Referred to as “Jesus” because of his long hair, Chris Ferguson is a legendary poker player of the Twenty-First century. He is almost a poster child for professional poker, as many people who cannot name another poker player might easily recognize him. He is talented, well educated, and always up for a challenge.
Hailing from the City of Los Angeles, Ferguson was born into a very well educated family; his mother has a Ph.D. in mathematics, as does his father. And it would seem that Ferguson followed their example when he earned his own Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1999. He is also an expert in game theory, which he applies to his poker games, making him an especially challenging opponent to go up against.
In 2000 Ferguson won his first World Series of Poker bracelet. Between 2000 and 2003 would win a total of five WSOP bracelets. In 2000 he earned a total of 1.5 million dollars (Moorman par 2). He has also acquired a number of bracelets playing in limit hold ‘em, no limit hold ‘em, and seven card stud tournaments.
Clearly there would be many “myths” about a player of Ferguson’s caliber. One such myth – as reported by Damian M. Moorman – is that he once turned a one dollar bank roll into a twenty thousand dollar payout. Yet Ferguson was not content with this story remaining just a myth for people to doubt; so he publicly promised to turn a zero bankroll into a ten thousand dollar payout, recording and publishing his progress online. It took him about sixteen months, but he was able to cross the ten thousand dollar limit he set for himself. This story has made Ferguson something of modern legend in the poker community.
Stories like this only increased his celebrity, and the image of Chris “Jesus” Ferguson’s long hair, cowboy boots, beard, and sunglasses was a staple at many major card tournament tables; he was always expected to perform well, and he always seemed to deliver. For the first decade of the new millennium Ferguson was riding high in the poker circuit, and no door was closed to him.
However, he eventually found himself involved in one of the worst scandals to shake both the gambling and poker communities; along with Howard Lederer, Ferguson was a founder and member of the board of directors of Full Tilt Poker in 2004. Full Tilt Poker was eventually shut down in 2011 by the United States Justice Department as part of a crackdown on what was perceived as illicit gambling sites. Though, in the case of Full Tilt Poker, there might have been some truth to the accusation. The Justice Department accused the company’s management of mishandling member payouts and winnings, and thus cheating them out of a total of 445.3 million dollars in earnings. The Justice Department filed a civil suit against all the owners of Full Tilt Poker, including Ferguson in an attempt to reclaim the money on behalf of the site’s members. Eventually Ferguson was able to settle the case with the Justice Department with no judgment against him (Grove par 11-12).
Even so, Ferguson’s involvement in the Full Tilt Poker scandal has created a huge rift between him and the poker community. Some have called for him to be banned from playing in any poker tournament; in 2014 Lee Davy penned an article saying “ [there] is no way Ferguson should be allowed to play at the WSOP. His sheer presence will produce enough emotion to create a whirlwind of problems for players and the WSOP alike” (par 39). No small part of this sentiment stems from Ferguson being one of the most celebrated poker players of the last fifteen years; because he was embroiled in the scandal, and never made any official statement with regards to it, many people still feel betrayed by his actions.
For his part, Ferguson is attempting to make something of a comeback. As of 2014, serious efforts have been made to repay the money that is owed to the members of Full Tilt Poker, and Ferguson seems to believe that enough time has passed for him to play in live tournaments again. He has made motions to participate in tournaments, and is actively looking for a way to rebuild his relationship with the poker community.