Antonio Esfandiari, Mike Matusow, Isai Scheinberg Among 2021 Poker Hall of Fame Finalists
The World Series of Poker’s Poker Hall of Fame announced the list of 10 finalists that will be considered for induction in 2021. The 32 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame will cast their vote from the shortlist, with just one earning the honor of induction on November 17.
This year’s shortlist includes (in alphabetical order):
A businessman and four-time WSOP bracelet winner, Elezra has proven himself to be a world-class competitor in both high-stakes tournaments and cash games. He has more than $4.1 million in total live tournament earnings as well as a World Poker Tour title to his name. Additionally, Elezra built a reputation in the Las Vegas cash games and made appearances on High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark.
Nicknamed “The Magician”, Esfandiari became one of the more popular personalities of the poker boom (along with his then partner-in-crime Phil Laak). He has three WSOP gold bracelets, two World Poker Tour titles, and is also well-known as the winner of the first-ever $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop for which he earned more than $18 million, helping push his lifetime earnings to more than $27 million.
As a six-time WSOP bracelet winner (including the 2000 Main Event), the 2017 WSOP Player of the Year, and with a total of 142 WSOP cashes for more than $6.8 million Ferguson has one of the best resumes in WSOP history. However, his reputation off the felt took a critical blow in the aftermath of Black Friday as one of the primary parties of Full Tilt Poker and the debacle that followed when players were unable to get paid.
Six-time WSOP bracelet winner Layne Flack is receiving a posthumous nomination after his sudden passing away in July of 2021. Flack was given the nickname “back-to-back” after winning two consecutive events in the 1999 Legends of Poker, and then picked up two bracelets in 2002 and again in 2003. Flack earned more than $5 million in lifetime tournament earnings as well as a World Poker Tour title.
The third six-time bracelet winner on this list is Ted Forrest who has 39 WSOP cashes for just over $2 million. Additionally, Forrest has a World Poker Tour title and a reputation as being an important personality in the early poker boom as well as a member of The Corporation, who took on billionaire Andy Beal made poker famous as The Suicide King in Michael Craig’s book The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside The Richest Poker Game of All Time.
Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier
One of the original online poker celebrities, Grospellier currently sits 47th on the All-Time Money List. With two WSOP bracelets and a WPT Championship victory in 2008, ‘ElkY’ has amassed more than $14 million in live earnings. However, with just one person making it into the Hall of Fame each year, Grospellier may be a long shot to get inducted in 2021.
Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow is one of poker’s most colorful characters but in addition to his polarizing personality, he boasts a decades-long resume of accomplishments. He’s a four-time bracelet winner with just under $10 million in career live earnings and he’s still ever-present at the WSOP today. Matusow’s strength is the impression he left and continues to leave on poker fans worldwide.
The top line of Mizrachi’s poker resume reads “Three-time $50,000 Poker Players Champion.” It’s an incredible feat and ’The Grinder’ is the only player to have pulled it off thus far. He’s a five-time WSOP bracelet winner, two-time WPT champion, and has accumulated over $17 million in live earnings and, at just 40 years old, is nominated in his first year of eligibility.
The Executive Tour Director for the World Poker Tour, Savage is the most well-known TD in the game today. Nominated as a builder, Savage has been integral to the Tournament Directors Association helping shape the way that tournaments are played today.
PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg is one of the most influential businessmen from the poker boom era, getting much of the credit for helping drive the success of online poker both through marketing and the development of his platform. Also nominated as a builder, Scheinberg was key in helping U.S. players get refunded from a defunct Full Tilt Poker and now, with his legal troubles vs. the U.S. government behind him, he’s nominated for the second year in a row.
The criteria for nomination into the Poker Hall of Fame remains that players must be 40 years of age, player for high stakes against acknowledged top competition while gaining the respect of their peers. They also need to have stood the test of time. In the builder category, they are judged on the overall growth and success of the game while providing indelible positive and lasting results.
The enshrinement ceremony will be held on November 17 to coincide with the final table of the 2021 WSOP Main Event.