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2017 Poker Hall of Fame finalists list announced

10 July 2017

(PRESS RELEASE) -- After a public nomination process and a vetting of nominations by the PHOF Governing Council, the finalists list eligible for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017 has been determined.

It will now be up to the current 27-member Hall of Famers and an 18-person blue ribbon panel of media members to determine who actually does join this exclusive club. The following represents the finalists:

2017 Poker Hall of Fame finalists list
David Chiu
Mori Eskandani
Ted Forrest
Thor Hansen
Phil Ivey
Mike Matusow
Max Pescatori
Matt Savage
Huckleberry Seed
David "Devilfish" Ulliott

Two new candidates have been nominated, and the eight others are previous finalists.

The new candidates are: Mori Eskandani and Phil Ivey.

Three of last year's finalists return — Max Pescatori, Matt Savage and David Ulliott — and five previous nominees — David Chiu, Ted Forrest, Thor Hansen, Mike Matusow and Huckleberry Seed — once again find themselves in the Top 10.

The above list of names will be submitted to the 27 living Hall of Fame members and an 18-person media panel later this month for voting. Only these 45 individuals cast votes for induction.

The criteria they will consider in their vote are as follows:
  • A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition.
  • Be a minimum of 40 years old at time of nomination.
  • Played for high stakes.
  • Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers.
  • Stood the test of time.
  • Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
The 2017 Class of the Poker Hall of Fame will be inducted as part of the World Series of Poker Main Event final table festivities in Las Vegas on 21 July during the ESPN telecast.

Later today, official ballots will be sent to the voters, who will have until 15 July to fill them out and return them to the WSOP Governing Council. The inductee(s) are expected to be announced after all votes have been officially tallied.

Please read below for a brief about each of this year's finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2017, listed in alphabetical order.

David Chiu
Born in China, David Chiu moved to the U.S. when he was an 18-year-old exchange student. Originally a restaurateur in Colorado, Chiu first started in poker as a dealer before transitioning into one of the most successful tournament players in poker history. The 56-year-old is a five-time WSOP gold bracelet winner with wins in Limit Hold'em, Seven Card Stud and Omaha Eight or Better and cashes in 70 WSOP events. Chiu's most recent bracelet victory came in 2013 at a stacked $2,500 Stud final table, where he defeated the likes of Michael Mizrachi, Frank Kassela and Scott Seiver to earn his fifth bracelet. Chiu's success extends beyond the WSOP, though, and also includes a memorable victory over Gus Hansen in the 2008 WPT World Championship. That win earned Chiu an impressive $3.3 million and, over the course of his career, Chiu has raked in more than $8 million in career tournament earnings since he first started playing tournaments back in 1996.

Mori Eskandani
You may not know the name, but you definitely know the work. Eskandani, 61, is the man in charge of Poker Productions, the poker television production company that has produced many of the game's most noteworthy television content. The current producer of World Series of Poker telecasts for ESPN, Eskandani also is responsible for Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, the National Heads-Up Championship and plenty more poker content. Eskandani was also a noted high stakes cash game player upon moving to Las Vegas in the 1980s. While he may be too busy these days to get in many hands at the table, it's certain he's left his mark on poker for the various television productions he's produced.

Ted Forrest
A six-time WSOP gold bracelet winner, Forrest captured his latest bracelet by slaying Phil Hellmuth heads up to win the Seven Card Razz event at the 2014 WSOP. The 52-year-old New York native has won more than $6 million during his career spanning three decades. Forrest's first cash at the WSOP was a victory at the 1993 WSOP when he won Event #11, the $5,000 buy-in Limit Seven Card Stud event. But if that wasn't a coming out party, it only took two days longer to cement his name in poker circles. He went on to win Events 12 and 13, too — incredibly winning three WSOP gold bracelets in three consecutive events in three variants of poker — the first and only time that has occurred in WSOP history. Forrest's resume is littered with success in every major variant of poker, and he's captured a WPT and National Heads Up title. He's also a noted cash game player, even taking part in the famed high-stakes heads-up cash games with Andy Beal.

Thor Hansen
Since starting in poker in the late 1980s, Norwegian poker pro Thor Hansen has cashed in more than 195 tournaments, racking up more than $2.9 million in career earnings. His list of cashes is certainly long and includes some notable highlights like two WSOP gold bracelets, won in 1988 and 2002, and an appearance at the $50,000 HORSE final table at the WSOP in 2007. Known in Europe as the "Godfather" of Norwegian poker, Hansen is one of the earliest supporters of the now-thriving European poker scene. In addition to his extensive tournament results, the 70 year-old Hansen is also an accomplished cash game player who was notoriously backed by Larry Flynt to play in high stakes cash games in the 1990s.

Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey (photo by Ralph Unden)

Phil Ivey
Ivey burst onto the poker scene in Atlantic City in 1998 as a 21-year-old who won a customer appreciation invitational tournament at the Tropicana. He won his first WSOP gold bracelet in 2000 at the 31st annual tournament, achieving his first six-figure tournament score in Pot-Limit Omaha. From there, he seemed to win non-stop, including three WSOP gold bracelets in a 21-day span to become the youngest WSOP player to reach four WSOP gold bracelets. To date, he's cashed in 151 poker tournaments around the globe, including wining $3,582,753 — his largest tournament poker score — at the Aussie Millions in Melbourne, Australia in 2012. He's a ten-time WSOP gold bracelet winner, a WPT champion who has made nine WPT final tables and recorded cashes on four different continents. Ivey is also a renowned cash game player, travelling far and wide to participate in the biggest cash games around the globe. Perhaps the most-feared player of his generation, Ivey is always willing to sit down with anyone at the poker table and usually ends up on the right side of the results. While tournament poker hasn't seen too much of Ivey in recent years, you could even say he is doing the players a favor. Anytime Ivey shows up to play he is a favorite to run deep. He turned 40 this year and became first-time eligible.

Mike Matusow
Mike "The Mouth" Matusow has plenty to talk about when it comes to his poker accomplishments. The 49-year-old is a four-time bracelet winner with more than $9 million in career tournament earnings. A poker dealer turned poker pro, Matusow has final tabled the WSOP Main Event twice in 2001 and 2005, made 14 other WSOP final tables and appeared at five WPT final tables. Never one to bite his tongue, Matusow developed a reputation of being a tough player and a tough talker, as he frequently speaks freely at the tables. The Mouth is a four-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and has also won the NBC Heads Up Championship.

Massimiliano "Max" Pescatori
Italy's Massimiliano "Max" Pescatori, with lifetime earnings up over the $4.4 million mark to go along with four career WSOP gold bracelets. Pescatori, 46, began his poker tournament career in 2002 and has been a steady and consistent performer ever since, with a well-rounded game that includes success in multiple disciplines. The Milan resident known as the "Italian Pirate," Pescatori is also a noted poker author, having written two books in Italian on poker to help strengthen and grow the game in his home country.

Matt Savage
When you think of non-players in poker, perhaps there is no more well-known figure than tournament director Matt Savage. Known for his player-friendly, feet on the floor style, Savage, 48, has directed tournaments all over the globe and for all different tournament series and casino companies and handled his duties with aplomb and style. One of the inaugural founders of the Tournament Directors Association, Savage has tirelessly advocated for standardizing poker tournament rules and has been one of the foremost innovators in terms of tournament offerings and formats. The San Jose, California, native is the current tournament director at the Bay 101 Casino in San Jose as well as the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, in addition to being the Executive Tour Director of the World Poker Tour. Savage has had a front row seat to the incredible growth poker has undergone this century and has been one of the most influential men in helping the game grow and evolve to what it is today.

Huckleberry Seed
It isn't just Huckleberry Seed's tall frame that helps him stand out among his competition at the table. The California native and Caltech alum is a four-time bracelet winner with $7.6 million in career tournament earnings. There is truly nothing Seed can't play at the tables, as his varied list of results include bracelets in Razz and PLO, a victory in the NBC Heads-Up Championship, two final table appearances in the $50K Poker Players Championship, a win in the WSOP Tournament of Champions in 2010, and, of course, winning the WSOP Main Event in 1996. Since Seed first started playing tournament poker back in 1990, he has posted six-figures worth of results in 22 different years.

David "Devilfish" Ulliott
Sadly, the poker world lost the physical presence of David "Devilfish" Ulliott in 2015, but his legacy and influence on the game of poker is sure to live on. Ulliott is one of Britain's most famous poker faces. A colorful character, Ulliott has a WSOP gold bracelet, a WPT title and more than $6.2 million in lifetime earnings to his name. He has cashes dating back all the way to 1993. You couldn't help but notice "Devilfish" when you were seated at a poker table with him, and it was his personality that shone through on television, particularly in Europe, that made him one of poker's biggest stars. David Ulliott was a beloved figure in poker whom was taken too soon, but not before he left an indelible impact on the game and all those he came in contact with.

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