There used to be a time where the name Chris Ferguson inspired awe and reverence in the poker world. The man (once?) known as “Jesus” was catapulted into poker stardom after winning the WSOP Main Event in 2000. That victory, his image, and the 4 other bracelets he won at the World Series of Poker made him a legitimate poker superstar.
As poker boomed, Ferguson basked in the limelight of ESPN broadcasts, memorably chopping fruits and vegetables by throwing playing cards at them. Ferguson then proceeded to make his mark in online poker as well, not as a player but as one of the main owners and faces of Full Tilt Poker. It was good to be Chris Ferguson, that is, until Black Friday. Since that time Ferguson, easily one of poker’s most public personas, essentially seems to have gone into hiding.
Full Tilt Poker’s Fall and Resurrection
Most people who follow poker are aware of what’s transpired since then with the online poker site Ferguson used to represent and partially own. However, in case you’re not up to date, here’s a Full Tilt Poker timeline put together by CAP’s Editor-in-Chief Michaela McNamara. PokerStars did indeed buy Full Tilt Poker and has gone to great lengths to revive the brand, give it a good name, and completely dissociate it from its troubled past. Most players and poker industry personalities would agree that they’ve been successful, as time and the backing of a great company has helped to heal the wounds.
Online poker players from the “rest of the world” had their real money account balances restored at the end of last year. Meanwhile, Americans are still waiting to receive their money – though it’s really the U.S. Department of Justice’s fault at this point. That said, the time for repayment is nearing.
We Know What Happened to Every Other Familiar FTP Face
For upwards of a year and a half following Black Friday, every tidbit of information relating to Full Tilt Poker was pounced on by the entire poker media. With the passage of time, the chapters on pretty much everyone else ever associated with the original Full Tilt Poker have come to a close and they’ve moved on.
Just four days after Black Friday I asked what would happen to the poker aces and faces at the two largest online poker brands. The laundry list of names whose sagas we poker fans have followed includes co-owners like Phil Ivey, Rafe Furst, Howard Lederer, and Ray Bitar, former team Full Tilt pros like John Juanda, Erick Lindgren, Mike “the Mouth” Matusow, and Patrik Antonius, and dozens upon dozens of former Red Pros. These were the pros who ostensibly were going to show us by example the best way to learn poker.
Most of these people emerged pretty much unscathed. Ivey’s deep association with the site also seems to have been forgotten, or at the very least lost in the shuffle or conveniently ignored, as he’s moved on to found Ivey Poker and has experienced a resurgence of excellence at the tables, both live and online. The poker world’s vitriol was mostly reserved for Furst, Bitar, and Lederer; specifically the latter, as we all recall from the reaction to PokerNews’ The Lederer Files.
The site itself has also moved on, with Gus Hansen emerging as the main front man. He and the online poker site’s two other pros, Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom, are collectively known as The Professionals.
Millions of words have been dedicated to the reporting of all that’s gone down with this ensemble of characters over the last 2+ years. Yet, the Chris Ferguson story seems to have not been fully played out, at least in the public eye as it has for everyone else.
Chris Ferguson’s Settlement Remains Unsettling
Officially, Chris Ferguson has come to a settlement with the U.S. DOJ, as reported back in February. Yet his continued and sustained absence from poker is simply unfulfilling to me as an observer and fan of the game.
It’s astounding to me that someone with Ferguson’s level of notoriety has essentially disappeared off the face of the earth. Hell, even Howard Lederer, who was also off the radar for an extended period of time, was eventually spotted by poker reporter Marco Valerio and ended up emerging from the shadows and even making it back to Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio to play poker with his buddies.
As regular readers of this poker blog surely know, I pride myself on following pretty much everything that’s going on in the poker world. Yet the chance encounter my friend Jason had with him in London’s Heathrow airport, which I blogged about early last year, remains the only Chris Ferguson sighting since April 15, 2011 that I’m aware of.
For Heaven’s sake, even Ferguson’s Wikipedia page hasn’t been amended since late 2010!
While plenty of big names in poker had what to say about Howard Lederer’s Full Tilt involvement, namely Daniel Negreanu, nary a poker pro or poker media site has publicly called out Chris Ferguson asking for his story.
Chris, You’ve Still Got the Poker World’s Attention if You Want It
As with all poker blog posts I write, I hope this call to attention gets seen by a lot of people. I find it hard to believe that the poker world isn’t still curious as to what on earth Chris Ferguson has been up to for the last 2.5 years. I’m sure everyone in the poker media can think of dozens of questions they’d like to ask as well.
Chris, I obviously hope that somehow this article reaches you, too. Perhaps you prefer to pull a Mark McGwire and live in anonymity with your millions and memories for the rest of your life. Perhaps you’re nervous about how negatively we poker fans might react to anything you’ve got to say.
But you used to be one of our heroes. If you never speak to us again we cannot help but brand you as guilty, as your silence is the biggest tell of all.
He and Howard should both be in prison. Anyone else that scammed millions from people would be.