Today’s Poker Hall of Fame induction ceremony proved to be a walk down memory lane. The lobby of the Penn and Teller Theater served as the stage for some of the legends of the game to reminisce about a version of poker you don’t hear much about anymore. It stands in stark contrast to the game of today and many of the positive changes can be credited to this year’s two inductees into the Hall of Fame, Brian “Sailor” Roberts and Eric Drache.
As World Series of Poker Media Director Nolan Dalla noted, some thought Sailor’s opportunity to make the Hall of Fame alongside his fellow road gamblers Doyle Brunson and Amarillo “Slim” Preston had passed. However, thanks to a push from the living Hall of Fame members, this year Roberts, who passed away in 1995, joined his longtime friends in poker’s most esteemed fraternity.
Hall of Famer Crandell Addington accepted the award on behalf of Roberts. In his speech, Addington alluded to the debt the poker world repaid Roberts today. Like Brunson and Preston, Roberts helped the game to garner the attention of the public thanks to their colorful stories of travelling through Texas on the hunt for the best game in town. Known for his 2-7 Lowball game, Roberts was both a showman and a player and, as this year’s voting indicated, he commanded the utmost respect from all of his peers.
Another Hall of Famer, Bobby Baldwin, did the honors of introducing Drache. The Main Event winner and successful businessman reminisced about his early days working in the Silver Bird poker room. Baldwin made jokes about his friend, but also hit upon Drache’s indelible contribution to the poker world. The game as it is today would not exist without Drache, who helped pioneer satellite tournaments, established several popular high stakes poker rooms on the Las Vegas strip, and now produces some of the most popular poker television programs around.
“Other than Sailor, no one player has done more to promote poker than Eric,” said Baldwin.
Drache was humble in his acceptance speech, even kicking it off with a joke. “For those of you under 65, I’m Eric Drache,” he deadpanned.
Drache recalled some of his fond memories from his four decades in the poker community. As he recalled these charming, surprising, and humorous tales, it became evident just how big a role Drache played in poker’s evolution. As a player, a tournament director, a poker room manager, and now a media consultant, Drache lives, breathes, and defines poker.
In the audience, poker greats like Jack Binion, Doyle Brunson, and David Chiu paid their respects to Roberts and Drache. It was a time to pay homage to the men who built the game and a reminder just how much that game has changed over the past fifty years.