Hall of Fame Poker Classic


[SS] “Did any of you guys ever visit the Poker Hall of Fame?” Stan the Stat inquired.

[RR] “I’ve been to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton but not the Poker Hall of Fame in… Las Vegas, I presume”, Roderick the Rock answered.

[LL] “I’ve only been to the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport”, Leroy the Lion added.

[FF] “I actually looked for the Poker Hall of Fame the last time I was in Vegas, but all that Google Maps showed were the Golf Hall of Fame, the Pinball Hall of Fame, and the Burlesque Hall of Fame”, Figaro the Fish bemoaned.

[SS] “Well, that’s because it’s not a building. Binion’s used to put each inductee’s photo on a wall, but Caesars Entertainment stopped updating it when they acquired the casino in 2004. So now, the ‘Hall of Fame’ is a virtual hall, a sad little, underdeveloped corner of the web. You can’t even click on the inductees who aren’t players with records in the WSOP.com database.

The induction ceremony for the Poker Hall of Fame even used to have its own festival, the Hall of Fame Poker Classic.

Binion’s Horseshoe hosted ‘the city’s main winter poker tournament’1 starting in 1988, when Doyle Brunson and Jack Straus were inducted in the Hall. The festival survived until 2002, but only after several interruptions.

Hall of Fame Poker Classic (1988 to 1992, 1994 to 1995, 1997, and 2002)

Dates Events Main Event Winner Notes
December 10 to 21, 1988 12 Johnny Chan ($194,000) Jesse Alto ($97,000) was the Main Event runner-up. Jose Rosenkrantz won both the $500 Limit Hold ‘Em ($48,650) and the $1,500 Limit Omaha ($70,800).
December 12 to 23, 1989 13 Johnny Chan ($232,000) Jack Keller ($116,000) was the Main Event runner-up. Tom McEvoy won the $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha for $70,000.
December 6 to 20, 1990 14 David Mosley Surindar Sunar ($108,000) was the Main Event runner-up. Men Nguyen won both the $1,500 Limit Omaha ($76,800) and the $2,000 Limit Texas Hold ‘Em ($141,600).
October 22 to November 7, 1991 16 Lyle Berman ($240,000) Paul Clark ($120,000) was the Main Event runner-up. Phil Hellmuth won the $1,500 Pot Limit Texas Hold ‘Em ($80,400), while Men Nguyen won the $2,500 Seven Card Stud ($71,000).
October 27 to November 12, 1992 16 Jim Bechtel ($214,000) Phil Earle ($107,000) was the Main Event runner-up. T.J. Cloutier won the $1,500 Limit Texas Hold ‘Em ($73,200), and Men Nguyen won the $1,500 7-Card Stud ($41,400).
December 13 to 23, 1994 14 Barry Schwartz ($184,000) Thomas Chung ($105,800) was the Main Event runner-up. Todd Brunson won the $1,500 Limit Texas Hold ‘Em ($105,600), while his dad won the $5,000 Chinese Poker ($40,000). Howard Lederer won the $2,500 Deuce to Seven Draw ($52,875), and T.J. Cloutier won the $1,500 Seven Card Stud ($60,000).
December 8 to 21, 1995 13 Phil Hellmuth ($236,000) Howard Lederer ($135,700) was the Main Event runner-up. Andy Bloch won the $1,500 Chinese Poker ($29,700), Howard Lederer the $3,000 Deuce to Seven Draw ($72,900), and Phil Hellmuth the $1,500 Limit Texas Hold ‘Em ($117,000).
August 8 to 27, 1997 16 Kevin Song ($184,000) O’Neil Longson ($105,800) was the Main Event runner-up. Layne Flack won the $1,500 No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em for $67,800. In the $1,500 Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, women finished second (Kathy Kolbert; $30,705), third (Veronica Holmes; $16,020), and fourth (Linda Ryke Drucker; $9,345).
August 28 to September 14, 2002 19 Peter Costa ($101,520) Howard Lederer ($58,370) was the Main Event runner-up. Daniel Negreanu won both the $1,000 Limit Hold ‘Em ($24,820) and the $2,500 Limit Hold ‘Em ($25,850), Scotty Nguyen won both the $1,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em ($47,780) and the $1,500 Limit Hold ‘Em ($26,020), and John Juanda won both the $1,500 Razz ($16,500) and the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold ‘Em ($36,850).2

Notes:

  • In the 1995 Main Event, Hellmuth was down to his last 1,000 chips at his starting table.
  • Men Nguyen and Jose Rosenkrantz won the most events overall with four each. T.J. Cloutier, Phil Hellmuth,3 and Monte Kouz each won three.
  • The festival’s ups and downs:
    • The 1992 event almost didn’t happen. The IRS wanted players to report their gambling income, and tournament director Jim Albrecht pulled in all his resources to reach a compromise after three days. The result was that poker players now need to fill out W-2G tax forms, but no prize money is withheld.
    • The 1993 festival was originally scheduled for October 19 to November 9, but Binion’s decided there wasn’t enough interest. Albrecht said, ‘We had two big tournaments, and one of them drew 98 percent of the interest.’4
    • The festival nevertheless returned in 1994 when the casino was suffering from the construction of the Fremont Street Experience.
    • The Classic was canceled again in 1996, this time because the National Finals Rodeo needed more hotel rooms.
    • That problem was solved in 1997 by moving the festival from December to August, but that time of year proved less popular.

    After one last hurrah in 2002, the Hall of Fame Classic was retired. Chris Moneymaker would win the following year’s World Series of Poker Main event, leading to an explosion for the WSOP and obliterating any incentive to run this smaller festival. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was moved to the end of the WSOP Main Event, where it could receive much more deserved attention.”

    Footnotes:

    1. Source: The Reno Gazette-Journal, September 2, 1993, page 20.
    2. The Hendon Mob database also claims that John Juanda won the $500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, but the more reliable World Poker Rank indicates that Hoang Ta was the winner. This rec.gambling.poker report confirms Ta’s victory.
    3. Various sources, such as Poker-Story: Phil Hellmuth Jr. the Bad Boy of Poker claim that Hellmuth has won five Hall of Fame Classic tournaments, but none back it up with a list of the events he’s supposed to have captured. The only result that I’m missing is the December 14, 1988 $1,500 Seven Card High, which he probably didn’t play in let alone win.
    4. Source: The Reno Gazette-Journal, September 2, 1993, page 20.

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