There were also firsts in the way Ferguson accomplished his feat. The 44-year-old tournament pro played near-flawless poker and then caught two monster hands in the closing minutes to shatter the dreams of a would-be "David" in his quest to slay one of poker's true "Goliaths." Heads up play featured a 25-year-old local man named Dustin Fox, playing against the former world champion. It took just one hand for Ferguson to drag the final pot of the tournament, holding a set of tens over Fox's pocket aces, which brought a packed house to its feet and ended the Lake Tahoe championship in dramatic fashion.
This was the fourth straight year the World Series of Poker Circuit has made a stop at Harvey's Lake Tahoe. In fact, this was the largest turnout of the four tournament series held so far. More than 2,100 players entered the 11 events held on the south shores of beautiful blue Lake Tahoe.
The $5,000 championship event attracted 142 players, which created a prize pool totaling $677,700. The top 18 players all collected prize money. The tournament was played over three days. The first day eliminated much of the field, as only 39 players returned for day two. The second day eliminated another 30 players, leaving the nine finalists to play for the championship on day three.
Final table action was carried live over the Internet courtesy of the official WSOP media partner Bluff Media (with hole cards shown to the viewing audience). The broadcast was shown and is archived at the official WSOP website: www.worldseriesofpoker.com. Ferguson arrived at the final table with a sizable chip advantage. He arrived with 426,000 in chips. His closest rival was Mark "Bonsai" Bonsack, with 252,000 in chips. The remaining players each arrived with 158,000 or less. Ferguson held the lead for all but about 15 minutes of play, when his rival Dustin Fox managed to gain a slight lead. Indeed, the day, the night, and the tournament victory belonged to the famous icon dressed in all-black.
Players were eliminated in the following order:
9th Place - Travis Erdman arrived with the lowest chip count. He was forced to make a quick move. On the second hand of play, Erdman moved all-in from the cutoff position holding 6-5 suited. He hoped to steal a round of blinds and antes. But Gabriel Testa woke up in the big blind holding pocket jacks and made the quick call. The board did not help Erdman, who went out as the first elimination. Travis Erdman, a 37-year-old investment manager from San Francisco, collected $14,231 for ninth place. This was Erdman's second straight year to make a final table appearance in the championship event. He took fifth place in Harvey's Lake Tahoe's main event last year.
8th Place - Frank Lee might as well have spent his Sunday afternoon playing on the railroad tracks, given what happened to him on his final hand. Lee was dealt K-Q suited and made a pre-flop raise which was called by Mark Bonsack, with 6-6. The flop came 10-6-6, giving Bonsack quad sixes. Poor Lee had no idea what he was up against. Hoping to steal the pot and first to act, Lee moved all-in and was called in a flash by Bonsack. Lee was flattened by a roaring freight train loaded with four 6s. The business consultant from Los Gatos, CA humbly walked away in eight place, good for $19,653.
7th Place - A short time later, George Saca was dealt J-J. After Sylvester "Vesty" Geoghegan made a standard pre-flop raise of three times the big blind, Saca moved all-in for another 35,000. Vesty called instantly and showed A-K. It was the classic case of A-K versus overcards, with Saca's tournament life on the line. Wham! A king flopped, and Saca melted down from a slight favorite to a big dog with the turn of the dealer's wrist. Two blanks on the turn and river sealed Saca's fate - a seventh-place finish worth $26,431 in prize money. This marked "two out of three" for the salesman from Folsom, CA. Two years ago, Saca finished in eighth place in this same event.
6th Place - About two hours into play, Michael Banducci took a horrific beat which resulted in his elimination. The hand started off innocently as chip leader Chris Ferguson, after remaining exceedingly patient during the initial levels of play, was dealt A-8. Banducci had J-8. There wasn't much action until the turn, when a jack came. That gave Banducci top pair and the best hand at the time. He moved all-in for his last 80,000 in chips. Ferguson had nothing but an ace high and thought for at least three full minutes before announcing a call. Hoping and perhaps expecting to snap off a bluff, Ferguson was disappointed to see his opponent holding a pair. That meant Ferguson had just six outs to win the 200,000 pot. The river delivered salvation for "Jesus." A miracle ace fell, which gave Ferguson a pair of aces and the big pot and an even larger chip lead over the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Banducci was left with a bad beat story to tell and $33,208 for fifth place. The youngest of the final nine players (at 22 years), Banducci says he plans to continue playing and traveling around the country and living the free- spirited lifestyle.
5th Place - Down to five players, Gabriel Testa was on life support. He seemingly went card dead for about three hours and was down to just 70,000 in chips -- with 4,000-8,000 blinds and a 1,000 ante fast eating away at his stack. From the big blind, Testa had enough of the bad cards and tried to make a bold move in an unraised pot, holding an embarrassingly poor hand, 5-2. The bluff almost worked, but Dustin Fox decided to call the pre-flop raise with his pocket sixes. The middle pair held up and Testa was forced to make the dreaded walk that all tournament players fear. Fifth place paid $43,035.
4th Place - The Teflon finally came off Chris Ferguson when play was at four-handed. He got overly aggressive on a key hand and lost a quarter of his stack against Dustin Fox. The hand started off when Fox made a raise and Ferguson moved all-in holding A-9. It was a borderline move and completely situational, with Ferguson hoping to blow his opponent out of the pot (to be fair, Ferguson had developed a relatively tight table image at this point). Also, perhaps some sentimentality influenced the move as Ferguson's winning hand in the 2000 World Series of Poker was A-9. Fox thought for a moment, then decided to call the raise for another 140,000 holding 10-10. Five low cards flopped and Fox rocketed up to nearly 300,000 in chips. That left Ferguson with 690,000. He continued to hold a 2 to 1 chip advantage over Mark Bonsack who had scratched and clawed his way back to second place.
After a dinner break, Sylvester "Vesty" Geoghegan was low on chips and moved all-in with Q-9. Dustin Fox probably would not have called had he known the cards. But with more than enough chips in his stack, he made the call with what turned out to be a dominated hand. Fox showed J-9. Then, a jack promptly flopped, and suddenly Vesty was down to just a few outs. Fox's pair of jacks held up, which what indeed very lucky for the Irishman. "Vesty" Geoghegan, who came to Lake Tahoe all the way from his home in Mulligar, Ireland collected $56,928 for fourth place.
3rd Place - Down to three players, Ferguson retained the chip lead. He avoided major confrontation, but still managed to apply a steady degree of pressure on his two opponents, with an unpredictable mix of well-timed bets and raises. But Dustin Fox was the player who benefited most when play was three and four handed. He won several medium-sized pots and managed to seize a slight chip lead, which had the crowd buzzing about a possible poker upset. Then, Ferguson caught a big hand. Actually, Ferguson caught a huge hand. Mark Bonsack knew he'd have to get creative to win this tournament. On his final fateful hand, he tried to make a brave move at the wrong time when he bluffed with an ace-high on the turn. Ferguson happened to be sitting with three jacks in his hand and calmly called the all-in bet, which brought a grimace to the face of the 47-year-old private contractor from Maple Valley, WA. Bonsack, who goes by the poker nickname, "Bonsai" was torched on the hand and had to settle for third place. He received $82,002 in prize money.
2nd Place - Before anyone had a chance to catch their breaths, the final hand of the tournament was dealt out, which left everyone in absolute shock. When heads-up play began, Ferguson was ahead about 3 to 2 in chips. Incredibly, Ferguson hit back-to-back sets on the final two hands of the tournament and demolished what was left of Fox's chips. The thrilling finale hand started off when Fox raised 36,000 pre-flop with pocket aces. Ferguson re-raised and made it 90,000 to go with pocket tens. Fox, in what might have been a sly move under different circumstances, simply called - perhaps leading Ferguson to believe he held the best hand. When the flop came 10-7-2, Ferguson checked and Fox bet out with 100,000. Ferguson called. The turn brought a king, and Ferguson checked. Fox moved all-in and Ferguson smiled like a hunter catching his prey. The trap was shut and an ace failed to rescue Fox from disaster. Ferguson raised his arms in the air, and Fox dejectedly walked away as the most disappointed $119,000 man in America. A warm ovation from his hometown family and friends made the runner-up finish seem a little easier.
1st Place - To all poker players and fans the world over, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson is most famous for his 2000 World Series of Poker title. But this victory at Lake Tahoe will certainly go down as one of his most satisfying tournament moments. Afterward, Ferguson stated that winning a WSOP Circuit event is every bit as challenging as winning a WSOP event and even went so far to say he is just as proud of his gold rings as bracelets.
For first place in this tournament, Ferguson collected his third WSOP gold ring in four years, $203,649 in cash, and an embossed certificate entitling him to an official entry into the 2008 World Series of Poker main event. Perhaps just as memorable, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson wrote yet another exciting chapter in the exceptional story that is the tournament life of one of poker's most respected players.
1st Chris "Jesus" Ferguson Pacific Palisades, CA $203,649
2nd Dustin Fox Stateline, NV 119,276
3rd Mark Bonsack Maple Valley, WA 82,002
4th "Vesty" Geoghegan Mulligar (Ireland) 56,928
5th Gabriel Testa San Jose, CA 43,035
6th Michael Banducci Traverse City, MI 33,208
7th George Saca Folsom, CA 26,431
8th Frank Lee Los Gatos, CA 19,653
9th Travis Erdman San Francisco, CA 14,231
10th John Thomas Monterey, CA 10,165
11th Mark Simmons Rocklin, CA 10,165
12th Aaron Kanter Lodi, CA 10,165
13th Dennis Lane Corte Madera, CA 8,810
14th Kevin Vanderbeek Redwood City, CA 8,810
15th Marty Wong Napa, CA 8,810
16th Vic Campana Benicia, CA 7,454
17th Vince Shaw Santa Cruz 7,454
18th Gary Tighe Folsom, CA 7,454
For more information, please contact:
Nolan Dalla -- WSOP Media Director at (702) 358-4642
Or visit our official website: www.worldseriesofpoker.com
Jeffrey Pollack - Commissioner, WSOP
Ty Stewart - Director, Sponsorship and Licensing, WSOP
Craig Abrahams - Director, Broadcasting and New Media, WSOP
Tournament Director - Janis Sexton
Harrah's Lake Tahoe Race and Sportsbook Manager - Steve Schorr
Harvey's Lake Tahoe Poker Room Manager - Vince Contaxis