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

Chris Ferguson
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?


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Datrebor 2017-07-19 17:01:29

Talking about posting long after. Yes it was all over when I posted and the fines were paid. The fact that they were not found guilty in a court of law is a reason to let them back in. You would have to be convicted of a crime to be a criminal.
No one admitted to, or was found guilty of, stealing from players themselves.

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 08:12:17

Once again, they got a plea deal. That does not mean they did not own some responsibility. Ok, no conviction, but where's their manhood? Jesus was their front man. He kept recruiting through the early investigation as far as I remember. The commercials did not stop either. Ray Bitar (intentional scape goat and CEO) apologized. But, 440 million (-60 mil on hand and refunded) was taken from player's accounts. No one went to jail. So your saying no ones accountable cause they're not convicted? All Negreanu and most of us needed to hear at some damn point is "I'm sorry". Their silence is deafening.

I'm guessing you did not lose anything? If so how much, and if it's not mid five figures as were many... well it may of hurt, but you could probably still call Jesus and Howie buddies, I guess. Could have lost that on the course with Howard and a game of roshambo.

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 06:33:50

Thanks Dr. Phill, or Captain Obvious.

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 06:33:00

You won't miss Fergussons.

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 06:30:48

And you posted your comment long after everyone pleaded out, paid fines, and went on their merry way. So you don't even know about the topic, or you just don't care... like Mr. Blah Blah it's just a poker game.

Here's yet another farcical belief that permits people like Fergusson and Lederer to be lumped in with kids that get caught smoking, but not selling pot. Confused? You should be. Let's break it down. Bernie Madoff is never getting out of prison except in a box. He ran a Ponzi Scheme also. But he stole from (among others) pension funds that held tens of thousands of old people's life savings. Those pensions were wrapped up in investment portfolios which Bernie treated like family money. Many people were forced directly into nursing home. Many died already. This is all true for a large group of people. We were outraged because we could see the direct consequences of Bernie Madoff's despicable actions. Now, contrast that with people who play on-line poker. You might say, or Mr. Blah Blah, well these are just young gamblers, who gives a fu€k? So my money is not as important as an old grandmothers money? It is to me, especially when you draw regularly to live off it. If I can't pay rent I'm evicted. If I have a wife and kid(s) it causes stress. It took almost two years if I remember, to start the process of getting a little money back, which amounted to < 1/3 of the balance. I don't even look at it anymore.

So you see, poker players are treated very differently than other Ponzi victims, and certainly do not receive the same sympathy as Madoffs victims. We're just some young kids that got high with our bullshit FullTilt compadres, while all along we were being given bad dope. Awww, let's just forgive and forget.

I'm nearing 70 all too quickly, and now I truly do feel like smoking dope. Then I'll probably make better sense of the BS excuses everyone wants to make for these criminals.

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 06:02:12

Yes, and some fish were named Phillipe... not necessarily you. There were a lot of people who made a living with on-line poker, and even if you disrespect that, thousands of people lost tens of thousands of dollars, and some of those lost a lot more. Over 440 million of player's money was absconded with. The final amount was maybe 60 mil less, but whose splitting hairs. It's just a blah blah poker game. Very astute observation, hope to see you at a table.

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 05:53:34

The vision of that relaxed me! I'd love to see it. Helmuth and Absolute Bet was another story once... but I never liked him either. I got out of that one long before Black Friday.

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 05:48:38

They pleaded out. They did not have the funds to pay back players accounts. You've heard of rake? That's the tool by which they generate their cash flow. That and their initial investors - not player's money. Follow so far? And yes, our government made sure the pooch was completely screwed because they could have given these maniacs some time to regenerate the cash to pay back players, for example. Just like they could have let Al Capone keep his business so he could pay back taxes. Problem is you don't condone law breakers because by definition they are immoral and likely to hurt more people. What they did breached faith with, and defrauded their customers. Since the money was going international and across state lines as well, Feds step in.

You remember Poker Stars? Sure you do, they're operating still. Their books did not show the deposits flowing directly into operations. FullTilt and PokerStars had international business, and PokerStars paid fines for the new crappy laws we wrote - again I agree that our lawmakers were late, and then over reached as usual in legislation. But PokerStars remained solvent, and FullTilt could not. They made a couple mistakes you say? Bull shit. They knew what they were doing. Every new deposit can easily be counted. They knew when they were dipping into player's accounts, but they were betting on more rake income from the expanding player base. It may have worked too, but it's still a Ponzi Scheme. Meanwhile they paid themselves very well. Man, I can't believe the shitty excuses I read from people here. I wish it had gone fully to trial. Madoff should have run FullTilt and renamed it FullTitsUp !

Kevin Wells 2017-07-19 05:30:28

What does the man's education have to do with it? Hannibal Lecter should be acquitted because he was a doctor then. Your out of touch because you obviously didn't lose any money in this, or not enough. Furthermore you don't realize the cascade effect FullTilt had on every poker site. Now I can't even play in the USA, albeit through some tech work around. Fergusson profited an order of magnitude above his actual poker earnings not to mention being overpaid for his contributions at FullTilt. They paid themselves with player's money. Don't you get it? He was their poster boy though, and pied piper drawing in more people who would eventually lose their money. Ponzi scheme are the words here, and even Chris knows the math to figure out his percentage of involvement, and it sure the HELL IS NOT ZERO PERCENT! No one could be that naive, except to act it, and perhaps only so they can sleep at night. Howard and Chris need to quit poker in USA, and live somewhere else if they still want to play. I'll bet someone will be waiting for them in some dark alley somewhere. I only feel sorry for Annie, and only sort of. I can't believe these jokers are playing at the WSOP, and worse yet for poker, they are allowed to. Shame on everyone involved.

Wes Fazzani 2016-11-04 03:26:25

Fact is, as yet neither of them have been convicted anywhere other than the court of public opinion, of any wrongdoing. Do I think they are blame free? Certainly not. Do I believe they knew a whole hell of a lot more than they'll ever admit to? Damn right.
However in this instance I don't think it matters that they haven't been found guilty. They were ambassadors of the game. They preached fair play and honesty, while being involved, knowingly or not, in a conspiracy to defraud millions of players of that game and in so doing irrevocably changed the face of poker worldwide. Yes the laws are stupid, and Lederer and Ferguson aren't the only ones at fault, however they have done irreparable damage to a game that made them rich and famous. In much the same way that Sepp Blatter should be sacked and have charges brought against him re the FIFA corruption scandal, Lederer and Ferguson should be banned from all poker events as they are extremely likely to ruin those events for victims of the scandal they will inevitably meet at the tables. Personally I don't understand why Chris Ferguson would think it was acceptable himself.

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