A PokerNews Debate: Should The Hall of Fame Induct Chris Moneymaker?
With the recent announcement of the Poker Hall of Fame nominees, poker professionals, amateurs and railbirds alike joined in to add their two cents about who they thought deserved the prestigious honor, as well as who was a long shot.
Of the nominees - Chris Bjorin, Humberto Brenes, Todd Brunson, Eli Elezra, Bruno Fitoussi, Chris Moneymaker, Carlos Mortensen, Max Pescatori, Matt Savage and David 'Devilfish' Ulliott - PokerNews decided to debate whether Chris Moneymaker, whose story has been told time and time again and who has been credited for creating a poker boom, thanks in part to his unique name, deserves to be an inductee.
This is long overdue
The 25 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame, and the 20-person media panel entrusted with voting in new members have a chance to do something special this year. They can step a little out of the box, go beyond the traditional induction criteria and usher in a new era of credibility and relevance for the Hall. All they have to do is recognize Chris Moneymaker's great contribution to the game and vote him in because of it.
In 2003, Moneymaker was a 27-year-old accountant and amateur poker player from Tennessee who defied the odds and beat the pros at their own game, getting into the World Series of Poker Main Event through a $39 online satellite and winning it all. Now 40, Moneymaker has spent the decade-plus since playing the game professionally amassing an additional $1.1 million in tournament earnings to the $2.5 million he won with his World Championship. But the numbers themselves don't tell the real story here.
ESPN coverage of the 2003 WSOP Main Event helped turn Moneymaker's fairytale story into a legend and he wore it well. Poker suddenly boomed and Moneymaker was its poster child, helping draw thousands into the game who thought they had the chance to beat him and be him. The modern game, and the entire industry — online and off — was built around him. With the exception of a small handful of old school pros, media personalities, dealers and industry executives who are still around from before the boom, none us would even be here today without Moneymaker and the effect he had on the growth of poker.
Winning the WSOP Main Event alone means Moneymaker has played poker against top competition. Although he's never been one for the nosebleeds, he's certainly played high stakes. Now 13 years after his historic win, Moneymaker's still around, proving he's stood the test of time and is at least somewhat consistent. And although he took a little ribbing in the first few years after the big win, I think most would agree he's gained the respect of peers since that time.
All this is to say that one could argue he deserves a place in the Hall of Fame based solely on the traditional induction criteria, but honestly, why would they?
For nonplayers, or builders, the Hall of Fame claims to consider a person's contribution "to the overall growth and success of the game of poker with indelible positive and lasting results." Moneymaker certainly fits that bill there, giving the Hall of Fame the unique opportunity to induct its first player-builder hybrid this year, recognizing Moneymaker's results as a player and his contribution to the growth of the game at the same time and opening up the door for others in the future who may have done the same.
He's a One-Hit Wonder
Is Chris Moneymaker a poker player?
By any objective measure, the answer is yes. We can debate from sunrise to sunset what kind of poker player Moneymaker is — good, bad, lucky or some combination of those — but the fact of the matter is the man devotes a healthy chunk of his life to playing the game of poker.
Given that, the criteria for entrance into the Poker Hall of Fame are clear. One must have played against acknowledged top competition, played for high stakes, played consistently well in the eyes of peers and stood the test of time.
Does Moneymaker meet these criteria?
It's not hard to see that he doesn't. In fact, it's about as blindingly obvious as the hole cards of Allen Kessler when he puts in a five-bet shove. Just as sure as he's got the goods, Moneymaker doesn't when it comes to making the Poker Hall of Fame cut.
Playing for high stakes against acknowledged top competition? The closest he came to that was those legendary battles with Phil Ivey in the 2003 WSOP Main Event. I'm not Moneymaker's peer, so I can't say if they believe he's played consistently well, but standing the test of time? Now, Moneymaker hasn't exactly faded into oblivion — a PokerStars contract sure provides thick enough gravy to help anyone stay afloat — but $1.1 million in cashes over 13 ensuing years isn't exactly putting a stamp on the poker world. That's a hair under $85,000 per year or about what Fedor Holz averages in three hours of play.
Now, compare those credentials with some of the other players up for induction. Todd Brunson played cash games for big blinds bigger than the buy in of any tournament Moneymaker has ever entered. Carlos Mortensen also won a WSOP Main Event but didn't stop there, adding WPT titles and millions to his ledger.
None of this is to disparage Moneymaker. He has stayed competitive in a game that's evolved light-years beyond where it was when he burst onto the scene with reflective sunglasses, a hat pulled low and a deadly serious face. He remains an important ambassador for the game, engaging fans at every opportunity and continuing to resonate with casual players of a generation.
But he simply doesn't stack up to the hall of fame criteria. What Moneymaker did is akin to the feats of Fernando Tatis, who hit two grand slams in one inning, or Stuart Appleby, who shot a 59 on the PGA tour. Yes, they are amazing one-time accomplishments that left lasting memories on those who witnessed the; but they aren't enough for inclusion into a hall of legends, the greatest performers their respective games have ever seen.
Whether the Poker Hall of Fame is using the proper criteria to judge the worthiness of potential inductees is another debate entirely. But with the ones at hand, the case against Moneymaker is clear. He doesn't fit, and until those criteria are adjusted, he must remain on the outside looking in.
Let us know what you think by answering our poll question and giving us your thoughts in the comments.