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Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2012: Brian "Sailor" Roberts and Eric Drache

2012 Poker Hall of Fame inductees Brian "Sailor" Roberts (left) and Eric Drache (right)
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Yesterday the Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council made public the names of the two newest members of the Poker Hall of Fame -- long time Texas rounder and 1975 WSOP Main Event winner Brian "Sailor" Roberts and tournament director and innovator Eric Drache. The official induction ceremony will take place on Tuesday, October 30 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino amid the playing out of the 2012 WSOP Main Event final table. As has been the case in recent years, a nomination process opened to the public produced 10 finalists, at which point a 36-person panel comprised of living Poker Hall of Famers and poker media (including yours truly) made selections from the final ten. The induction of Roberts and Drache brings the overall total of Poker Hall of Famers to 44. While both Roberts and Drache proved their mettle at the poker tables over the years, neither inductee was nominated solely because of his performance at the WSOP in other tournaments. Rather, Roberts' contributions as an influential player and strategic innovator during poker's pre-tourney days helped seal his induction, while Drache's significant help in shaping tournament poker during its early formative era bolstered his candidacy. Brian "Sailor" Roberts Along with Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim Preston, Brian "Sailor" Roberts was one of the trio of original "Texas Rounders" who "faded the white line" by traveling the Texas circuit and throughout the American south playing poker wherever they could find a game. In his 2009 autobiography, The Godfather of Poker, Brunson writes extensively of his friendship with Roberts and their time traveling with Preston during the '50s and '60s, pooling resources and looking out for one another in the occasionally dangerous underground games. There Brunson describes Roberts as "the most dependable and charismatic friend a person could have," noting how the three-man partnership provided not only camaraderie on the road, but protection, too. "We watched out after one another," writes Brunson. "There was a lot of danger on the road, and with the three of us, we were more protected than if we went solo." Surviving that lengthy tutelage, Roberts and the others took their talents to the World Series of Poker in the early '70s where Roberts won a bracelet in a preliminary 2-7 NL event in 1974, then won the Main Event title in 1975. Roberts remained part of the poker world for the next couple of decades before his death in 1995 at the age of 64, unfortunately hastened by drug use. Speaking of Roberts, fellow Poker Hall of Famer Crandall Addington noted how his contributions to the game included helping advance strategic thinking well ahead of others. "In a time fifty years ago when poker players relied on luck," said Addington, "Sailor was developing sophisticated strategies that would enable him to make his own luck." Among the innovations Addington credits the trio of Texas Rounders with was "playing their opponents' hands on many occasions rather than their own hands," an idea Brunson would explore at length in his ground-breaking chapter on no-limit hold'em in Super/System. Tweeting prior to the announcement, Brunson likewise spoke of Roberts's talents at the table, calling him "the most complete player" aside from David "Chip" Reese "that ever lived." Roberts thus posthumously joins his former partners Brunson and Preston as a Poker Hall of Famer, all three also WSOP Main Event winners. Eric Drache As a player, Eric Drache's accomplishments are significant although modest compared to other Poker Hall of Famers, highlighted by three runner-up finishes in seven-card stud events at the WSOP (in 1973, 1981, and 2009). But his contributions to the poker world and to the WSOP are highly significant and worthy of recognition. Most notably, Drache served as the WSOP's tournament director from 1973-1988, a period of significant growth that saw the number of total events move into double digits and Main Event turnouts balloon from a single table's worth of players to more than 160. Besides overseeing the tournaments and helping shape the WSOP into an annual showcase for poker's best, Drache is also credited with having developed the idea of satellite tournaments, a key factor helping the Main Event in particular attract more players and ultimately develop into poker's crowning event. After his time as WSOP tourney director, Drache continued to contribute to the poker world as the card room manager at the Silverbird, Mirage, and Golden Nugget casinos, then later serving as a consultant for popular poker shows including High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. In fact, Drache has also been credited with having originally come up with the idea back in 1979 to create a Poker Hall of Fame! Drache mentioned this part of his history when speaking about his induction. "When Jack Binion and myself worked on creating the Hall of Fame, I never considered myself a potential candidate," said Drache. "I'm not only surprised and honored to have been selected, I'm also a bit embarrassed considering the other nominees." Those other finalists for 2012 were Chris Bjorin, David Chiu, Thor Hansen, George Hardie, Jennifer Harman-Traniello, John Juanda, Tom McEvoy, and Scotty Nguyen. All eight remain eligible to be nominated again in the future. Here is a full alphabetical list of all 44 Poker Hall of Famers, including this year's inductees. (Year inducted in parentheses): Tom Abdo (1982) Crandell Addington (2005) Bobby Baldwin (2003) Billy Baxter (2006) Lyle Berman (2002) Joe Bernstein (1983) Benny Binion (1990) Jack Binion (2005) Bill Boyd (1981) Doyle Brunson (1988) Johnny Chan (2002) T.J. Cloutier (2006) Nick "The Greek" Dandolos (1979) Eric Drache (2012) Barbara Enright (2007) Sarge Ferris (1989) Blondie Forbes (1980) Henry Green (1986) Barry Greenstein (2011) Dan Harrington (2010) Murph Harrold (1984) Phil Hellmuth (2007) James "Wild Bill" Hickok (1979) Red Hodges (1985) Edmond Hoyle (1979) Linda Johnson (2011) Berry Johnston (2004) Jack Keller (1993) Felton "Corky" McCorquodale (1979) Roger Moore (1997) Johnny Moss (1979) Henry Orenstein (2008) Walter "Puggy" Pearson (1987) Julius Oral Popwell (1996) Amarillo Slim Preston (1992) Chip Reese (1991) Brian "Sailor" Roberts (2012) Erik Seidel (2010) Mike Sexton (2009) Jack "Treetop" Straus (1988) Dewey Tomko (2008) Stu Ungar (2001) Red Winn (1979) Sid Wyman (1979) Join Betfair Poker Now.

While both Roberts and Drache proved their mettle at the poker tables over the years, neither inductee was nominated solely because of his performance at the WSOP in other tournaments. Rather, Roberts' contributions as an influential player and strategic innovator during poker's pre-tourney days helped seal his induction, while Drache's significant help in shaping tournament poker during its early formative era bolstered his candidacy.

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