It wasn't long ago that we were interviewing Chris "Jesus" Ferguson moments after his win at the World Series Circuit event in Lake Tahoe, his third WSOPC title, and already he's back on the PL.com winner's page. After amassing the best record in the entire history of the NBC Heads-Up Championships, including two runner-up finishes, Ferguson went all the way this year and defeated close friend Andy Bloch to clinch the 2008 honors.
Moments after the glorious Caesar, mascot of Caesars Palace, handed over the cash, Jesus graced us with a few words of wisdom.
You've been to the finals in this event twice before but this is your first win. Having come so close in the past, how are you feeling now that you've won?
You know, I'm really proud of my second-place finishes. Those were fantastic. I just feel blessed. I'm unbelievably fortunate to have gotten in the situation again. I thought it would take me years to get another shot at winning this thing.
When you got to the final match tonight were you feeling a lot of pressure to win?
One trophy, two people. You do the math.
Honestly I was happy to make it to the final. If I finished second I know a lot of people would be yapping about how I couldn't pull it out but it wouldn't have bugged me. I would have been almost as proud as I am now.
When people talk about heads-up it seems the prevailing wisdom is that no one can have a huge edge but when you look at your stats in this tournament in the last few years it seems to contradict that. With the number of wins you've had overall do you feel like it is possible to have a big edge?
It's not a huge edge but it's not small either. If you take a look at the final four or final eight, or even 16, you can see that it really did weed out the field. The best were getting there. I expect an amateur might win one of these days but it hasn't happened yet.
You and Andy Bloch play a more similar technical game than some of the others who made it deep in this event. Did that work to your advantage or against you in the matches against him?
Did that work to my advantage or against me? Neither really. I'm ready for what he's going to do but he's also ready for what I'm going to do so it's kind of a wash. If I'm playing to really win I'd rather play someone else but out of everyone here Andy was the one I wanted to face from the get-go. He's my closest friend in the poker world and I think he's the most underrated player out there.
How do you think he played?
He played great. He got me in a bunch of tough situations. He could have beaten me a few times. He had a straight draw to beat me earlier so I could have easily been out there. I put him in that tough situation with his ten-four just like he did to me when I had a straight draw.
On that one you folded with a bunch already invested?
Yeah, I folded a low open-ended straight draw on the turn and I was almost getting priced into the call.
Does it enter into your thinking that you just don't want to gamble for the whole tournament in those situations where you're just barely priced into it?
It really doesn't enter into it too much. I'm not going to give up a lot because I don't want to gamble but if it's close then yeah, I might fold and try to play more.
If we could talk about your approach to heads-up a bit, you've said before that you spend a lot more time studying the game than a lot of pros but perhaps not as much time playing.
Well, the one game that I've spent a lot of time actually playing, maybe not more than anyone, but a lot, is heads-up. I've been playing heads-up on the Internet since 1989 and the thing about playing online is I can see 300 hands an hour. It teaches me and I'm able to learn a lot more than I would sitting and playing with a buddy in the office, which I also used to do.
I actually used to play heads-up Hold'em with a guy in my office and we made up this chart. You could either bet the pot or you could check; you could never bet anything but the pot. So you could tell how big the pot was and you wouldn't need to bring chips into the office. All you need is a deck of cards, the chart and a pencil and paper.
We spoke to you in Lake Tahoe when you won your third Circuit title. How have you been feeling in recent times and what's your plan leading up to the World Series?
I feel fantastic. I really have taken a break in the last few years. I haven't been playing a whole lot of tournaments. I really want to get back into it more though. I feel really good.
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Of all the brand-name professionals PL.com's interviewed, and we've interviewed a few, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson is among the most forthcoming. Erik Seidel and Barry Greenstein come to mind when watching Jesus conduct interview after interview just moments after a huge win while managing to treat each and every person with consideration, putting thought into the answers he gives.
Perhaps the best thing about it is that it's clear he's happy to have won. While some nonchalantly accept their cash and titles with little to show but an uninterested shrug, Ferguson, obviously thrilled, has an audience full of friends and a smile on his face.