The Poker Hall of Fame, curated by the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has announced the list of finalists for its 2015 inductees. Ten players have been nominated, from which two will be selected for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Over a period of two weeks, we’re looking at their stories and the cases for – and sometimes against – their inclusion.
Max Pescatori is known as the “Italian Pirate” for his nationality – obviously – and his habit, through most of his career, of wearing an Italian flag skullcap at the tables. That’s a look he has more recently abandoned in favor of a bleached blond pompadour, but the nickname remains.
Pescatori was born in Milan in 1971 and began playing poker at age 15. He made the move to Vegas in 1994, initially playing 7-card Stud cash games, and eventually transitioning to Texas Hold’em.
He began playing tournaments around the time of the boom; his earliest results date back to 2002, while his first win was in a $300 Limit Hold’em event the next year in Reno.
It wasn’t until 2004 that Pescatori began playing in the World Series of Poker, and his first bracelet came in 2006, in a $2500 No-Limit Hold’em event. He has picked up three more since, two of them just this year. His 2015 World Series of Poker was a solid performance overall, with a total of seven cashes to put him 23rd in the Player of the Year standings, and plenty of opportunity to climb further up the ladder come the WSOP Europe next month.
In recent years, as poker has gained in popularity in Europe, Pescatori has begun splitting his time between his home country and the United States, racking up numerous cashes on the Italian Poker Tour (IPT) and other miscellanous events around Italy.
Although his performance this year is putting him in the running, Pescatori wouldn’t have previously been considered a huge name on the world stage. He has, however, been hugely influential in Italy for many years now. He has written two poker books, which are just about the only books on the subject to have been authored in Italian, rather than translations from other languages. According to his blurb on the WSOP Hall of Fame website, he was also instrumental in the successful regulation of online poker in Italy.
It’s presumably for this role as a poker ambassador in his home country that Pescatori is in the running for the Hall of Fame. His career as a player has been solid, but at 152nd (as of this writing) in the Global Poker Index and 191st on the all-time money list, he’s behind plenty of other players who have yet to make the Hall of Fame. Four WSOP bracelets does put him ahead of a lot of the other contenders this year, but by the same token he has no WPT, EPT or other titles.
I’ve been fairly cautious in my predictions in the previous bios, but I think in this case I’m just going to come right out and say that Pescatori is not going to be one of the selections for the Hall of Fame this year. I have said that I think that this will be the year we see the first non-North American inductee, but although he’s very popular in Italy, I don’t see much in Pescatori’s career at this juncture that would cause the panel to take him over any of the other international candidates.
That’s not to say that he won’t be in the Hall of Fame one day. In fact, the number one reason I don’t see him being selected this year is that usually people are inducted into a Hall of Fame once the picture of their overall career arc has become clear, and based on his performance at this year’s WSOP, it looks likely that Pescatori is still on the ascent. If his next few years play out in similar fashion, then it’s likely we’ll see him back on the list a few years down the road; for now, though, he seems to me much more like someone with future Hall of Fame potential than a serious candidate for immediate inclusion.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.