

On Sunday, the Poker Hall of Fame announced the 10 finalists for the 2019 class. Only two of these individuals, as is the case each year, will be inducted.

Poker Hall of Fame Nominee Finalists

  • Chris Moneymaker
  • Chris Ferguson
  • David Chiu
  • David Oppenheim
  • Mike Matusow
  • Chris Bjorin
  • Eli Elezra
  • Antonio Esfandiari
  • Ted Forrest
  • Huckleberry Seed

Nine of the 10 finalists, including Moneymaker (on his fourth try), have been on the ballot before. Esfandiari, who recently turned 40, is the only first-timer.

The voters include 30 Hall of Fame members and 21 media members. After the votes are in, the WSOP will make an announcement on July 8 during the Main Event.

Esfandiari, given his poker celebrity and the fact that he has the biggest score in poker history ($18.3 million in the $1 million buy-in WSOP Big One for One Drop in 2012), is the most likely selection.

That leaves one spot, and quite frankly, the competition for Moneymaker is stiff. Chris Ferguson probably won’t get many votes, for obvious reasons (*cough* Full Tilt Poker scandal *cough*). But the others all have impressive resumes as players and have a stronger reputation than “Jesus.”

Daniel Negreanu, a 2014 inductee, believes David Oppenheim is the most deserving player.

Moneymaker Should Be a Lock

Forget the ho-hum tournament resume or the lack of success in high stakes games. Chris Moneymaker is one of the most important figures in poker history. If that isn’t worthy of Hall of Fame nomination, I don’t know what is.

Mori Eskandani, the great poker television producer, was inducted last year alongside John Hennigan, and deservedly so. But Eskandani, who once was a successful high stakes player, got in on the basis of his work as a producer. He’s produced popular shows such as “High Stakes Poker” and “Poker After Dark.”

As a contributor, Mori is certainly deserving of that honor and it was good to see him get rewarded for his hard work and dedication to growing the game last year.

But despite Mori’s undeniable impact on the game, I’m not sure how his contribution to poker exceeds that of Moneymaker’s.

Before Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event in 2003, poker was a niche game played in small smoky poker rooms in only a portion of the casinos around the world. His $2.5 million victory 16 years ago sparked the most massive poker boom ever. The game went mainstream and millions of new players fell in love with poker while thousands of new poker rooms popped up all over the world.

Every beginner wanted to be the next Chris Moneymaker. He was viewed as a guy the Average Joe’s could relate to. His win brought out millions of recreational players. Soon after the 2003 Main Event aired on ESPN, poker went mainstream. Major television networks were contacting Eskandani to put together new poker shows. If not for Moneymaker, it’s hard to imagine any of this would have happened.

And he’s also done wonders for the games in other ways such as advocating for the legalization of online poker in the US. As a PokerStars and general poker ambassador, he’s always approachable with the fans. I’ve met Chris many times and have always been impressed with how he interacts with poker fans. He never shies away from taking a selfie with a fan or signing an autograph. That’s what you’d expect from a poker ambassador.

If the voters don’t think Chris Moneymaker is deserving of the Poker Hall of Fame, they need their heads examined. Few in history have meant more to the game. He’s as valuable to poker as anyone and, therefore, deserving of induction.

Written by
Jon Sofen
Semi-pro poker player with 17 years experience on the felt and more than five years working as professional poker media.

Comments

Brian Opus wrote...

Bingo! Moneymaker should be in. Actually he should have been in the HOF a few years ago. Ridiculous that he isn’t.

mtl mile end wrote...

Is there a “Builder” category? If there is, Moneymaker should be in.

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