After finishing as runner-up in 2005 and 2006, Chris Ferguson finally took down the 2008 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, winning a best two-of-three finals against Andy Bloch. Before the finals began, Bloch said, "I'm the Paul Wasicka of this year." Wasicka was a last-minute substitute in 2007 when Doyle Brunson was unable to attend, who then went on to win the event. This year, Andy Bloch was the last-minute substitute when comedian/actor Brad Garrett was called back to work following the resolution of the Hollywood writers' strike. Ferguson had to come from behind to prevent Bloch from fulfilling the substitute prophecy and to avoid the bridesmaid's fate once again.
Many of this year's earlier matches were marked by the difference between players. But as the final round was about to begin, it was the similarity between these two opponents that was striking. Both Bloch and Ferguson are professional players associated with the Full Tilt poker site. Both finalists play with a strong mathematical bias. In fact, in the early 1990s, both Bloch and Ferguson separately developed a rank of all possible hands using a computer simulation based on identical assumptions. Both players hold advanced degrees from prestigious universities. And both players are clearly "all hat and no cattle."
In the course of the first half hour's play, Ferguson had established the lead. Fortunes reversed when Bloch bet out on a flop of which Ferguson flat-called. Ferguson pushed all in on the turn and Bloch called. Bloch showed a flush with the to Ferguson's set of eights. When the river failed to pair the board, Bloch took a sizable lead in the match. Only a few hands later, Ferguson bet on a flop of and Bloch re-raised to put Ferguson all in. Ferguson's was up against Bloch's . Ferguson's few outs didn't come and Bloch took down the first match.
"I think I have a lot of pressure on me now," Ferguson said, smiling, prior to the start of the second match. For the first hour of play there were only minor skirmishes and the match was essentially even. Bloch drew the first significant blood of the match when he raised pre-flop and Ferguson called. Ferguson checked and Block bet out on a flop of . Ferguson check-raised and Block re-raised all in. Ferguson folded, yielding a sizable lead to Bloch. On the very next hand Ferguson pushed all in with and Bloch called with two red threes. The put Ferguson in the lead. The turn gave Bloch outs to a gutshot, but the gave the pot to Ferguson. Ferguson's momentum continued when Bloch pushed all in on a flop of and Ferguson called. Bloch's for the open-ended straight draw trailed Ferguson's pocket jacks. The turn introduced more outs for Bloch, but the river wasn't one of them. When the pendulum swings it really swings, and Ferguson brought the match home with quad queens.
After the first 20 minutes of play, Ferguson had ground out a small lead. Ferguson opened with a small raise pre-flop and Bloch called. Ferguson bet the flop only to get check-raised by Bloch. Ferguson flat called. On the turn Bloch bet out and Ferguson pushed all in. Bloch went into the tank, eventually pulling out a quarter. "Heads I call, tails I fold," Bloch said. The quarter came up heads and Bloch called, turning over . Ferguson turned over two black jacks. With the river, Ferguson threw his arms in the air. Chris Ferguson had finally broken through to win the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship after reaching the finals for the third time. Ferguson collected $500,000 for the win while Bloch took home $250,000 for his second-place finish.