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Boatman on Poker HoF: "It's Absolutely Clear That There’s a Bias"
A true elder statesman of UK poker, Barny Boatman is one of the original Hendon Mobsters and, surely, one of the most important voices of poker in Europe.
He's also one of the funniest.
With veritable icon status and over $3m in career earnings, these days he's now mostly traveling and enjoying life without planning too far ahead.
As a 2015 WSOPE bracelet can attest - the second WSOP gold of his career - he's still got plenty of game in him, too.
If you follow his engaging Twitter account you know he would have liked to see a European player enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame this year but, as he told us at EPT Dublin this week, he's not losing any sleep over it.
PokerListings: Is the Poker Hall of Fame biased towards American players?
Barny Boatman: Not in a sinister way. It’s obviously an American thing, and it’s natural that they mostly think about the people they know.
A lot of things American have the word “world” attached to it, like the World Series of Poker. It’s such a big place that they often don’t have to look beyond their borders.
The Hall of Fame is one of those things that matter if you think it does. They are nice things, but then it’s just players getting awarded for their tournament achievements.
I think it’s amazing what Alex Dreyfus does. I don’t really like the word “sportify,” as I feel kind of excluded being an old player (chuckles), but I like what he does.
PL: Not saying that the inductees don’t deserve it, but instead of voting for players like Dave Ulliott or Thor Hansen they picked John Juanda, who didn’t even show up.
BB: Well, to be fair, I think Dave wouldn’t have shown up either.
(At this point we have to interrupt the interview for a minute until both Barny (and PL) can contain ourselves again.
I’m sure Dave would have loved this one. I’m actually a big admirer of John Juanda. I think he’s one of these quieter people who are often overlooked.
However, it’s absolutely clear that there’s a bias. I mean, even the Oscars have a category for “Best Foreign Film."
But it’s an American institution, that’s why Europeans are underrepresented. Players like Carlos Mortensen, Thor Hansen, Dave, or even John Duthie should get the recognition at some point.
But we know who they are and how important they are, and that counts. Also, it’s easier today to win an award than winning an actual event.
Luckily for me, I don’t win either.
PL: Is it a problem of the induction procedure or the composition of the panel?
BB: It’s a self-fulfilling thing, really. Why are the Oscars so white this year? Because the Academy is white. Of course, that’s wrong.
If I was a black actor I would probably see the Oscar as a white award. It’s a shame, really.
Now if they would want to see the Oscars as an institution that’s recognized worldwide, they’d have to change that. But as long as they see it as their thing, it only matters to them.
Personally I’m not bothered that much, but when it comes to Dave Ulliott it’s hard not to feel the bias as so many people talked about him.
Some say, “oh, we shouldn’t have him only because he’s dead." but you know what, I think that is a reason. It would have been a great opportunity to honor him.
His contribution to poker isn’t appreciated enough. There’s no bigger figure in European poker, and there’s no bigger character.
The panel definitely missed the chance of making their event more relevant, but I hope it’s not too late. Maybe they consider him at a later time.
If they want the Hall of Fame to be respected worldwide, they also need to induct Europeans. But the interesting thing is, and I’m willing to bet, that for example someone like Thor Hansen doesn’t care.
I don’t know it for sure. He’s a lovely guy and a great player, and he definitely deserves to be honored. But in my book the people who deserve the honor the most are the least to be bothered.
PL: Would we maybe need more Europeans on the Hall of Fame panel, or even a European equivalent?
BB: I think we have something similar already if you look again at what Dreyfus is doing. We have the European Poker Awards and we’ll have this league that has a British team and teams from Italy, Germany and France.
I’m more interested in this project than with the Poker Hall of Fame, personally. I think it has much more to give when it comes to reaching out to the world and presenting poker to the world.
I think the GPL is a fantastic effort. Of course, it’s now impossible to see how much it’ll be picked up by the media, how far it will spread.
I don’t know if it’s going to succeed but I really hope it does. So, 10 out of 10 to Alex Dreyfus. I’ve even thought about putting myself up there in the draft list.
It’s actually a bit scary because it’s all one-table and heads-up matches and I have no idea if I would have been picked or not.
I hope it wouldn’t exactly be a mistake to pick me. Actually, I’m not sure what would have been worse – to be picked or not being picked.
But when it comes to the Poker Hall of Fame, I’m really not that bothered.