2020 Poker Hall of Fame finalists announced; Antonius, Chad, Matusow make the cut

Patrik Antonius poker HOF
Jon Sofen
Posted on: December 18, 2020 05:05 PST

The Poker Hall of Fame has revealed its list of 10 finalists for the class of 2020. And only one of those deserving individuals will make the cut due to new rules.

Since 2005, the WSOP has chosen two names per year for enshrinement. But Ty Stewart, Caesars' Executive Director, said his company wanted to make the change in order to increase the prestige of the already exclusive club. Last year's winners were Chris Moneymaker and David Oppenheim.

The rules for induction are simple, albeit mostly objective. A player must be 40 years of age or older, played at high stakes, and stood the test of time as a skilled professional. Or, for non-players, they must have contributed to the overall growth of the game in some important capacity.

Moneymaker, for example, won the 2003 WSOP Main Event. But he wasn't selected last year based on his accomplishments on the felt. Instead, he was chosen because he is widely considered the person most responsible for poker's massive growth earlier this century.

This year's list of finalists include a mix of players and non-players. Fans were first given an opportunity to nominate the finalists. And now the list of 10 finalists will be sent to the 32 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame who will vote on a winner based on that list. The inductee will be announced on December 30 at the WSOP Main Event final table in Las Vegas. The list of 10 finalists for the class of 2020:

  • Patrik Antonius
  • Lon McEachern and Norman Chad
  • Eli Elezra
  • Antonio Esfandiari
  • Chris Ferguson
  • Ted Forrest
  • Mike Matusow
  • Matt Savage
  • Isai Scheinberg
  • Huckleberry Seed

Who is the favorite?

Without question, Patrik Antonius is the favorite to gain induction into the HOF this year. But that doesn't guarantee he will be selected. Only the 32 living members of the Poker HOF have a vote, and we don't know what is going through their heads.

Actually, we do have an idea which direction one Hall of Famer will go. Moneymaker told Poker.org that he's leaning towards Isai Scheinberg. That isn't much of a surprise given Moneymaker is a long-time PokerStars ambassador.

Scheinberg founded PokerStars in 2001 and is credited as helping grow online poker and ensuring Full Tilt Poker's customers were paid in 2014 when PokerStars bought out the defunct poker site.

Patrik Antonius, however, is the favorite. He turned 40 on December 13, making him eligible for the first time. The Finnish poker star was a popular player during the poker boom era. He dominated the highest stakes cash games for years on Full Tilt Poker and crushed many televised poker shows.

If not Antonius or Scheinberg, Antonio Esfandiari has as good of a chance as anyone. The "Magician" won the $1 million buy-in WSOP Big One for One Drop in 2012 for $18.5 million and has over $27 million in live tournament cashes.

Poker HOF finalist wants change

Norman Chad and Lon McEachern, the long-time WSOP announcers on ESPN, both achieved the finalist list for the 2020 Poker Hall of Fame class. Despite the honor, Chad is a bit on tilt with the selection process.

He told Poker.org that one selection each year isn't enough. And he argues that players and "builders" such as himself "should be separate. It's a no-brainer."

The poker commentator said he has "no idea" if he or who will be selected this year.

"No idea, particularly since only the Hall of Famers will be voting this year," the ESPN poker commentator told Poker.org. "That changes the dynamic. Even with the media voting (in the past), certain Hall of Famers who I will not name have sort of rigged the voting in the past. That likely would favor Patrik (Antonius) this year."

What about Mike Matusow?

Mike Matusow made the list of 10 finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame. He certainly isn't among the favorites, but it isn't out of the question that he'll be chosen. He doesn't seem too confident, however.

"It would be nice but they pick who they want so I doubt it," Matusow told Poker.org.

Matusow alluded to the same sort of conspiracy as Norman Chad. He said, "Daniel (Negreanu) wants Isai (Scheinberg) in, so he usually gets his pick."

"The Mouth" has long been one of poker's most polarizing figures. He won four WSOP bracelets and was considered a top player for about a decade. But his game hasn't evolved and many poker pros don't particularly care for his staunch conservative views and behavior at the poker table.

Matusow does have one advantage in terms of being chosen for the HOF, however. Three of his close friends — Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, and Todd Brunson — are all current members of the HOF, meaning they have a vote. So, it's possible that he could pull an upset.

Featured image source: Flickr