The Ferguson Challenge Review: Year One

I’m going for the money AND for the lesson I’m going to learn. The latter is valid no matter which level I play.

Joxum, september 21, 2007

By midnight here in Denmark, my roll stands at 1.890 points plus change. On one hand I wish I had made the 2K mark I’d set for tonight. On the other hand, tonight is a major milestone in itself.

The evening began with some heads up action. Like yesterday, it came out a little bland. I played one guy who turned out to be a sleeping rattle snake.

For the first three levels he was incredibly passive, making it possible for me to play small ball against him and chip away at his stack. Then as we got to 25/50 and he was down to 450 chips, he suddenly woke up and in about 12 hands later he was on top and finished me off. Well done!

Then I switched to $22 1-table sng, my other favorite format. I took it down, partly because I was the better player, partly because I hit so many hands. At one point I could have hit three sets in a row – alas I’d already folded the first two pre flop, [T2] in EP and [32] UTG. But the third compensated me fine 🙂


Tonight I’ve played by Chris Fergusons challenge rules for a full year. To recap for the lazy: Chris Ferguson took $1 (twice actually) and worked it up to 20K (and past), playing good and following a set of simple rules:

  1. For cash games and sit-and-go’s he never bought in for more than 5 percent of his bankroll
  2. For multitable tournaments he never bought in for more than 2 percent of his bankroll
  3. When he was in a cash game and his money at the table represented 10 percent of his total bankroll, he would have to leave before the blinds hit him again.

Ferguson spent about a year and a half before he reached his goal. I’m not going to make that of course, but I’ve never had any intention of being in a hurry either.

So, what’s it been like, playing a very strict BRM I hear you ask? Well to put a few words on it, it’s been rewarding, relaxing and and a great learning experience:

Rewarding: For one thing it has given me an added passion for the game. In the beginning I had to make some wise desicions as to what games I would play. Microlimits and freerolls aren’t that much fun, but if your bankroll depends on them, there’s really no way around, and as soon as you can move away from them, the better. And unless you shape up and play well, you’re going to stay at that level forever.

Before I decided to do the challenge, I wasn’t getting the maximum out of what I knew I could do with poker. In fact I was in a bit of a low. So starting over and setting a goal was absolutely the right way to go. Either that or quitting.

Relaxing: Because I always know that I can fall back on the rules of the challenge, whenever I am in doubt. That’s one less decision to be made. There’s no way I can end up gambling for my entire account, which I actually did one day on Full Tilt, playing a $200 heads up, and losing it partly because I couldn’t stop thinking about the money instead of the game.

Also, I know that when I’m playing bad for whatever reason, I can follow the rules and shut down the game. Short term, my roll never has to shrink more than one figure, percentagewise. And losing 5 percent of your bankroll isn’t going to give you sleepless nights ever. Not unless you lost then becaue you played like an ass, of course – which happens sometimes.

A great learning experience: Over the past year my game has had ups and downs. But overall I’ve improved dramatically. Because I’ve had a mission (and still have for sure), I’ve taken much more time to study the game.

I’ve gone from a very mediocre poker player to actually being a winning player. Of course I know that one year of playing may not be enough to decide if I’m a long term winning player. Not in this day and time with people multitabling like they had 8 arms, easily playing 20.000 hands a month.

I still have a load of work cut out for me. I am a much better player, but here are so many things to improve. Especially when it comes to cash games.

But damn! I can look back at this first year with confidence and a stack that has nearly 19-doubled. If I can only do half as well over the next year, I swear I will not be sorry!

I want to am going to post a graph of how the challenge has gone over the year, but unfortunately I never collect the numbers on an Excel sheet, so before I do that, I have to go through the posts of the past year, where I’ve written them down. Stay tuned…