Chris “Jesus” Ferguson won the €1,650 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better event at the World Series of Poker Europe on Wednesday, earning the long-time professional poker player his sixth career WSOP bracelet and a whole lot of public grief.
As one of the founders of Full Tilt Poker, Ferguson fell out of favor with the poker community after Black Friday in 2011, when the virtual shutdown of online poker in the US saw many players suddenly cut off from funds they had deposited on the site he owned.
The bracelet is the first for Ferguson since 2003. It was also the first for him outside of Las Vegas, as the WSOP Europe has only been held since 2007. This year’s European stop is taking place at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic.
WSOP Player of the Year
Taking down this tournament earned Ferguson a prize of €39,289 ($45,900). That may not seem like a lot considering his career total of nearly $9 million in prize money, but the win had added significance because of the ongoing WSOP Player of the Year race, which Ferguson currently leads.
In fact, it seemed as though the tournament might play a pivotal role in determining the 2017 Player of the Year. The event began with a field of 92 players, with only 18 continuing on to Day 2. Among those still alive were Ferguson and John Racener, who was also high on the overall leaderboard. But with Racener bowing out in 10th place, Ferguson was able to pad his lead heading into the home stretch of the points race.
The victory makes Ferguson one of only 15 players in history to capture at least six WSOP bracelets. The overall leader is Phil Hellmuth, who has 14 bracelets, four more than his closest competitors.
“It’s kind of surreal because I wasn’t expecting to win this bracelet at all,” Ferguson told WSOP.com. “I was just trying to sneak in, just trying to advance a little bit. And it just kind of happened.”
Many in the poker community are less than thrilled about Ferguson’s win. As one of the founding partners at Full Tilt Poker, his reputation suffered following the Black Friday online poker shutdown of 2011, as well as the failure of Full Tilt to repay players in the aftermath of that event.
Full Tilt would eventually close in the wake of Black Friday, before being purchased and reopened by its former rival, PokerStars. Ferguson reached a settlement with the U.S. government in 2013, in which he forfeited millions earned from his time with Full Tilt but admitted no wrongdoing.
Following Black Friday, Ferguson took a five-year hiatus from competitive poker. When he showed up to play at the 2016 WSOP, some questioned whether he should be there, while others, such as Daniel Negreanu, simply wanted Ferguson to make an apology that didn’t seem to be coming.
“You asked for the players to trust in you, don’t you believe they’re owed some kind of apology?” Negreanu told PokerNews in 2016. “Any man with a shred of integrity or human decency would understand an apology is owed.”
But following his latest win, Ferguson was more focused on how his long break from poker had helped him clear his mind.
“I had actually been planning to take a break from poker, and it turned out to be bigger than I expected,” he told WSOP.com. “I’ve always found that when I take a break from something, and you come back to it, you come back to it with a fresh perspective, and often you’ll do better.”