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Jun 19, 2016

Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer Play in 2016 WSOP

By RTR Dennis

Wsop2016 ferguson lederer

Leading up to the 2016 WSOP, many wondered if former Full Tilt Poker executives Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson and Howard ‘The Professor’ Lederer would play in the event after a 5-year hiatus. The rumors and speculation have been confirmed, with both Ferguson and Lederer playing in the WSOP for the first time since Black Friday. See the details here along with why some players don't like Ferguson and Lederer, and if they’ve received any negative feedback so far.

Ferguson Plays in 2016 WSOP $10k Seven Card Stud Championship

Ferguson, who won a $2.5k Seven Card Stud bracelet in the 2000 WSOP, tried to rekindle the magic in the $10k Seven Card Stud Championship. But he failed to cash in the event, busting out early on. This isn't just a one-time thing, though, because Jesus was back in a $1,000 Top-Up Turbo tournament the next day. Chances are that we'll continue seeing the 53-year-old chasing his 6th-career bracelet as the event rages on. Even if Ferguson doesn't win a tournament, he could at least earn a WSOP cash for the first time since 2010.

Lederer Plays in 2016 WSOP $10k 2-7 Draw Lowball Tournament

Unlike Jesus, who entered the 2016 WSOP early on, Lederer waited until the Event #16: $10k 2-7 Draw Lowball tournament before registering. Lederer failed to cash in the event, but has plenty more chances to earn his first gold bracelet since the 2010 WSOP Europe, where he placed 16th in a £10,350 High Roller Heads-Up tourney (£22,847). The Professor won two gold bracelets in his career, both of which came at the 2010 WSOP. He also had very strong performances in both the 2001 and 2004 WSOPs, cashing seven times each year.

Demise of Full Tilt Poker

Many players are familiar with the background behind why Ferguson is so maligned in the poker world; but if you're not, here's a quick recap. Jesus served as the director of Full Tilt's operations. On April 15, 2011, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) cracked down on Full Tilt for money laundering and fraud. This shouldn't have affected their players and some $444 million in deposits, but it did because the money wasn't properly ring-fenced and was missing.

Ferguson was indicted by the DoJ along with the other execs, Lederer, Rafe Furst and Ray Bitar. The DoJ claimed that these men "lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited.” Ferguson avoided jail time by paying a $2.35 million fine along with an undisclosed amount from his personal accounts.

Lederer: “I take Full Responsibility for Full Tilt’s Failure to Protect Players’ Deposits”

In 2012, Lederer did a series of interviews called ‘The Lederer Files,’ where he deflected blame and gave reasons why he wasn’t at fault for the Black Friday debacle. But last month, The Professor finally admitted that he shares blame since he was a Full Tilt board member. Apologizing through Daniel Negreanu’s blog, Lederer wrote that he takes “full responsibility” for the company’s failure to ring-fence deposits. Although he hadn’t been in charge of day-to-day operations for the two years leading up to Black Friday, Lederer admitted that he should have been more involved.

Ferguson: "I'm Just Here to Play Poker"

The 5-time WSOP champ has been a hot topic of conversation at the WSOP since he decided to brave the public and play. PokerNews reached out to Jesus for an interview, but Ferguson isn't big on talking to the poker media right now.

"I'm just here to play poker," said Ferguson.

While Jesus isn't saying anything, he does have a supporter in 6-time WSOP winner Layne Flack. Also having played the Seven Card Stud Championship, Flack said that people don't have all the facts about what happened and they shouldn't be so quick to judge Ferguson.

"Chris Ferguson has done a lot of great things for poker," he said. "He's a standup guy, and all the decisions made by Full Tilt Poker don't fall on him. I firmly believe he didn't take one dime from anybody. It's just not in his nature. It's more in his nature to give everything to everybody, than take anything from anybody, and that's a fact."

Any Negative Reactions to Ferguson and Lederer at 2016 WSOP?

The good news for Lederer and Jesus is that they’ve been able to play in WSOP events so far without any altercations. This was the big concern keeping them away from the tables because the poker community was angry after not receiving a collective $444 million in deposits. But Ferguson does have a few detractors right now, especially Negreanu.

“I appreciated Howard Lederer’s willingness to own it in a public statement,” Negreanu told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I’m disappointed and ashamed of Chris for showing up here after five years, after hiding for five years, and not releasing any statement as though everyone’s forgotten.

“There’s a lot of people that were hurt. A lot of people’s bankrolls were tied up. Any human with a shred of decency would know that whether it makes a difference or not, an apology is warranted and he’s done nothing to show any remorse. And I wonder, ‘Does he even give a (expletive)?’”

Based on Ferguson’s comments that he’s just here to play poker, it doesn’t look like he’ll be giving that long-awaited apology any time soon.