Watching Chris Ferguson play an old hand from Poker After Dark is a bit like going back through your old high school photos; you know people once looked like that, but you can’t remember it being so funny at the time.
Trawling through the on-demand archive we have on offer at Poker Central is always fun, but it makes me think a lot about what’s changed… and what hasn’t. Take this hand from Season 4 for example. There’s so much small ball going on in this episode of Poker After Dark that the six men could easily be playing squash instead of poker. That’s definitely changed – the aggression in poker now makes this look like a home game. But take the Full Tilt patch off the front of his hat and Chris Ferguson doesn’t look much different. Nor does he act it.
Sklansky’s raise with the queen-ten of hearts is called by Ferguson in that nonchalant way he has, like a lugubrious old uncle who doesn’t want to leave his easy chair. Andy Bloch comes along for the ride too, but he’d be quick to get out of the way on the turn, letting Ferguson go on the attack.
I was at the Rio in 2017 for the World Series of Poker, when Chris Ferguson was on his way to winning the Player of the Series. It was an odd experience, of course. Ferguson refused to do any press, even around tournaments he was playing, which was awkward, purely because he played so many. I asked him for quotes three times and was turned down flat. It felt like the rest of the poker world was rooting for John Racener, Ferguson’s closest rival for much of that race. Still, on Jesus went, shuffling along the corridors of the Rio, parting each crowd like the Red Sea, a mini-entourage tight to his cowboy belt. He could have just walked off the set of Poker After Dark episode 54.
What I love about this episode is watching a player who doesn’t seem to care about the high stakes. If I was involved in any of these hands, catching any decent cards would scare me. It’s not just Ferguson’s raise and call all-in on the turn after he turns a Royal Flush draw while Sklansky hits his queen. It’s his way of looking so casual while he’s doing it, something many poker fans would believe in the wake of Black Friday. Knowing now what we do about the eventual collapse of Full Tilt, it’s hard to watch any hand involving Ferguson without wondering whose money he’s betting with.
That’s not to assume that he’s in the position of super-baddie in poker, even if we did just cast him as Negan in our Poker Who’s Who on The Walking Dead. Maybe Ferguson was the kingpin behind Black Friday, maybe he was an unknowing accomplice. Maybe we’ll never know, and all we’ll be left with is Jesus’ sermon of an apology prior to this year’s WSOP.
“The card that gave him a Royal Flush draw made me three queens, so it was an easy move [all-]in on my part.” Said Sklansky about the hand in our exclusive Directors’ Cut versions of Poker After Dark, available in their entirety on PokerGO’s On Demand service.
The river gave Ferguson the straight, a king coming to eliminate Sklansky with an inevitability that belied the odds in his favor.
It all feels very familiar, right down to the way Ferguson spins his calling chips into the middle. Once the money is on the table, so people say, it’s not yours; it belongs to the table. In Chris Ferguson’s case, one wonders whose money it was before and after the action. Ferguson, as he so often did at this stage of the career, made the action part all his own.
It’s not just Chris Ferguson and David Sklansky you can revisit on PokerGO – all seven seasons are available all on demand and you can also catch full replays of the most recent two live shows featuring Daniel Negreanu and Nick Schulman on “Power Play” week.
There’s never been a better time to go back and watch all the classic episodes of a format which is bigger than ever upon its return. It may be a bygone age in poker terms, because the game develops at such a fast pace. But it’s also a guide to what would happen in the game poker became.
Some things never change. Chris Ferguson will forever be ‘Jesus’, hide behind glasses and a cowboy hat, prefers talking about poker math above anything else, and might never provide more answers on what really went down when the odds weren’t in his favor during that catastrophic collapse of the company he proudly campaigned for during those fat-paycheck days. At least we still have all the footage from this different era of poker, which, truth be told, is still very entertaining to watch!
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