Amid the pomp and ceremony of the nearly completed 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event, the WSOP and its corporate parent, Caesars Interactive Entertainment, has announced this year’s inductees into the Poker Hall of Fame, Chris Moneymaker and David Oppenheim.
Moneymaker and Oppenheim become the 57th and 58th persons to be inducted into the PHOF, following voting by an election committee that chose among ten official finalists selected in large part through a public nomination process and final vetting by the PHOF. The voters who selected Moneymaker and Oppenheim for enshrinement were a pool of 30 living prior PHOF inductees, along with a select group of 21 media members drawn from all parts of the poker world.
Eight other 2019 finalists will continue to remain eligible for Poker Hall of Fame enshrinement in future years. In alphabetical order, those other finalists were Chris Bjorin, David Chiu, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow and Huckleberry Seed. All except Esfandiari have already been finalists on at least one earlier occasions besides the 2019 process.
“In the record-setting 50th year of the World Series of Poker, we are reminded how critical Chris Moneymaker has been to influencing recreational players to pursue their dreams and he will certainly be amongst the most important figures of all time,” said Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council member Ty Stewart. “Oppenheim is a pro’s pro and has finally received his long overdue recognition.”
“I’m very honored… very happy,” says Moneymaker upon receiving the news. “It’s great for my kids — it’ll be a cool thing for them to see when they grow up.” Besides logging one of the WSOP’s most famous Main Event victories, in 2003, and serving as a public lightning rod (a/k/a the “Moneymaker Effect”) for the global growth of both online and live poker, Moneymaker has long served as a highly visible ambassador for the game, despite his own quiet nature.
“Being recognized as one of the all-time greats by my peers is truly humbling and I am honored to have been selected to the Poker Hall of Fame, said Oppenheim, who is best known for competing in some of the highest cash games in poker.” “I have been so fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living. I never planned to be a professional poker player, rather it was a passion that became my job. People often ask me, how does one become a professional poker player? The answer is hard work and that goes for everyone that plays at the highest level. From the time I began playing I was incredibly passionate about poker and it led to me being able to travel this road that has been traveled by very few. Again, I am extremely grateful to be receiving this honor. Thank you.”
Poker-world conjecture has already floated regarding the likelihood that the selection of Moneymaker and Oppenheim continues to reflect the voting schism that is perceived to exist between the “player” and “media” voting blocks. Much of the media and the poker-fan public have enthusiastically supported Moneymaker for years as a possible enshrinee, while a voting block centered around high-stakes Vegas and California cash-game pros likely skewed highly toward Oppenheim and perhaps others such as Ted Forrest. Though both Moneymaker and Oppenheim are well deserving of the honor, their selection will do little to resolve the largely-friendly split among PHOF voters.