Out of a very strong class of Hall of Fame nominees, Eric Drache and Brian "Sailor" Roberts have earned the nod and will become the 43rd and 44th players to enter the Poker Hall of Fame on Oct. 30.
The 36-member panel of Hall of Famers and members of the media voted Drache and Roberts in, making Chris Bjorin, David Chu, Thor Hansen, George Hardie, Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, Tom McEvoy and Scotty Nguyen wait another year.
Roberts was a true icon of the game before his passing in 1995. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he traveled with Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim and dominated a game of poker that we would barely recognize today. He embraced the competition and was a gambler in every sense of the word.
"In a time 50 years ago when poker players relied on luck, Sailor was developing sophisticated strategies that would enable him to make his own luck," current Hall of Famer Crandell Addington said. "At a time in which professional poker players were viewed as outlaws and poker was illegal, he formed a partnership with Doyle and Slim and they traveled across the country from poker game to poker game. They deployed advanced strategies unknown at the time that featured playing their opponents hands on many occasions rather than their own hands. More often than not, they got the money."
Roberts also made his mark on poker's biggest stage, winning his first bracelet in a $5,000 no-limit 2-7 draw event in 1974, then capturing the 1975 WSOP main event title for $220,000. He made the main event final table a second time in 1982 and finished eighth.
"Outside of Chip Reese, Sailor was the best player in multiple games that I have ever seen," Brunson said in a letter to the WSOP's Nolan Dalla. "Sailor was truly an artist when it came to the game of Lowball, and had the best insight of any player I've ever seen -- be it modern days or old-school days. He devised devious ways to win pots in the most unorthodox fashion."
Although Roberts' legacy may be of his successes during the game's infancy, Drache's extends to poker's present, and without his brainchild, tournaments today wouldn't be the same.
"I was really surprised and a little embarrassed that I was even nominated, let alone voted in," Drache told to ESPN.com after he was notified of his pending induction.
Drache's entry into the poker Hall of Fame partly may be due to his 30-plus years at the felt and three runner-up finishes in WSOP events, but many would argue it's his efforts in building the game that punched his ticket. Drache was responsible for creating the satellite structure for tournaments, where players would buy-in at a lower level with the hopes of winning and earning a seat into a higher buy-in event.
He was the WSOP's tournament director for 15 years (1973-88), ran the poker rooms at the Mirage and Golden Nugget (to name a few), and has been a consultant on many of the televised poker shows that made the game an international success story. Oh, and he worked with Jack Binion to create the Poker Hall of Fame.
"When Jack Binion and myself worked on creating the Hall of Fame, I never considered myself a potential candidate," Drache said. "I'm particularly happy for the family of Sailor Roberts. Sailor, by everyone's account, including my own personal observations, was a great player and played many games very well."
In order to be considered for induction, players must be at least 40 years old, must have played poker against acknowledged top competition, played for high stakes, played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers and stood the test of time. Non-players must have contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.
The induction ceremony will be held hours before the 2012 WSOP main event champion is crowned.