T.J. Cloutier is a player who many would assume was already a member of the Hall of Fame, but until a few days ago, he was not. In his acceptance speech T.J. recalled the many years that he was sure he would be inducted and the numerous times the World Series actually notified him that he was scheduled for induction but never followed through. He said that when they called him this year he knew it was the real thing.
T.J. has often been called the best player in the world who has never won the Billy Baxter isn't quite as recognizable to the average poker fan. A surprising fact since he's the proud owner of seven gold bracelets. This puts him in a tie for third with Erik Seidel in the race for the most career WSOP bracelets. Amazingly Baxter has won all seven in the game of Deuce-to-Seven Lowball, a game at which he is thought to be the best in the world. So good in fact that the WSOP Lowball event was known for many years as "The Billy Baxter Benefit."
Baxter's most influential accomplishment though was made away from the poker table. In the 1980's Baxter fought the IRS in court for the financial rights of poker players. Before the decision that Baxter earned in his court case, poker players didn't have the same rights as other so-called "professionals." They could not claim their winnings as "earned income" and because of this they were forced to pay the maximum tax of the time, a whopping 70%. To make matters worse they couldn't even write off business expenses to reach a lower tax bracket.
So, in addition to being a dominant force on the felt, Baxter was a force to be reckoned with away from the poker table as well. So much so that every professional poker player owes him a debt of gratitude for the financial rights they all enjoy today.
It's interesting when you think about the length of time as well as the number of accomplishments it took for these two players to be deemed worthy of Hall of Fame status. With so many instant stars in poker these days; Moneymaker; Raymer and Hachem to name a few, it's important to keep the emphasis on longevity when commemorating Hall of Famers. It's undeniable, though, that we're now witnessing the birth and evolution of the many players who will one day join the elite ranks of poker legends.