It's official, Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson has taken the title of World Series of Poker Player of the Year. The race was a close one, and it's without doubt something of a bittersweet result for poker fans.
Ferguson is a divisive figure among the poker community as well as the general media at large, but his skill at the game is undeniable. He cashed in more than 20 times during the most recent WSOP tournament, and added a 6th bracelet to his growing collection.
Once John Racener went bust at level nine, Ferguson took the title. Ferguson’s win is controversial, but aside from that there are some other aspects of the event that have angered and upset elements of the poker community.
Not least among these was the fact that the number of entrants was very small, which could be seen to devalue the prestige of winning bracelets. Regardless of personal views on the controversial star, Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson is the WSOP POY 2017!
Chris Ferguson got his 'Jesus' nickname thanks to his long hair and beard – an image, along with his trademark hat and shades, that he adopted early on at the tables to hide the fact he was a college student.
Being the son of mathematicians and theoretical probability experts probably helped foster Ferguson's love for Texas Hold'em, which he took up at only ten years old. He stepped away from the tables in 2008 on the back of a successful career, and as one of the founding members of Full Tilt Poker.
However, a scandal hit Full Tilt, alleging that Ferguson, along with fellow founders Howard Lederer and Rafe Furst, had used the company as a cash cow for their own personal finances at the expense of players and customers. Ferguson's lawyer denied the allegations, and the case was ultimately dismissed.
Despite his clear affinity and passion for poker (he uses computer simulations and game theory to gain a better understanding of the game), not to mention the fact he can slice a carrot in two by throwing a playing card at it, the poker community at large still sees Ferguson as a pariah.
Part of the problem, as some commentators have mentioned, is the fact that he maintains his silence over the Full Tilt situation. That said, Phil Hellmuth, the record-breaking poker champion, recently posed with Ferguson on social media.
While Hellmuth is no stranger to controversy himself, having often been named a 'poker brat' thanks to his occasionally diva-like behaviour on the table, it's perfectly possible that he simply respects Ferguson's talent at the game, from the standpoint of a fellow professional.
Whether or not the appearance on Twitter has done either of them any good is questionable of course, given Ferguson's reputation. This makes the fact that 'Jesus' has won the player of the year title a hard pill for some poker lovers to swallow, no matter how good a player he might be.
As noted earlier, a point of contention for some commentators and poker fans will be the ease of the WOSPE tournament that led to Ferguson being crowned player of the year. He was invited by the WSOPE thanks to his standing in the POY competition – another testament to his ability as a player – before going on to win the bracelet.
The problem is, it could be argued that with 92 entrants, the competition wasn't really large enough to warrant this kind of trophy. Setting this aside, Ferguson's sheer prowess is hard to pick fault with, and perhaps that's the one thing we can all take away.
Ferguson is without doubt a superlative player, and perhaps it was a mistake for him to step away from the table – it's clearly where he belongs, and where he's at home. We may never know the full extent of the story behind the Full Tilt scandal.
But it could be argued that it’s in Ferguson's interest to share it, especially given his recent blazing return to the tables. If not, it could continue to haunt him in spite of his outstanding ability. Regardless of how divisive he might be, Ferguson has returned – and he's not holding back when it comes to the game!