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.
Terry Rogers is – along with Matt Savage – one of the only two candidates this year who is known primarily for his role on the business side of poker. Rogers, who passed away as the result of a heart attack in 1999, was an Irish bookmaker who is generally credited as the person who introduced Texas Hold’em to Europe.
Gaming and betting were hereditary endeavors for Rogers, who was born in 1928 in Dun Laoghaire. His father was a bookmaker before him, and his brother would end up going into the business as well. Where his brother was focused primarily on bookmaking, however, Terry’s approach to business was much broader. His earliest venture was an amusement arcade, and later on he would own snooker halls and betting shops, and even dabbled in boxing promotion at one point.
In terms of his contributions to gaming, Rogers was something of a visionary who was always looking for the next new thing. He was the first to offer betting lines on the results of political elections, for instance, a trend which has become much more common in recent years. It was fortuitous for poker, then, that in 1979, while in the United States on business, Rogers decided to take a trip to Las Vegas.
At that point, Rogers had already been interested in poker for a few years, having convinced the Eccentric Club – a long-standing gentleman’s club in London – to let him host charity tournaments there. The game being played was five-card draw, however; no one on Rogers’s side of the Atlantic had heard of Hold’em at that time.
That was about to change, as in Las Vegas, Rogers ran into Benny Binion playing a high-stakes game of Texas Hold’em and immediately saw the potential in the new variant. He got into the action himself, not as a player, but by offering the players the opportunity to make side bets with him on the outcome of the game. He stuck around for the World Series of Poker that year, then flew back to Ireland, sure that Hold’em was going to be the next big thing, and keen on being the guy to introduce it to Europe.
He did so the very next year, organizing the first annual Irish Poker Open in 1980. Although it was a small affair the first year, it soon took off. Rogers’s schmoozing with the American top dogs of poker paid off, with players such as Tom McEvoy, Jack Keller, Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese and Perry Green all making the trip to Ireland to play, bringing a great deal of attention to the tournament in the process.
The tournament would end up being a large part of Rogers’s legacy. Since it started in 1980, the tournament has run every year, with the exception of 1992; that year, Rogers was caring for his mother, who was in poor health, and was therefore unable to organize the event. It was back the following year however, and every year since; when Rogers himself passed away, tournament director Liam Flood took the reins, and moved the event from the Eccentric Club to the Merrion Casino, where it was held until 2004. As of 2005, it has moved around from year to year.
In my opinion, Rogers is, along with John Juanda, one of the stronger candidates for induction into the Hall of Fame this year. I’ve said several times that the presence of six European candidates on the ballot is a sign that this is the year we’ll finally see a non-North American get in; if that’s the case, then surely the most logical person to start with is the man who first started Texas Hold’em spreading beyond the borders of the United States.
It’s also hard to argue with the Irish Poker Open in terms of lasting impact; it may not have the highest buy-in, largest field or biggest prize pool out there, but it’s the longest-running tournament series outside of the WSOP itself and has a reputation for being well run and free from the sort of scandals and gripes that surround many tournaments.
Most importantly, though, I think Rogers is the right choice because of his vision. He didn’t hop on board the poker boom in the early 2000s like so many others. Rather, he saw it coming twenty years in advance and built a brand that was already very well-established by the time that ship came in, even if Rogers himself was no longer alive to see it. That kind of vision is something that’s very much lacking in the poker world at the moment; as poker continues its steady decline, we’re all waiting to find out what the next big thing will be. What’s missing is someone like Rogers, who can see the potential that others miss, and take an active role in making that next big thing happen.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.