Longtime poker pro Eli Elezra is the latest player to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, becoming the sole member of the 2021 class in a ceremony conducted during the World Series of Poker.
The former businessman was one of the stars of the poker boom, enduring massive swings by playing in some of the biggest cash games in the world.
The 60-year-old has also had quite a bit of success in tournaments with more than $4.5 million in earnings, including a seven-figure score when he won the World Poker Tour Mirage Poker Showdown, as well as four World Series of Poker bracelets.
“I started playing poker in 1985… and I wasn’t very successful,” Elezra admitted about his first years in the game. “So to come all this way and be alongside guys like Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu… nobody can take that away from you. This is amazing.”
Elezra grew up in Jerusalem, and later served in the Israel Defense Force during the Lebanon War. After being wounded in battle, he moved to Alaska where he worked in a salmon cannery, as a taxi driver, and even hunted bears and whales. He later relocated to Las Vegas when he spotted a business opportunity to run a photo processing store on the Strip. It was there that he discovered poker and became a regular in the high-stakes cash games.
“Israel is a small country, but there are a lot of poker players from there now, even though poker is illegal there,” Elezra added. “To come from a small country and make the Hall of Fame is a dream come true.”
Elezra becomes the 60th inductee overall, and 33rd living member. He beat out nine other nominees for the honor, including Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Ferguson, Layne Flack, Ted Forrest, Bertrand ”ElkY” Grospellier, Mike Matusow, Michael Mizrachi, Matt Savage, and Isai Scheinberg.
The announcement came during a special Hall of Fame event at the series, featuring a $1,979 buy-in in honor of the year the hall was founded. If players were able to eliminate a member of the HOF, they would also earn an additional bounty equal to the year the player was inducted.