When the familiar cowboy hat clad figure of Chris “Jesus” Ferguson was spotted at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) last summer, his return to the tournament scene caused immediate controversy.
Five years had passed since the poker industry’s “Black Friday” – when the Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed a massive indictment against owners and operators of PokerStars, the Cereus Poker Network, and Ferguson’s own Full Tilt Poker. Those legal maneuvers managed to reveal Full Tilt Poker’s status as a ponzi scheme, and overnight hundreds of millions of dollars in player funds were found to be missing – or more accurately, paid to Ferguson and his poker pro pals as dividends.
Ferguson retreated into self-imposed exile in the immediate wake of the scandal, and a PokerStars-led repayment plan finally began in 2015 – but even so, members of the poker community who had their bankrolls frozen over the interim were none too happy to see Ferguson back in the fold.
He didn’t seem to mind the dirty looks though, as Ferguson shrugged off repeated media requests to offer a statement, while telling PokerNews flatly “I’m just here to play poker.”
And play he did, piling up 10 cashes over the summer more than five years after recording his last in-the-money finish. Most of those were of the min-cash variety, but Ferguson did put up a fourth-place score in the $10,000 NLHE Six-Handed World Championship to earn $183,989.
Fast forward one year later, and Ferguson’s foes – on the felt and off – harbored hopes that the resurrection would prove to be nothing but a fluke.
Instead, the man who once delighted poker fans with his card-throwing tricks during the boom days is back at it again – adding an astounding 14 more cashes in less than one months’ time.
It’s been a record-setting performance for Ferguson, who eclipsed the previous record of 13 cashes during a single WSOP – set last year by Roland Israelashvili – with nine events left on the schedule.
And in an uncanny repeat of last year’s performance, Ferguson has accumulated a nearly identical set of results.
In 2016 he amassed 10 cashes, with all but one falling under the $25,000 mark, along with the aforementioned six-figure score – for a total of $253,519 in earnings.
This year, he’s increased the cash count to 14, but once again all but one paid under $25,000. The outlier was a fourth-place finish – matching last year’s highwater mark – which once again came in a $10,000 World Championship level event (the Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo). All told, he’s pocketed $214,988 during the 2017 WSOP campaign, with a weeks’ worth of opportunity to build that bankroll even higher.
Ferguson’s record-setting summer has also vaulted him into the prestigious WSOP Player of the Year race. An accounting error by the WSOP staff briefly elevated him to the top spot this week, but once the points distribution was rectified, Ferguson finds himself sitting in second with 693.42 points – just behind John Racener (729.92).
This has led to much consternation among the close-knit community of poker pros, many of whom suffered financial hardship as a direct result of Full Tilt Poker’s failure.
Twitter has been regularly inundated with requests for somebody to stop Ferguson’s ascension, and Daniel Negreanu has used his recently launched video blog series to highlight what he believes to be flaws in the POY points system.
Amidst it all, Ferguson continues to show up and play at an elite level, ignoring taunts from the rail and interrogations from his tablemates.
With less than a week before the WSOP Main Event kicks off, poker’s public enemy #1 has proven that he’s still a force to be reckoned with on the felt. And if he manages to finish off the POY race with a victory, poker fans will forever see Ferguson’s face hanging from the Rio’s rafters courtesy of the enormous banners used to commemorate all POY winners.
Courtesy of the Hendon Mob tournament tracking database, all 14 of Ferguson’s cashes are shown below:
$888 NLHE “Crazy Eights” (Event #60) – 277th for $3,611
$1,500 NLHE (Event #58) – 96th for $3,410
$10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo World Championship (Event #51) – Fourth for $150,929
$1,500 NLHE “Monster Stack” (Event #47) – 855th for $2,496
$10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo World Championship (Event #48) – 12th for $22,396
$10,000 NLHE Six-Handed World Championship (Event #42) – 43rd for $15,516
$1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo (Event #40) – 49th for $2,795
$1,000 NLHE Super Turbo Bounty (Event #39) – 135th for $1,374
$2,500 NLHE (Event #29) – 118th for $4,068
$3,000 NLHE Six-Handed (Event #27) – 117th for $4,594
$565 Pot Limit Omaha (Event #18) – 87th for $3,458
$1,000 NLHE – Tag Team (Event #10) – 81st for $898
$1,500 Dealers Choice Six-Handed (Event #11) – 44th for $2,335
$565 NLHE “The Colossus III” (Event #5) – 449th for $4,129