Dancing and Poker
PRO-File: Chris ‘Jesus’
I understand you like Ballroom Dancing?
I Love it. I love all forms of dancing.
Is Ballroom your favorite?
I would say West Coast Swing is my particular favorite. It’s the latest form of swing dance – like jive, or the jitterbug, but it’s the latest form, and it’s a really living dance, because people in Southern California and all across the do it regularly in nightclubs. It’s a very good social dance.
Where are people likely to find you West Coast Swing dancing?
Every Thursday night they can find me at the Hacienda Hotel, by the LA airport.
You’re originally from LA and you started life studying game theory at UCLA…
I guess I’ve been doing game theory since I was a young kid. In fact, my father used to teach game theory at UCLA and still does – he’s Professor Emeritus right now, but will still teach classes occasionally.
Do you sometimes go back to UCLA and teach game theory yourself?
Well, I’ve given lectures there, but not in a long time. But I would like to in the future.
At what point in your UCLA career did you decide it was time to become a professional poker player?
I made the conscious decision around 1994 that I really wanted to learn how to play poker, but becoming a professional was actually never a conscious decision. There was no time when I thought, ‘I want to earn a living playing poker,’ - it just turned out that way. Money was never my motivating factor. I’ve loved the game since I was a little kid, and I really wanted to learn the game and understand the game, so I started playing tournaments around 1994.
So when did you give up your day job?
Well, the first couple of years I was actually still a student while I was playing, finishing my PhD in Computer Science, which I got in 1999. After that, I became a day trader for about two years, at which point I started working on this Internet poker site, and since then I’ve been working on developing the software for FullTiltPoker.com.
So you were one of the original people involved in the design of the software?
Absolutely. I’ve been doing that for over two and a half years.
When did you become a
Hold ‘em player?
I hadn’t played too much Texas Hold ‘em until I started playing poker on IRC. IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, and is basically a chat room that had a program on it that would deal cards to people. So you could actually go to a chat room and play poker in that chat room, and this is really, in my mind, the first online card room. That’s where I really learned how to play (Texas Hold ‘em). I’d known the rules, but that’s where I really learned how to play.
What was your game of choice before that?
I had a couple of games of choice, but the only other game I played professionally was Asian Stud. That’s a five card stud with a stripped deck. Its not a very well known game, but it’s a fantastic game, and I think of it as the truest form of poker because the bluff and reading your opponents is king in that game, and that’s what poker is all about.
So you like to play a more psychological than mathematical game?
I would say the opposite. I love all aspects of poker but in that game the psychological aspect was more important.
You say you’re not really into poker for the money, but you’re a successful tournament player and there’s money that goes with that. What do you do with it? Is it all cars and women?
(Laughs) I’m the wrong guy to ask about that. I’m not in it for the money, which is not to say that I’m not very happy that money’s involved; but I’m not a big spender. I save my money because, as a professional poker player, it’s important to maintain a bankroll. You can always run on hard times, no matter how good you are. You can go on a one-year losing streak and so you always need a sizable bankroll behind you.
Are you single, married, have a girlfriend or all three?
That came out rather slowly. Is someone going to read this and be upset that you said single?
Well they, umm…just leave it at single.
What do you like to do with your time off, besides dance?
I don’t have much time off anymore. It’s basically dancing and poker and that’s all I have time for, after managing software for the company Tiltware.
Where does Chris Ferguson go on vacation?
I consider myself an adventure traveler. I’ve been climbing in Africa, I’ve been through
; but I haven’t taken any trips like that lately and haven’t taken much vacation – except during poker tournaments. People, if they knew where I’d been, would think I’ve been on a lot of vacations: last month, Paris; the month before,
. Last year I was on two cruise ships; one in the
, one down the Mexican Riviera. I’ve been to , the Isle of Mann – all to play poker tournaments.
Do you get time off while you’re there, or is it all business?
On these trips I definitely try to take time off to enjoy myself – so I do consider them vacations, but kind of wimpy vacations.
How do you keep yourself trained for tournament poker on your time off? Do you practice daily?
I would like to. I don’t have that much time. I just play major tournaments and I’ll spend a little bit of time studying in between, but not like I used to. Its something I’d like to get back into when I have more time.
Do you study your opponents before major tournaments?
In a major tournament you never really know who you’re gonna face, so you can’t prepare for a major tournament by studying your opponents, but what you can do is study your opponents during the major tournaments. That’s when you study your opponents and you keep them in your memory banks as long as you can. I like to plan ahead because you’ve got a lot of opponents out there. I have my own plans for each and every one of them.
So you’ve got specific ideas on how to beat each particular person?
Who would you most like to beat who you haven’t already?
Anybody heads up. Doesn’t matter. I don’t actively go out and try to beat particular opponents – I wait for them to come to me.
But are you going after Ben Affleck to become the
Well I would certainly like his title…but to be successful at poker there’s nothing you can do that’s gonna guarantee beating an opponent, so you have to think of yourself as being like the ocean: you have to move out of the way a lot of the time, but you also have to take action. So its not like: ‘I wanna beat this guy, I’m gonna go after him,’ you just have to wait for the cards to come to you and the right situation to come up; and what’s so important about knowing your opponent is that you can be prepared, when the cards and the situation arise, to take full advantage of it. If people are looking to go after someone, or try to force a situation – well, you just can’t do that in poker.
Who is the sexiest opponent on the tour?
I’d say Evelyn Ng.
When was the last time you had a haircut?
Last time my hair was short was about nine years ago.
What made you grow it?
Just to be different, I guess. I was actually planning on cutting my hair in 2000, but after I won the World Series, I understood that the image I had was important, so I decided to keep that image for a couple more years, and it stuck with me.
How like Jesus are you?
(Laughs) I’d like to think I’m a nice guy. Obviously the nickname comes from the way I look. I would aspire to be like Him, but I have no illusions.
What are your favorite sunglasses?
Without a question, Oakleys. There are a couple of reasons why you want dark glasses: one is to hide your eyes and the other is to be able to watch your opponents without them knowing you’re watching them. Oakleys have by far the best optics. The one problem with sunglasses is that sometimes they get too dark so it’s hard to see. But Oakleys have this great combination of being able to hide your eyes, and they have great optics, so it’s really easy to see your opponents.
How about the hat?
It’s part of the image; part of the cowboy image that I like to project at the poker table.
It’s not a lucky hat?
Not really. I’ve had the same hat for the last four years, and it’s been very lucky. But I just got another one. It’s identical, but it hasn’t been sat on so many times.
Have you always had the cowboy image?
It’s pretty much just a poker image. None of my friends know me in a cowboy hat. It’s an image very specific to poker. I guess the idea is just to send off a false image, though it’s not an important deal. Because I’ve got long hair, people think I’m a college student, but when I put the hat on, and I’m in Vegas, people ask me if I’m part of the rodeo, or in a rock band.
Is being a poker player better than being a rock star or a cowboy?
Well, I’m very happy being a poker player, but I wouldn’t know because I don’t know what its like being a rock star. I’d say its getting to be similar in the sense that poker players are suddenly getting a lot of attention – two years ago, if you were a professional poker player, it was hard tell people – people were automatically going to have a negative image of you. That’s no longer true because of the huge popularity of poker. Now you can say it proudly.
Anything else to declare?
People can chat with and play low-stakes poker against me at
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