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The Jesus and Money Chain

For all his success at the felt, Chris Ferguson remains a pretty grounded guy. Five WSOP bracelets and several million dollars in tournament winnings have never prevented the down-to-earth Full Tilt pro from mixing it up with us average-Joes at the micro-stakes tables, and why would it? When you’re not in the game for the money, the thrill of competition can be found everywhere – and the man dubbed “Jesus” has certainly done a good job of tracking it down over the course of his stellar career in poker. Equally good at tracking down action, GOM caught up with Ferguson on one of his frequent jaunts to Europe for a match-needed update.

Over $7.5 million dollars in live tournament winnings and we can still find you grinding the $0.25c/$0.50c tables over on Full Tilt – what is it about you and low stakes bankroll challenges?

For me it’s literally the thrill of the competition. Poker can become a grind – even if you’re playing for the highest stakes – and I wanted to set a challenge because it was exciting for me and it gave me a goal. It’s about challenging myself either to beat other players or, in the case of bankroll challenge, to go from $0 to $10,000.

The other side of it is that I see a lot of poker players who are extremely talented but still fail to succeed in the poker world due to poor bankroll management. I wanted to prove to people what you could do with really good bankroll management, so I set some rules in this challenge – it wasn’t only about making $10,000, it was about making it in a way that was safe.

I started broke, but after I got up to a certain level there was essentially no risk of me ever going broke again. My general rule is to never buy-in for more than 5% of my bankroll. If I lose that 5% then I can buy-in to a table for 5% of my new bankroll. So if I lose maybe ten times then I can’t buy-in for nearly as much as I did and it forces me to move down in stakes when I go on a bad run. I see a lot of players who go on a losing streak and don’t move down until they blow it all and have to start over.

Perhaps if more players had the same attitude towards bankroll management the U.S. Government wouldn’t be so quick to classify poker as gambling. Are we any closer to getting some closure on the state of the game in America?

I think the legal side is going to be clarified positively for poker in the next couple of years and I definitely think that it will be made expressly legal. I don’t even think that there are any laws specifically against internet poker at the moment – certainly from a federal stand-point. The law people point to is the wire act, which essentially says you can’t do sports betting over the phone across state lines.

For whatever reason, the government want others to think that this applies to poker, but how can it? The internet isn’t a phone-line and poker isn’t sports betting. In sports betting you’re wagering on the outcome of someone else’s game. In poker you’re actually in charge of your own hand and poker is clearly a game of skill, so how can poker be sports betting? They’re really trying to stretch this idea and suggest it applies, but the idea that it’s going to fly in front of a judge is a certainly questionable.

Outside of the U.S., you’ve recently been over this side of the Atlantic for the EPT Grand Finals – how was your time in Monte Carlo?

I thought Monte Carlo was amazing. I definitely enjoyed my time there and I really liked the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel where the EPT is held. One of the best things about arriving is the helicopter ride after you get off the plane. It seems like an extravagance taking the helicopter from the airport, but it’s actually more practical than taking a taxi. It saves you about an hour, doesn’t cost you any more AND you get an amazing view of Monaco as you fly over the water.

At the EPT itself I only played the two big events – the €10,000 championship and the High Roller. The tournament structure in these events is getting much better and the skill element is getting a lot higher. There’s a lot of play in both of them and a lot of time for the best players to rise to the top. Unfortunately, I didn’t rise to the top in either case, but I certainly can’t blame that on the structure!

You had a tough table in the High Roller event with some top European players, including Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier. What do you think of the standard of play over here compared to that of the States?

I think the European players are definitely catching up with their U.S. counterparts and I think that they only ever lagged behind because the poker explosion occurred faster in the States. Now that it’s really taken off in Europe, there’s no question that the level of play has gotten far stronger.

It must have got pretty hot out there with the hat, jacket and beard combo. Where did the “Jesus” get-up originally come from?

People have called me Jesus in many different areas of my life. When I was a student at UCLA, I had the nickname Jesus – it was just from the long hair and the beard. Then I used to go dancing every night and someone called me Jesus there and that kind of stuck too. From there it followed me into the poker world as well. Having said that, you don’t normally see Jesus in a cowboy hat – but I think I’ve had the nickname longer than the hat.

So, being Jesus, if you could perform one miracle what would it be?

I’ve already had too many miracles! My miracle nine of hearts on the river to win the 2000 Main Event – asking for another one of those is asking for too much.
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