Wed, Jul 12, 11:21am by Staff Writer
Continuing a stellar performance at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), one which included a record-setting number of cashes in a single summer, former Full Tilt Poker executive Chris ‘Jesus; Ferguson fell just short of his sixth gold bracelet.
Ferguson faced off against veteran pro Mike Wattel, with their heads-up match deciding the victor of Event #72: USD$10,000 Seven-Card Stud World Championship.
The prestigious tournament drew 88 of the game’s top all-around players, each hoping to become the world champion of the antique poker variant seven-stud. That attendance built a total prize pool of USD$827,200, but it would be Ferguson and his fellow bracelet winner Wattel left vying for the winner’s share of USD$245,451.
For Ferguson, the deep run represented his 16th cash of the 2017 WSOP, an astounding feat was also record-setting when he reached 14 – breaking the previous high of 13 set by Roland Israelashvili last year. And while Ferguson’s mark was almost immediately matched, and then beaten, by John Racener with his 17 cashes on the current WSOP campaign, he put himself on the precipice of his first bracelet win since 2003.
If anyone could understand how Ferguson felt on that front, it was his heads-up opponent. Wattel bagged a bracelet back in 1999, but that remained his only tournament win of any sort ever since. Over the 18-year interim he’s come ever so close though, finishing in the runner-up spot on four occasions, while adding a third-place finish to boot.
Adding to the intrigue, Ferguson was back in the WSOP fold for only his second year, having returned from a self-imposed exile just last year. The calamitous failure of Full Tilt Poker – which cost players out of eight-figures’ worth of account funds when it was exposed – hasn’t been forgotten by recreational players or professionals alike.
And by failing to apologise or offer any comment to the player community last summer, a stance he reiterated this time around, the cowboy hat clad Ferguson has emerged as a legitimate villain figure. Of course, no proof that Ferguson even knew about Full Tilt Poker’s fraudulent nature has ever been presented, but most players haven’t let him off the hook just yet – creating a tense atmosphere as he played for poker’s most prestigious prize: a gold WSOP bracelet.
Sufficedto say, both players had plenty of incentive when they began what would wind up becoming an epic six-hour duel that went deep into early morning hours.
Per the live updates team covering the WSOP for PokerNews, Ferguson began with 1.37 million chips and faced an uphill climb against Wattel’s stack of 3.03 million. The limit-bet nature of seven-stud allows for a bit of maneuvering, however, and Ferguson slowly chipped into Wattel’s lead as the hours progressed.
Eventually, the pair clashed and contested what seemed to be a tournament-defining pot. Ferguson held two diamonds down and another up, and the action saw bets and calls exchanged through seventh street. Wattel’s board was unconnected and unthreatening, but he was pot committed to call the final bet, only to muck when Ferguson flashed the flush.
The big win reversed the chip counts, giving Ferguson 3.925 million against Wattel’s now decimated stack of 475,000. That only allowed him to make two big bets at the time, and on the very next hand Wattel pushed those wagers forward and found himself all-in with the bracelet on the line holding spilt fives with the 2s-5s / 5d.
Ferguson had him crushed with split jacks on the Js-5h / Jc, and the two waited as the dealer delivered their fates. In the end, Ferguson’s board remain unimproved, reading Js-5h / Jc-8c-4d-Qs / 3h for one pair of jacks. Wattel looked down at the 2s-5s / 5d-10s-Kh-4c by sixth street, needing to find a second pair or the last five in the deck to stay alive.
Seventh street was salvation, coming 5c to double Wattel through. The players then continued battling, both holding the lead at one point, until Wattel finally found a diamond flush of his own to claim most of Ferguson’s stack. A few hands later and it was all over, with Wattel earning his second gold bracelet after an 18-year wait.
Asked if facing Ferguson added any motivation, Wattel was unequivocal:
“I was trying to win for me. I didn’t care who the opponent was.”
“I was wondering if the second one was ever coming. Second one better than the first. I’m just feel relieved that I finally won one again.”
“It was an epic battle. He plays great and I had him, then he had me. I pulled it off at the end.”
The runner-up finish improved Ferguson’s point total in the WSOP Player of the Year race to 848.31, which puts him in third place behind leader John Monnette (865.21) and Racener (853.16) with the WSOP Main Event yet remaining.
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