– General Introduction –
Chris Ferguson is an American professional poker player. He was born on April 11th, 1963, in Los Angeles, CA. He won the biggest tournament in the world of poker, the WSOP Main Event in 2000. He also won the NBC Heads-Up Championship in 2008. He has 5 WSOP bracelets.
However, all of his success at the poker table is overshadowed by the illegal fund mismanagement he and his partners were doing while he was running the late online poker room Full Tilt. Due to his actions, many online poker rooms were shut down and player funds were frozen. It took years to compensate many of the affected players, while others haven’t received their money to date. Ferguson became one of the most hated figures in poker – the nickname he got after his appearance, “Jesus”, turned into “Judas”. When he won the Player of the Year award at the 2017 WSOP, a big part of the poker community was very upset.
– Key Career Dates –
- 1994: He starts traveling to Las Vegas, NV to play tournaments at the local casinos.
- 2000: He wins his first WSOP gold bracelet. He finishes first in the $2,500 Seven-Card Stud event for $151,000.
- 2000: He wins the WSOP Main Event for $1,500,000.
- 2011: His online poker room, Full Tilt Poker, gets shut down by the US Department of Justice due to his and his partners’ illegal conducts. It affects the poker world in a major way, bringing about the infamous “Black Friday” on April 15th.
- 2017: He wins the WSOP Player of the Year award – much to most poker fans’ dismay.
– Chris Ferguson’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Ferguson is a UCLA graduate, earning a Ph.D. in computer science. His father taught Game Theory at the same university. The mathematical basis for poker strategy is dictated by game theory – if you ever heard a poker player say “GTO”, it stands for Game Theory Optimal. Ferguson got a very early education in game theory from his father who would bring home special board games to study.
Ferguson found poker early on as well. He started regularly playing the game with his friends at the age of 10. They started to make trips to Las Vegas to play poker tournaments when Ferguson was only 17 – below the legal gambling age, but still managing to get in the games at the time. He decided to make poker his profession late in his life, at age 32 after the 1995 World Series.
→ Live Tournaments ←
Ferguson has $9.241 million in live tournament earnings, according to his Hendon page. That is a sum of a whopping 251 individual cashes, spanning 25 years.
The first cash on his profile is from a $500 Pai Gow poker tournament, held in Gardena, CA in March 1993. Early on in his career, he dabbled in many different game types, some of them are virtually unknown. Aside from the aforementioned Pai Gow poker, he cashed in Asian Stud, 7-Card Stud, Limit Hold’em, Lowball and Omaha Hi-Lo events as well. His first No Limit Hold’em ITM finish is from June 1994, at the California State Poker Championship. He cashed for $996 in a $330 NLHE tournament after coming in 9th place.
His big break came at the 1995 World Series of Poker. After making the final table at the $1,500 Razz event, he decided to go pro and the real big results started coming in.
He performed really well in NBC’s National Heads-up Poker Championships. These were tournaments where players would face each other in heads-up matches in a knock-out system. Ferguson won the title in 2008. He beat fellow American poker pro Andy Bolch in the final for the $500,000 first prize. In 2005 and 2006, he finished second for $250,000 each time. In 2005, he lost to Phil Hellmuth, while in 2006 he lost to Ted Forrest.
His other big live tournament scores include winning two WSOP Circuit Main Events in 2005 – one in San Diego, CA for $655,220 and one in Las Vegas for $362,088; as well as finishing 6th in the $10K LA Poker Classic Main Event for $240,538.
→ World Series of Poker ←
Chris Ferguson has been extremely successful at the WSOP. He has 5 gold bracelets from Vegas and also won one WSOP Europe title.
Out of all his accomplishments, his WSOP Main Event victory from 2000 stands out. That event, evidently, is the most covered and coveted poker tournament each year. Ferguson managed to best a 512-player field and won $1,500,000.
His four other bracelets are from the following events: the first is from a $2,500 7-Card Stud event for $151,000 in 2000; one is from a $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo event for $164,735 in 2001; one is from a $2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo event for $123,680 in 2003; while his last bracelet to date is also from 2003, from a $2,000 Limit Hold’em/7-Card Stud mixed game event for $66,220.
Overall, Ferguson cashed in WSOP events 105 times for a total of $4,878,313.
He also won a WSOP Europe bracelet in 2017. He triumphed in the €1,650 PLO Hi-Lo tournament for €39,289 in Rozvadov.
That result meant he actually won the WSOP Player of the Year Award that year, which caused a bit of outrage among poker fans, knowing what Ferguson did while he was the director of Full Tilt Poker.
→ Live Cash Games ←
“Jesus” Ferguson was a regular feature on NBC’s classic poker show Poker After Dark. There, he played both cash games and tournaments against some of the best known poker players in the world.
He also appeared on the Game Show Network’s cash game show, High Stakes Poker.
→ Sponsorships ←
Ferguson was one of the founders and director of the now-defunct online poker room, Full Tilt Poker.
→ Scandals ←
This event shook the poker world to its core. In 2011, the US Department of Justice indicted the heads of the three biggest online poker rooms, PokerStars, Full Tilt and Cereus (Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet). The charges were violating UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006), and – more importantly – money laundering and bank fraud.
However, Full Tilt Poker and its directors – Ferguson, Howard Lederer and Rafael Furst – faced even more legal trouble. According to a civil suit, they were running Full Tilt as a Ponzi scheme. They were using player funds to pay themselves and their investors.
Ferguson and his partners agreed to pay out their players to avoid criminal charges. However, the payout process was lengthy and arduous, with many players not receiving their money for years – and some, not even to this day.
Due to these events, all of the major poker rooms were shut down in the US on April 15th, 2011. This is what is commonly referred to as “Black Friday” in the online poker community.
The community also turned on Ferguson and Lederer, once beloved poker celebrities. They were seen as people defrauding the poker players to enrich themselves. They’re now two of the most hated men in the poker world. Ferguson, affectionately nicknamed “Jesus” after his appearance, got himself a new nickname – “Judas” Ferguson, the traitor.
When Ferguson decided to once again buy in for tournaments at the WSOP in 2017, he faced backlash both online and at the tables.
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