In 2006, when Chris Ferguson was still Jesus, he set out to make a fortune without using any of his own money.
Ok, that came out wrong.
The goal of Ferguson's famous online poker challenge was to make $10,000 by starting with $0 and playing according to strict bankroll management.
The Mission: Turn $0 into $10,000
Record Holder: Chris "Jesus" Ferguson
Dates: March 2006-September 2007
Before he fell from grace on Black Friday Chris “Jesus” Ferguson was famous for winning the WSOP main event in 2000 and co-founding Full Tilt Poker in 2004.
The game theorist wanted to prove to himself and everybody else that it was possible to follow strict bankroll management rules and still build up $10,000 from nothing.
It was a challenge that inspired a whole generation of players. It wasn’t easy, particularly in the beginning, because Ferguson could only play freerolls -- and there weren’t many to pick from.
“If you didn’t sign up within the first 90 seconds of registration opening the tournament would fill up and you’d have to wait until the next one, so I’d set an alarm clock to remind me," Ferguson explained.
"One of the funny things about the challenge is that people would see me playing a freeroll and think I was fooling around. Are you kidding me?
"I was taking those freerolls dead seriously, because getting money out of them was an essential part of the challenge. I was sweating on the other side praying, ‘Please fold, please fold!’”
It took him several weeks to make his first $2. And then he was wondering for three days how to invest it.
Started Out Making 14c per Hour
Eventually he picked a 5c/10c No-Limit Hold'em cash game where he had just 20 big blinds. He lost a coin flip and went back to zero.
After a while, however, Ferguson adapted to the freerolls.
“I basically broke even on them and made about $22 from freerolls. I cashed in about one in 10, at about an hour and a half for each, which works out at $0.14 an hour or something stupid, but that wasn’t the point.”
The key moment in this challenge was when Ferguson made second place in a $1 tournament and won $104.
That money was the basis for a successful ending to the challenge, although Ferguson later said that tournaments alone were terrible for strict bankroll management.
Progress Slower Than Expected
Originally Ferguson had planned to make it from zero to $100 within six months and then from $100 to $10,000 in another six months.
But despite playing very ambitiously and putting about 10 hours a week into it, Ferguson didn’t even come close to his goals. Both steps took him nine months instead of six.
After making it to the $10,000 mark Ferguson even ran his bankroll up to $28,000, which gave him the chance to play $25/$50. Then the big downswing hit.
“At $28,000 I was able to play $25/$50 No-Limit," Ferguson said, "and I lost down to $20,000, $15,000, then $10,000. And I actually went below $10,000.
"At that level, according to my rules, I could only play the $5/$10 games and then when my bankroll dipped below $8,000 I could only play the $2/$4 game.”
Yet, Chris Ferguson proved that it was possible to make $10,000 out of thin air, if you're tenacious enough.
Bankroll Challenge Rules and Goals
Ferguson invented a set of rules particularly with regards to strict bankroll management.
He only allowed himself to play freerolls, for starters, as he had to start with nothing. Later he was not allowed to use more than 5% of his bankroll for cash games or SnGs.
MTTs could not cost more than 2% of his bankroll. Satellites were only allowed if the target tournament buy-in would be affordable according to the 2% rule.
If your winnings ever exceed 10% of your bankroll, leave the table before the blinds reach you and step up a level.
Chris Ferguson Bankroll Challenge By the Numbers
- Money investment: $0
- Time investment: 10 h/week
- Time to reach $100: nine months
- Time to reach $10,000: 18 months
More of Online Poker's Greatest Challenges: