Top Ten Non-Player Candidates for the Poker Hall of Fame

Mori Eskandari produced most of the memorable poker TV shows in the last decade.

Mori Eskandani produced most of the memorable poker TV shows in the last decade.

There is a lot of discussion being thrown around about qualifications for the Poker Hall of Fame. It seems that everyone has their own opinion of what would make for the best criteria for players to be voted in the HOF. While players, fans, and industry personalities are sounding off, BLUFF takes a look at which non-players deserve a HOF nod.

Henry Orenstein was the last non-player inducted into the HOF in 2008. He is largely credited with designing and implementing hole card cameras for TV broadcasts. Previous to Orenstein was Jack Binion in 2005 and his father Benny Binion in 1990. Other non-players in the HOF include Edmond Hoyle, Blondie Forbes and Felton McCorquodale.

Forbes and McCorquodale were players well-liked by their peers and deserve to be recognized as players, but their HOF contributions stem from Forbes creating Hold’em and McCorquodale bringing the game to Las Vegas.

Isai Scheinberg

Isai Scheinberg is the man that sits atop the PokerStars mountain – he is the founder and majority shareholder in the company. He is rarely seen around the poker world and will probably never set foot in the U.S. again. Though PokerStars was cleared of charges through the deal with the D.O.J., Scheinberg himself still faces criminal charges stemming from Black Friday.

Scheinberg may quite possibly be responsible for sending more players to the WSOP Main Event than any other organization. PokerStars has been an industry leader since they entered the marked in 2001 and continues to set the bar for all online sites. Sadly, due to his intense privacy and rivalry with many U.S. gaming executives he will probably never make the ballot.

Steve Lipscomb

When looking at the poker boom in the early part of the millennium, it was the World Poker Tour broadcasts that lit the fuse for Chris Moneymaker to set off the poker boom. The WPT pioneered using hole card cameras to give audiences an added insight and made poker on television compelling.

Lipscomb founded the WPT and served as the CEO until PartyGaming bought the tour in 2009. His contribution to poker’s boom is undebateable and the WPT is as strong as ever in it’s twelfth season.

Matt Savage

Matt Savage is one the premier tournament directors working today. He serves as Executive Tour Director of the World Poker Tour, was a founding member of the Tournament Director’s Association and is the Tournament Director of the Commerce Casino and Bay 101 Casino. He was also tournament director of the WSOP from 2002-2004.

Savage’s tournament structures and schedules are some of the best in the business and is one of the most accessible poker executives on social media.

Lon McEachern & Norman Chad

The only pair of nominees on the list are virtually inseparable as the voices of the World Series of Poker. They welcomed millions of viewers to the game when Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP Main Event win set off the poker boom. The pair made poker accessible and humorous while not detracting from the game itself. The popularity of WSOP broadcasts paved the way for prime time slotting, corporate sponsors and player sponsorships.

Ty Stewart

Ty Stewart wasn’t responsible for Caesars buying the WSOP and Binion’s, but he’s largely responsible for taking a game relegated to smoke-filled back  rooms into corporate board rooms. He landed numerous mainstream sponsorships from Miller Brewing Company, Unilever (Degree deodorant) and Jack Links Beef Jerky.

Stewart serves as the Executive Director of the WSOP and Senior Vice President of Caesars Interactive Entertainment. He guided the WSOP through a recession, altered the public perception of poker and was a key figure in getting the WSOP online for real-money gaming.

Nolan Dalla

Nolan Dalla never set out to be one poker’s foremost historians – he was a low limit Vegas grinder. But  circumstances developed where Dalla has seen more final tables, interviewed more players and written more poker stories than anyone else on the planet. The last several years Dalla has served as Media Director for the WSOP and more recently he has been writing a no-holds-barred blog and joined Poker Night in America.

Dalla wrote “One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey” which is the definitive biography Stu Ungar. Dalla didn’t pull any punches and wrote extensively about the poker phenom’s dark side and spent many hours interviewing Ungar during his final days.

Dalla is widely considered the Godfather of poker media and shakes more hands than Doyle Brunson at the WSOP. His contributions to the game have gone largely unnoticed by those outside of the poker industry and deserves to be recognized for his contributions to the game.

Jack McClelland

Jack McClelland had a career in poker that stretched over five decades and held some of the highest positions a Tournament Director could hope to have. His career started at the Sahara at the bottom and quickly worked his way up to a supervisor position. His biggest break came when he started working for the WSOP in 1984. He spent several years as Tournament Director and oversaw every aspect of the event.

McClelland furthered his profile when he became Tournament Director for the Bellagio when the casino opened – a position he held until this past year. The WPT quickly found a home at the Bellagio during the tour’s early days and McClelland was a key figure in the relationship.

McClelland was a highly sought after Tournament Director and saw just about every evolution of the poker business – right in the eye of the storm.

Brian Balsbaugh

At the start of the poker boom Brian Balsbaugh was a young agent for professional golfers and left the comfort of a secure industry to be the first agent to represent poker players. He founded Poker Royalty ten years ago and was at the center of many of poker’s most lucrative player deals.

He represented Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth to name a few and created a business model that many have tried to emulate but ultimately were unsuccessful.

Mori Eskandani

Mori Eskandani has been behind the scenes producing the best poker shows in the business since 2004. He created Poker PROductions to produce the Poker Superstars series, Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, the NBC Heads Up National Championship, Face the Ace and took over the ESPN WSOP production in 2011.

The recent era of poker was built around the success of poker on TV and Eskandani produced the most enduring shows of the period. Clips from shows he had hand in have hundreds of thousands of views online. He has also found time here and there to play a little – his results date back to the 1987 WSOP.

John Duthie

Yes, John Duthie has decent career results as a player – nearly $1 million in earnings and deep runs in notable events – but his contribution to poker comes from the boardroom. He created the European Poker Tour for PokerStars and served as CEO as well as Executive Producer for EPT TV broadcasts.

The EPT has grown every year in it’s ten-year history and feed the need for highlight events when Europe experienced its own poker boom. It’s considered one of the premier tours in the world and helped build PokerStars into the global giant that is today.

Duthie was also a Team Pro for the site but stepped away from the position for “self-centered” reasons in early 2012. Just a few days later he also resigned as CEO of the tour.

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Paul Oresteen

Senior Writer: Paul Oresteen originally joined BLUFF in 2008 as an intern. He covered two World Series of Poker’s before leaving to join PokerNews.com. After a two year hiatus Oresteen returned to BLUFF in November 2012. Since starting as a poker journalist Oresteen has covered the World Series of Poker, WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour. He graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. in Communications in 2008.
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