Hennigan and Eskandani Make Poker Hall of Fame
There are few in the world of poker who would argue against the two men inducted to the Poker Hall of Fame this year. Mori Eskandani has taken poker from the live tables to television for two decades, and John Hennigan is one of the most accomplished players in the game.
Both of them were honored with an official induction to the Poker Hall of Fame during the playdown of the 2018 WSOP Main Event, and it was broadcast live on ESPN on Thursday, July 12.
BIG BIG CONGRATS to Mori @Eskandani and my buddy Johnny World Hennigan on being in inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame! What an accomplishment! CONGRATULATIONS ? #poker #PokerHallOfFame pic.twitter.com/CyndA6a6ru
— Drea Renee (@DreaRenee_N) July 13, 2018
The primary reason for Eskandani’s induction to the Poker Hall of Fame is his vast array of poker programming, but many don’t know that his passion for the game existed long before his television production career.
Eskandani came to the US in 1975 as an exchange student from Iran. As he worked his way through business school, he met Yosh Nakano. They played poker together, and Eskandani found more joy (and money) in cash games than in the business world. He eventually moved to Las Vegas. It was more than 20 years after he arrived in America that he hosted a barbecue during which Steve Lipscomb interviewed poker players for a documentary. And years later, when Lipscomb wanted to license the hole card camera for his new World Poker Tour show, their paths crossed again, as Eskandani’s business partner was Henry Orenstein, who developed that camera.
The various relationships formed with those he met while playing high-stakes poker in Las Vegas and Los Angeles created unique opportunities for Eskandani. And when he saw the success of the WPT, he decided to use that hole card camera for a new concept, Poker Superstars, a show that he was to produce. But with no experience in TV production, he hired two producers and watched and learned. He then took that knowledge into production of other series, such as Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, Face the Ace, and the World Series of Poker. His Poker PROductions is responsible for much of the poker that fans around the world see on television.
Through years of playing poker, Eskandani has also accumulated more than $566K in tournament winnings, along with untold cash game success. He won tournaments at series like the Legends of Poker and the Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic, while making WSOP final tables through the years as well.
— Poker Central (@PokerCentral) July 13, 2018
Still in his 40s, it is tough to declare Hennigan a poker legend, but his accomplishments at the tables throughout several decades are well known and respected.
The Philadelphia native was first known as a professional billiards player but spending time in Atlantic City brought him to the poker tables. His affinity for gambling on any game in the world produced a nickname that remains with him to this day: Johnny World.
Pool was Hennigan’s primary love for many years, but he quickly became a regular in the cash games in Atlantic City and then in Las Vegas. The public became acquainted with him when he started doing well in tournaments that were televised. He won his first WSOP bracelet in 2002 in a HORSE tournament, showing his competency in many poker variations, then won the 2002 US Poker Championship Main Event, and he won his second WSOP in 1994 in Limit Hold’em. He won the 2007 Borgata Winter Open, a third bracelet in the esteemed $50K WSOP Poker Players Championship for $1.5 million in 2014, and yet another WSOP Championship event in 2016 for 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball. This year, he won the $10K HORSE tournament and days later finished second in the $50K Poker Players Championship. One week later, he final tabled the $10K Razz Championship.
At the time of this publication, he is deep in another 2018 WSOP tournament and in a Player of the Year race with Shaun Deeb for the best player of the entire summer series.
It’s one thing to say that Hennigan has more than $8.1 million in live tournament earnings to his credit, but that doesn’t take into consideration his online poker and cash game winnings. He certainly met all of the Poker Hall of Fame criteria, all while remaining a humble player and one who has earned the immense respect of his peers.
The original list of 10 finalists of all nominees submitted for the Poker Hall of Fame this year included some stiff competition for Eskandani and Hennigan. Many had been nominated multiple times in the past several years and will likely be considered again next year.
Those other finalists were:
Chris Bjorin (Sweden/England)
David Chiu (China/US)
Bruno Fitoussi (France)
Mike Matusow (US)
Chris Moneymaker (US)
David Oppenheim (US)
Matt Savage (US)
Huckleberry Seed (US)
The private voting took place through the first week of July, with 28 current/living Hall of Fame members and a specially-selected 18-member media panel submitting their votes. The WSOP Governing Council then tallied the votes and announced that Hennigan and Eskandani were the winners.