Chris Ferguson: Professional Poker and Possible Con-Artist
Chris Ferguson, known at the poker tables as "Jesus" because of his long brown hair and full beard, has a very interesting poker career under his belt. He shined in the early 2000s, especially when it came to his performance at the WSOP. Then, a scandal involving Full Tilt Poker would leave him missing from the live tournament scene for nearly half a decade. Now, he is back full force and ready to take on any competitor that stands in his way.
For more information on Chris Ferguson's professional poker career and for more details on his involvement in the Full Tilt Poker scandal, please feel free to read through this elaborate biography.
Chris Ferguson was born on April 11th, 1963, in Los Angeles, California. From an early age, the importance of a good education was instilled in him. Even while in grade school, he would spend the majority of his free time studying or reading. Every once in a while, he would be able to take a break from that and play a round of poker with his father. His father, who taught game theory at UCLA at the time, helped Ferguson develop his own winning strategies for the game. It wasn't long before the teacher became the student, though, as Ferguson's skills quickly surpassed his father's.
Ferguson's excellent grades in high school were bound to get him into any school he wanted. Since both of his parents had doctoral degrees in mathematics from UCLA, it was expected that Ferguson would do the same. He took a slightly different path, though, choosing to go to UCLA to pursue a doctoral degree in computer science instead. Since that was closely related to mathematics, his parents were supportive of his decision.
It was while studying at UCLA that Ferguson's love of poker grew. He would stay up late playing Texas hold'em online for play money at various chat rooms, which is how was able to fine-tune his skills. Ferguson and his friends would also regularly take trips to Las Vegas to play low-limit stud and hold'em games there. This is when he started wearing his signature wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. At the time, it was to make him appear older than he really was. Now, he believes it helps bring him luck.
Ferguson entered his first official poker tournament in 1993, landing a 4th-place finish and a cash prize of $1600. He regularly entered tournaments after that, with the Masters of Poker Championships and the LA Poker Open being his favorite ones to participate in. His confidence continued to grow, and in 1995, he was ready to enter one of the most intense poker tournaments in Las Vegas: the World Series of Poker. After making it to the final table of the $1500 Seven-Card Razz event that year, Ferguson decided to make playing poker his profession.
At the turn of the century, in 2000, Ferguson won his first WSOP gold bracelet in the $2500 Seven-Card Stud event. As if that wasn't exciting enough, Ferguson also went on to win the $10,000 No Limit Texas Hold'em World Championship that year for the grand prize of $1.5 million. In order to win, he had to take down the legendary T.J. Cloutier, which was no easy feat. It was such a memorable game, in fact, that it is actually described in the book Positively 5th Street by award-winning author Jim McManus.
To date, Ferguson has won a total of 6 WSOP gold bracelets, with his most recent win being in 2017. For more details on each of his wins, please refer to the table below.
|2000||$2,500 Seven Card Stud||$151,000|
|2000||$10,000 No Limit Texas Hold'em World Championship||$1,500,000|
|2001||$1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo Split Eight or Better||$164,735|
|2003||$2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Split Eight or Better||$123,680|
|2003||$2,000 1/2 Limit Hold'em - 1/2 Seven Card Stud||$66,220|
|2017||€1,650 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better||€39,289|
Believe it or not, Ferguson has found success outside of the World Series of Poker. In 2001, he won the California State Poker Championship, which takes place in Los Angeles, California, on a yearly basis. That win brought him in a cool $22,570. He also managed to land a 1st-place finish at NBC'S National Heads-Up Championship in 2008, which earned him an astonishing $500,000.
Ferguson also enjoys playing on shows like Poker After Dark and The Poker Lounge. He has won both shows on several different occasions for a grand total of $360,000 in profits. His most noteworthy performance on Poker After Dark was in 2009 when he managed to take down his entire table of top competitors. He beat out Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Daniel Negreanu. Then, he found himself heads-up against the boisterous Phil Helmuth Jr., who was unable to call him on his bluff.
In total, Ferguson has accumulated over $8.9 million from live tournaments alone. That gives him 7th place on California's All Time Money List and 44th place on the United States' All Time Money List.
Ferguson is a very patient man, and his $10,000 challenge is proof of that. Starting with $0 in his Full Tilt Poker account, Ferguson challenged himself to turn that $0 investment into a staggering $10,000. He never spent more than 10 hours per week on this challenge and started off playing in freeroll tournaments exclusively. Several months into the challenge, he was only up to $6. While many people would have been discouraged at this point, Ferguson was still hopeful.
He kept a very strict budget, never putting more than 5% of his bankroll at risk at one time. When it came to tournaments, he had even stricter guidelines, refusing to pay more than 2% of his bankroll on a tournament entry fee. After about 9 months into the challenge, he had finally reached $100. It would take 9 more months of persistent play for him to accomplish his goal of $10,000.
This challenge proved how profitable online poker can be, and it helped draw players to the Full Tilt Poker website. Since then, many other online players have accepted this challenge and have managed to turn their $0 investments into $10,000 and sometimes even more.
Full Tilt Poker Scandal
Full Tilt Poker launched in 2004, quickly becoming one of the most popular online poker sites on the web. Not only did Full Tilt Poker offer just about every variant of poker, from Texas hold'em to Razz, but they also had a team of professional poker players involved in the day-to-day operations of the site. Ferguson, one of Full Tilt Poker's co-owners, was responsible for developing much of the site's software.
There were no complaints centered around Full Tilt Poker until April 15, 2011, the day that would later become known as Black Friday. It was on this day that the United States' Department of Justice would cease the domain names of several poker sites, including Full Tilt Poker, saying they were in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Players rushed to their online accounts, only to discover that they were unable to withdraw any of their funds. It became obvious very quickly that Full Tilt Poker had been a part of a huge Ponzi scheme. The US filed a civil lawsuit against Chris Ferguson and the other co-owners of Full Tilt Poker: Ray Bitar, Rafe Furst, and Howard Lederer. They misled players into thinking their funds were safe and secure while they knowingly took $350 million from various players' accounts.
Ferguson reached a settlement with the Department of Justice nearly 2 years later, in which he agreed to pay back a portion of the funds owed to players. He refused to apologize for his actions and has lost a lot of respect from the poker community because of this incident. To avoid tension, Ferguson took a leave of absence from the live poker scene for 5 years, not making an appearance until the 2016 WSOP.
When Ferguson isn't playing poker, you will probably find him out dancing. As the former president of a swing dancing club at UCLA, Ferguson still enjoys going to dance clubs during his free time. He has a lot of experience under his belt, having taken classes to learn the waltz, the tango, the foxtrot, and the mambo in addition to ballroom dancing.
One of his more unique hobbies involves him throwing playing cards at various fruits and vegetables fast enough to slice them in half. He claims this is his favorite way to make a fruit salad. Videos of him doing this have been shown in short segments during ESPN's broadcast of the World Series of Poker.
Ferguson is currently single. He has had several different girlfriends over the years, but none of those relationships lasted. He considers himself to be a lone wolf who doesn't need to be in a relationship to be happy.