Chris "Jesus" Ferguson was one of the first real poker "characters" we were introduced to via poker television - specifically the WSOP Main Event coverage on ESPN.
First, there was the nickname, cultivated from his eccentric appearance that made him look like he just walked out of a Western: a long leather jacket and cowboy hat complimented by long hair and a full beard.
Then there was the mythology of his Ph.D brain and emphatically tight playing style and his role creating one of the most iconic brands in poker, Full Tilt Poker. He also had a WSOP Main Event championship under his belt to wrap it altogether.
As any poker fan knows it all fell apart along with Full Tilt and Ferguson, along with Full Tilt co-founder Howard Lederer, took the brunt of the blame. Years after, though, he returned to the felt among a deluge of disdain and contempt.
His poker legacy, it seems, is still to be determined.
Chris Ferguson: An Intellectual Approach to Poker
Ferguson grew up playing recreational poker but only in 1994 did he decide to get serious about his game. He sought out venues where he would be able to pit his skills against those of other serious players and his prowess increased by leaps and bounds.
As befits a man with a Ph.D. in Computer Science, Ferguson has an intellectual approach to poker. He says: "Intelligence and the ability to reason well are the most important qualities that all poker players share. This reasoning comes into play when the player is faced with deciding which alternative to take in a handraise, call or fold."
His general advice in regards to those situations is: "If you're not sure whether to fold or call, fold. If you're not sure whether to call or raise, raise."
Ferguson, obviously, spent a fair amount of time thinking about poker. As he says: "There are two types of information that opponents give you. One is tells, which are conscious or subconscious actions that a person makes that give an indication of the strength of his hand. The other is the way they play hands, and their way of thinking about hands.
"For me the second is the most important."
Ferguson favored getting inside his opponent's head and then making plays that put that opponent in situations unusual and uncomfortable for him or her.
"I try to play the style that gives my opponents the hardest time."
Ferguson beat T.J. Cloutier to win the Championship No-Limit Hold'em main event at the 2000 World Series of Poker. People are still talking about the final hand. T.J. held AQ, Chris had A9. The flop came 2K4 with a king on the turn. Had the board paired, the pot would have been split, but the 9 came and with it, Chris became the World Champion.
Ferguson has said that the final table is his favorite place to play. That burning desire to win combined with his math skills have contributed to his great success. He holds five WSOP titles, two of them from 2003. Those titles are 2000 Seven-Card Stud, 2001 Omaha Hi-Lo, 2003 Mixed Games, 2003 Omaha Hi-Lo, and the main event in 2000.
Furthermore, in the 2003 WSOP he finished fourth in Lowball, second in Pot-Limit Hold'em and sixth in Omaha High.
Ferguson works assiduously to improve his poker. Often, when he is away from the tables, he's at his computer analyzing hands or looking at different scenarios. He says: "I am always looking for holes in my own game so that I can repair them and become a stronger player."