How many years go into making a legend in any field? Well, for some it may take just a few years, while some legends start their journey right from an early age. The years of effort and hard work they put into reaching the point they are at is truly commendable.
Among such hard-working and talented players in the poker world is Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson. Yes, it’s that player who you will almost always spot with long hair, french beard and a cowboy hat. This player has some great winnings and achievements in poker and has a story that is not only inspirational, but also worth telling.
Chris Ferguson was born as Christopher Philip Ferguson on 11th April 1963 in Los Angeles, California. Ferguson’s parents hold doctoral degrees in mathematics. His father, Thomas S. Ferguson, teaches game theory and theoretical probability at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1999, Chris earned a Ph.D. in computer sciences, specializing in virtual network algorithms from the same university.
He spent five years as an undergraduate student and 13 years as a graduate student. While still a student at UCLA, Ferguson appeared on the Ricky Jay Television Special ‘Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women’ as an assistant.
Ferguson began playing poker when he was just 10. While in college, he aced his poker skills on IRC poker, while playing online for play money in local chat rooms. Ferguson started playing poker tournaments in the mid-90s, He started playing around California, and eventually made his World Series of Poker (WSOP) debut in 1995.
Till date Ferguson has five WSOP bracelets and three WSOP Circuit Rings. He boasts of a total of $95,84,547 in live tournament earnings. His best live cash so far has been from his first-place finish at the WSOP 2000 Main Event. In 2008, Ferguson also won the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
Ferguson won his first WSOP bracelet in the year 2000 after nailing the $2,500 Seven-Card Stud event wherein he cashed $1,51,000. He added the cherry on the cake by beating T. J. Cloutier in heads-up at the Main Event of the series to bag the top prize of $1.5 Million.
In the year 2004, Ferguson earned $1,20,000 for his 26th place finish at the WSOP 2004 Main Event. In this he surpassed an entry field of 2,576 players at the event.
The WSOP 2017 was a spectacular one for Ferguson, where he set a record with 23 cashes in that edition. In this year, he also claimed the sixth bracelet of his career. He won this at the WSOP Europe in the €1,650 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better event, which, interestingly, also marked his first bracelet in 14 years. These exceptional results also led to Ferguson winning the WSOP Player of the Year award.
The founder of Full Tilt Poker has a total of six WSOP bracelets and an impressive 168 cashes at the WSOP till date. His highest WSOP cash grab came from the Main Event victory at WSOP 2000.
Although Ferguson does not have a WPT title to his name, he has 12 in the money finishes at the series, including his two final table appearances. He has a total earning of $5,75,930 from the WPT.
His highest cash from WPT event has been his winning of $1,32,095, which he earned after finishing ninth at the $25,000 + $500 Main Event (WPT) – No Limit Hold’em Championship event of the Third Annual Five-Star World Poker Classic in Las Vegas.
ALSO READ: List Of All Chris Ferguson’s WSOP Bracelets
Ferguson co-founded Full Tilt Poker in 2004. The site was launched by its parent company TiltWare and began full-fledged operations on 10th July 2004. Full Tilt Poker was one of the top online poker sites in the United States. The Irish brand initially started as an online poker card room and had poker pros, including Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, Mike Matusow, Jennifer Harman, and Ferguson involved.
In late 2008, the site was sued by Clonie Gowen, a prominent poker professional and former Full Tilt endorser. Gowen claimed that she was offered 1% ownership in the company during its formative year for her promotional efforts. A trial court later dismissed the suit, however, partly reinstated it on appeal later.
On 29th April 2009, James B. Hicks filed a civil complaint against Tiltware, TiltProof, Inc., and Ferguson alleging unfair and unlawful business practices. This included illegal internet gaming and violations of the UIGEA. Hicks attempted to prevent Full Tilt from operating its website, accepting new players, or accepting payments for illegal gambling in California.
In the following year, Full Tilt Poker faced several legal complaints. However, the biggest hit for the brand came in 2011 at the ‘Black Friday.’ On 20th September that year, the United States Department of Justice amended an existing civil complaint against Full Tilt Poker. The complaint alleged that the directors Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, and Rafe Furst were lining their own pockets with funds from the pockets of their most loyal customers.
ALSO READ: A Black Friday That Changed It All
This also involved owners and employees of PokerStars and Absolute Poker. In the process, they blithely lied to both players as well as the public alike regarding the safety and security of the money deposited by the players. The Full Tilt Poker website was reinstated six days later, on 20th April 2011.
The accusations were denied by Ferguson’s lawyer, who suggested that the issues may have resulted from mismanagement, not malice. The legality of online poker remained controversial, but Ferguson’s case was dismissed on 19th February 2013.
The Department of Justice issued a settlement, according to which PokerStars acquired the assets of Full Tilt as part of the settlement. Accordingly, Full Tilt Poker reopened on 6th November 2012. The new Full Tilt Poker remained a standalone site, which had its own software and a player pool different from that of PokerStars.
On 1st August 2014, Amaya Gaming Group completed the purchase of Rational Group, which owned PokerStars and Full Tilt, for $4.9 Billion. The two poker sites continued operating as separate entities until 17th May 2016. Post that day, the entire player base of Full Tilt was given access to the global player pool at PokerStars, thus leading to the retirement of the old Full Tilt platform.
Ferguson is not a very media-loving person. He has stayed off the cameras even during his peak days. He did appear in interviews, but these, too, were brief. Hence, when he published a video in 2018, it came as a surprise for the community. It wasn’t something expected from the Pacific Palisades resident.
The video was a very short recording in which he expressed his regrets over the whole Full Tilt situation. In the video, too, he denied the accusations levied against him. However, he accepted that the entire episode could have been prevented had he been more involved.
The video was something that people expected back in 2011 when the incident actually happened. The fact that it took seven years for the pro to appear in a public video felt underwhelming.
Naturally, the video sparked some discussions on social media, especially on Twitter. The entire discussion had the public divided. Negreanu responded to the video with a comment stating that the video had him in tears. DNegs also asked people what they thought. Several users questioned why it took Ferguson all this time to come up with such a brief statement that offered no real explanation.
Many other prominent people, including vlogger Joey Ingram, Dan O’Brien, and others, express their views in line with what DNegs said. Others, like Phil Hellmuth, said that he felt that maybe the community judged Ferguson too harshly.
Looking at the response, Ferguson removed the video from Vimeo shortly after realising that it was unable to create the impact he expected. However, the contents are all over the internet in written form.
Apart from being a professional poker player and the co-founder of Full Tilt Poker, Ferguson is the president of a swing dancing club at UCLA. He also possesses an interesting ability of throwing playing cards fast enough to cut through bananas, carrots and even melons. This talent of Ferguson, was showcased on ESPN broadcast of the WSOP in a side segment called ‘The Nuts.’
Ferguson has not been active on the live poker felts for over two years. He was last seen grinding at World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic (LAPC), Los Angeles in February 2020. Post that; he played at multiple online events at the WSOP 2020 Online series.
Despite not playing any live events this year, Ferguson is ending his year among the top 10 poker players with highest net worth in 2023. Ferguson’s net worth in 2023 is approximately $80 Million.
Amarylisa Gonsalves is a Content Writer at Gutshot Magazine. Advancing from a marketing background, she found her calling in writing. She takes delight in exploring genres and is a curious learner. Patient and ambivert, she believes in letting her work speak for itself. Apart from content writing, she finds solace in writing poetry by expressing herself through words. Additionally, she adores indulging in anything that satisfies her creative self, like drawing and DIY crafts.
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