Is it Time to Ban Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer For Good?

Would you welcome Chris Ferguson to your table?

With rumors circling that Chris "Jesus" Ferguson is considering a return to action at this year's World Series of Poker, it's time to ask the big question:

"Should Ferguson (and Howard Lederer) be banned from playing on the major tours for good?"

I was once banned from a casino in Cardiff after I called the manager an "idiot." He wouldn’t serve me alcohol at the Blackjack tables because I was too drunk.

I learned my fate the next time I turned up, sober, and was told that I was not welcome because of the actions I had conveniently forgotten.

The manager informed me that I had violated the casino's Code of Conduct and would not be welcome on its premises anymore.

Jesse May: "I Wouldn't Welcome Him"

Which brings me to Chris Ferguson and the WSOP.

Should he prove to have skin so thick that his own flying cards wouldn’t cut it and turn up at the Rio to take a seat, should he be allowed to play?

Speaking to Jesse ‘The Voice of Poker’ May at the recent WPT Venice Carnival, he had this to say:

jesse may 2
Jesse May says there are still too many unanswered questions about Full Tilt Poker.

“Obviously he is entitled to attend but I wouldn’t welcome him. Personally, people like him, and especially Howard Lederer, have disgraced themselves and I'm not personally satisfied with the answers they've given about what happened at Full Tilt.

“There are too many questions about the whole episode that haven’t been answered to my satisfaction.

"But in poker, like in life, there are a lot of people you just don’t like.

"That doesn’t mean they can’t be out in public, but me personally would I shake his hand? No, I would rather turn away.”

Too Many Questions Remain Unanswered

So what are the questions than remain unanswered for May?

“There are three specific questions I would like to see explored.

Ray Bitar
Ray Bitar

"Firstly, when the company was formed, what sort of due diligence did they do, and were advised to do, about any potential legalities that may arise in the future?"

"Secondly, when Ray Bitar was hired, was it known that he was going to essentially be a fall guy? As his name appeared on all the documents was that going to mean that he was the one going to take legal liability for anything that would arise thereafter?

"Finally, was there a point during the operation of Full Tilt that people wanted to remove Ray Bitar but couldn’t because nobody would take on the legal responsibilities that came with it?”

So despite still wanting answers is May saying that he believes Chris Ferguson should be allowed to play should he turn up at the Rio this summer?

“I don’t see why not. I don’t think they are the only two pariahs in the poker world, and legally they haven’t been charged or convicted with anything.

"But personally I just don’t have kind feelings towards these two people.”

Haven't They Damaged Every Brand in Poker?

In the past year two players have been given lifetime bans that will effectively rule them out of WSOP events for the foreseeable future.

WSOP bracelet winner David Diaz was given a lifetime ban from Caesars properties after an episode of drunk and disorderly behavior this summer.

With the WSOP almost certainly to be played at a Caesars-owned venue for a very long time, Diaz can wave goodbye to any hopes of taking a seat where Ferguson’s skinny derriere may well sit.

Just recently, and quite rightly, Chan Pelton was given a lifetime ban from all WSOP events, and Caesars properties, after he stole a 25k chip during his win at the WSOP Circuit (WSOPC) event at Palm Beach Kennel Club in Florida.

I understand that the actions of both Diaz and Pelton directly affected the WSOP brand, but didn’t Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Rafe Furst and Ray Bitar also cause irreparable damage to the WSOP brand?

Haven’t the quartet damaged the brands of every company involved in poker?

Even the Epic Poker League Took Action

The now-defunct (and besmirched) Epic Poker League suspended Lederer and Ferguson in the wake of Black Friday after a decision made by a committee that included Eric Baldwin, Andy Bloch, Chad Brown, Joe Hachem, Mike McDonald, Nick Shulman, Alec Torelli and Annie Duke.

Collectively they believed their code of conduct had been violated, most notably damaging poker’s reputation and hurting the growth of the poker community as a whole.

Epic Poker logo on table
Banning players is not without precedent. The short-lived Epic Poker League banned Ferguson and Lederer after Black Friday.

When the EPL’s ranking system came under the tutelage of Alexandre Dreyfus he took steps to ban Jean Paul Pasqualini and Cederic Rossi after it was alleged that the two cheated their way to the top two spots at the Partouche Poker Tour (PPT) Main Event in 2009.

“By taking this action, we are not claiming that we know they cheated – this is up to the casinos and the overseeing regulatory bodies to decide," said Dreyfus. "What we are convinced of is that there wasn’t fairness at the table. Unfair behavior will not be promoted via the Global Poker Index.

"It goes against everything I’m trying to do to promote poker, players and events.”

Ferguson and Lederer Yet to Admit Anything but Mismanagement

They have betrayed the trust of the entire poker community and have set our industry back 20 years. They are responsible for the ruin of thousands of people’s lives and, so far, have yet to admit to any wrongdoing other than "mismanaging" a business.

“On the issue of forgiveness. I am a very forgiving person and will forgive anyone," May added.

"But Ferguson has said nothing about the Full Tilt issue and Lederer has denied any wrongdoing - so how can you forgive either of them if they don’t admit to doing anything wrong?”

Howard Lederer
No one expects Howard Lederer to show his face at the WSOP.

“Where I come from - my gambling background - honesty and trust is a big thing, and I think personally, because I have been around for a long time, that there was a sort of unspoken agreement about Full Tilt that made it different.

"That one of the things about them was they represented a certain ethic, an openness and a certain class of people in poker who stood for something.

I feel very disappointed personally about what happened, and as far as the poker world goes they both fell from grace fairly spectacularly and I don’t have the time of day for either of them.”

A Whirlwind of Problems for Players and WSOP

May’s views no doubt mirror those of thousands of poker players who were directly or indirectly affected by Chris Ferguson and his decision making whilst the 19.2% beneficiary owner of Tiltware LLC.

There is no way that 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.

Imagine the outcry should Ferguson take his seat and get punched on the bridge of his nose by a player whose life was ruined by his inept decision making. A player who would then be subsequently banned by the WSOP whilst a blood-stained Ferguson would be able to check, raise and fold?

This cannot be allowed to happen.

The WSOP, the World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour all have Codes of Conduct that underpin their businesses. I urge you to give them a good dusting and make a decision that will be well received from everyone within the poker community.

Ban Chris Ferguson from every card room in the world and do it now.

What do you think? Should the big three set an example and ban Chris Ferguson?