In 2005, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson had arguably his finest year as a tournament professional. He captured two World Series of Poker Circuit championships at the Harrah's Rincon in March of 2005 and came back in September to win the first Las Vegas stop at Harrah's during the 2006 season of the Circuit. Add into that a final table in Atlantic City in January at the WSOPC, a hotly contested second place finish to Phil Hellmuth at the National Heads Up Poker Championship and several excellent final table stops during the World Series last year which, all total, garnered him over $1.75 million, and many might feel that Ferguson was the best player in 2005.
Early in 2006, Chris isn't showing any signs of slowing down. He has been at the forefront of perhaps one of the most interesting movements of this youthful year, being named to the Players' Committee for the World Series of Poker. The 2000 World Champion is also going to be playing a stringent tournament schedule, albeit not quite as much as others might be. I got to the bottom of some of those questions when I recently talked to him.
PN: Chris, there's been quite a bit of noise lately with the World Series. How much of an effect will the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament have on the event?
CF: I don't think it'll have as much effect as some people think. I like the idea of the event and I do like that it seems that it will be an "elite" event. When the original schedule was announced, there was certainly too much No-Limit being played. While I personally believe that's a shame, it is the way that many tournaments are headed lately. No-Limit Hold 'Em is certainly "The Game" right now, but it isn't the only one.
With that said, however, it isn't any one casino or tour's fault. They are simply trying to give the players what they want, which is good. I mean, you have 2,000 people who want to play a No-Limit tournament versus three or four hundred that want to play Omaha or Seven Card...which do you think is going to be played? The H.O.R.S.E. tournament, though, is an excellent move by Harrah's in listening to the desires of the players.
PN: How will the Players' Committee help Harrah's to shape the future of the World Series?
CF: That's an interesting question. Right now, I'm not sure how much of an effect that we'll have. Harrah's made an excellent move, however, in the Committee's creation. I think they are not only looking to maintain the history of the tournament but they also are looking to the future and attempting to keep alive the current state of poker and trying to advance it. They are interested in the players' opinions and we hope to be able to convey what the players want with the Committee.
PN: How do you explain your success on the World Series Circuit? Is there something different with those events over others?
CF: I find the World Series blind structures to be more workable with my game. The levels go up much slower than in other events, which allows more play of poker than those events with different structures.
PN: I noticed last year that it seemed you only played the Main Events of tournaments. Is that something you'll continue in 2006?
CF: You're exactly right, I am only concentrating on the championship tournaments. In the preliminary tournaments, you just don't have the amount of time to play that I like. Thus, I tend to concentrate on the championship events more than other tournaments on the schedule during the run of an event.
PN: There has been quite a bit of discussion about the World Poker Tour lately as well. What is your take on the subject and will you play the events?
CF: First off, this is my own opinion. I won't play the WPT events...I can't play them. With the way that the current WPT releases are worded, it would violate two other contractual obligations that I have. As you know, I am a part of FullTilt Poker and I also have my video game contract with Activision (for the World Series of Poker video game). Because of the way that the WPT release is worded, they could use "me" for anything, including a web site or a video game release. This would directly violate my previous contracts and put me in a difficult legal position.
With such a broad release as they have, I can't take the chance that there will be a conflict. In the past, I was able to strike portions of the release and the WPT was fine with it. That isn't possible now and, even with the assurances from Steve Lipscomb that certain things wouldn't happen, I can't be in the position for it to even be considered.
This is my own personal decision, however. I'm not a part of a boycott or anything along those lines. It simply is living up to my contracts with FullTilt and Activision that I have and not placing myself in a position where I might violate those.
PN: How is poker different today from when you won the World Championship, and is it for the better or for worse?
CF: Oh, it definitely is for the better! Way better!
For the first couple of years after I won the title in 2000, it was almost like I was in a small cult. I would get noticed by hardcore poker fans, but it wasn't until about three years ago when the World Poker Tour came about that it exploded. Nowadays, I get stopped constantly in airports for autographs and the attention is wonderful, not only for myself but for the game as well.
PN: Finally, Chris, do you see yourself still playing at this level when you're older, like Doyle (Brunson)?
CF: Absolutely. I'll always be playing the game of poker and I'll always be involved in the game at some level. It is an activity that you can take part in your entire life. Look at someone like John Bonetti. He didn't start playing actively until later in life and he's still going strong today. I see myself being much like that.
I want to thank Chris for taking the time to talk about some of the most interesting events going on in poker so far in this barely started year. Hopefully Chris and the Players' Committee can have a broad effect on the entirety of the World Series and, potentially, poker's immediate future. To learn more about Chris, visit his website at ChrisFerguson.com or, to take on the former World Champion directly, get on the felt with him at Full Tilt Poker.