Poker Hall of Fame: Who’s Getting The Call in 2023

The Poker Hall of Fame has named the 10 finalists for 2023 and our editorial staff picks who they think might receive the honor this year.

WPT Staff
Jun 26, 2023
The ten 2023 finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame include Matt Savage, Brian Rast, and Ted Forrest.

Each year the World Series of Poker announces the 10 Poker Hall of Fall finalists and a maelstrom of debate ensues. The 2023 group – which the WSOP announced last week – is no different. The ten nominees this year include seven players; Jeremy Ausmus, Ted Forrest, Kathy Liebert, Mike Matusow, Brian Rast, and Bill Smith while three players who have largely contributed to the game away from the felt; Norman Chad and Lon McEachern (who were nominated as a duo), Matt Savage, and Isai Scheinberg. 

While many continue to advocate for changing the system to allow for more than one inductee each year or the possible creation of a “Builder” category, the reality in 2023 is that just one of these ten nominees will hear their name called on July 14 when the WSOP announces the newest inductee. Making sense of who is deserving of the honor and who is likely to be inducted this year isn’t easy. The editorial team, including Editor-in-Chief Lance Bradley, Senior Creative Editor Jeff Walsh, and Managing Editor Tim Fiorvanti each gave their picks on who should get in – their clear favorite, who could get in – a bit of a longshot, and who is gonna have to wait, a nominee who’s probably going to have to try again next year. 

Who Should Get In

Jeff Walsh: Brian Rast

Many are asking the question if Las Vegas pro Brian Rast’s very recent win in the 2023 $50,000 Poker Players Championship “put him over the edge” for a Poker Hall of Fame induction. It’s marks the third time he’s won this elite-field tournament (tying with Michael Mizrachi for the all-time record) and his sixth bracelet over all. But the truth is, it didn’t put Rast over the edge – he was already plenty qualified. Now, if anything, Rast’s remarkable victory this week amounts to an abundance of evidence that he belongs in the hall. Rast has eclipsed more than $25 million in career tournament earnings, including a victory in the 2015 Super High Roller Bowl for $7.5 million, and currently sits 29th on the All-Time Money list. Just as important, and sometimes even more so for Poker Hall of Fame voters, Rast has a longtime reputation of besting cash games at the highest level in a variety of poker disciplines. For Rast, it’s not a question of if he’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s a matter of when. And this might just be his year.

Tim Fiorvanti: Ted Forrest

By almost any measure, Ted Forrest should have been in the Poker Hall of Fame a long time ago. He won his first career WSOP bracelet in 1993, and his sixth in 2014, which is a solid range in terms of “standing the test of time.” In terms of playing for high stakes, before there was ever a $1 million buy-in live-streamed cash game, Forrest was part of a conglomerate that took on (and eventually beat) wealthy businessman Andy Beal heads-up at stakes as high as $50,000/$100,000. The rest of the criteria fit Forrest to a T. Unfortunately, with the process limiting Hall of Fame entries to one person in recent years (and two prior to that), Forrest has fallen victim to the process. It’s not going to get any easier in the years to come, and if Brian Rast’s $50K Poker Players Championship win puts his bid over the top, Forrest could be on the outside looking in for years to come.

Lance Bradley: Isai Scheinberg

It’s hard to imagine what the poker world would look like today if not for Isai Scheinberg. He co-founded PokerStars with his son Mark in 2001 and turned it into the world’s largest online poker site paving the way the way for the game to grow globally. In the years following Chris Moneymaker winning the 2003 WSOP Main Event, Scheinberg strategically targeted growth opportunities in countries in Europe, South America, and Asia and millions of poker players were playing poker for the first time. Black Friday was a dark day for online poker in the United States, but Scheinberg ensured every PokerStars player was paid in full for any money stuck on the site. Two years later, Scheinberg bought Full Tilt Poker from the same Department of Justice and paid nearly $200 million to players who had a balance on the site, in the process saving the bankrolls – and careers – of poker players. The incredible global growth that poker has enjoyed the last 10 years wouldn’t have happened if not for everything Scheinberg has done.

Who Could Get In

Jeff Walsh: Isai Scheinberg

For the most part, builders and members of the poker industry take a backseat to players when it comes to the Poker Hall of Fame. It’s understandable, it’s the players that make the game what it is today. But in the case of PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, his vision and invaluable contribution to the explosion of poker in the early 2000’s as well as his orchestration of repayment to U.S. players in the aftermath of Black Friday should secure him a place in poker history with induction into the Hall of Fame. Ask Daniel Negreanu, who has repeatedly stood by Scheinberg with calls for him to get into the Hall. “Who’s been a biggest contributor to the game of poker?” he asks, when discussing the builder category for the Hall of Fame. There are a number of worthy builders, including a couple who are nominated again this year, but it’s Scheinberg’s vision and execution of the mammoth that is PokerStars that brought poker to the masses, established superstars that remain in the spotlight to this day, and became a blueprint for modern poker.

Tim Fiorvanti: Brian Rast

If there was any doubt about Rast’s credentials for Hall of Fame eligibility coming into this week, it’s gone now. On the same exact day that the 10 finalists for the HOF Class of 2023 were announced, Rast won his third $50K Poker Players Championship title and his sixth WSOP bracelet overall. He has over $7 million in live tournament earnings and has played in the biggest cash games in tournaments available in the world of poker. Posting a major result during the voting window certainly helps his cause. The only reason why Rast could possibly miss out on HOF honors is his age relative to the rest of the field, as he’s only 41.

Lance Bradley: Brian Rast

As my learned colleague has already pointed out, Rast’s timing here is impeccable but the reality is that he was already one of the strongest finalists before he won the $50K PPC for a third time. Rast has excelled at the WSOP and those three wins in the event most professional poker players consider to be their Super Bowl is quite frankly impossible to ignore but he’s also had success elsewhere. He won the PokerGO Super High Roller Bowl in 2015 for $7,525,000, took down the $10,000 No Limit 2-7 Championship in 2018, and has 12 other victories, 8 of which had buy-ins of $10,000 or more. If any of the 31 living Poker Hall of Fame members were unsure of who to vote for when the finalists were announced, Rast gave them a very loud reminder of just who he is and what he’s accomplished.   

Who May Have to Wait

Jeff Walsh: Mike Matusow

With as popular (or notorious, depending on your taste) as Mike Matusow has been in the game of poker, it is somewhat surprising that he has yet to be welcomed into the Hall of Fame. Perhaps the same quality that makes him perfect for inclusion is what has kept him out: his mouth. But having earned the nickname of “The Mouth” due to his on-air antics in the Moneymaker aftermath, Matusow became a central figure in the massive growth of the game. And isn’t that the era that the Hall of Fame should be enshrining right now?

In his time, Matusow satisfied so many of the Poker Hall of Fame requirements including winning four WSOP bracelets, performing on High Stakes Poker, amassing more than $10 million in career earnings, and, perhaps most importantly, remaining a central character in the poker spotlight for the better part of 25 years. It’s hard to imagine a Hall of Fame without “The Mouth”, but after failing to garner support from the living members of the Hall in years past, it feels like he might have to continue to wait it out.

Tim Fiorvanti: Matt Savage

Like other industry “builders,” as non-player nominees are labeled, Matt Savage faces a tough journey to induction because of the one inductee per year rule. As a Tournament Director for over 20 years, with ties to the biggest poker rooms in California and major events worldwide, Savage helped to shape the game of poker through the explosion of popularity in the early 2000s and oversaw one of the most critical tournaments in poker history, the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event. Perhaps most importantly, Savage worked alongside Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and David Lamb to establish the TDA, the Tournament Directors Association, which continues to set the standard for rules and regulations for tournament poker throughout the industry. Since 2012, Savage has served as the Executive Tour Director for the World Poker Tour.

Lance Bradley: Jeremy Ausmus

There are five players with six or more WSOP bracelets and are old enough to qualify for Hall of Fame induction. Three of them are on the ballot this year; Brian Rast, Ted Forrest, and Jeremy Ausmus. Rast and Forrest have been nominated before and lots of people have made the case for each of them. This is Jeremy Ausmus’ first time being nominated and if you were to go back to just two years and suggest Ausmus was a Hall of Famer, you’d have been called crazy. In the last 19 months, Ausmus has put up Hall of Fame numbers: five WSOP bracelets, 95 cashes and $7.65 million in earnings. Ausmus has the resume required, but is most likely stuck behind a few other players who have been in consideration longer, but if Ausmus keeps adding bracelets, his induction will be hard to delay any further.