When you think of all-time greats in the poker world Fred “Sarge” Ferris has to be at the top of your list. Ferris played poker and played it well. Realizing that some people play poker for fun and some played it as a hobby, few of them had what it took to play for a living. Fred “Sarge” Ferris knew he did.
Fred “Sarge” Ferris grew up in the Great Depression and his father did everything to put food on the table. Living in poverty, his brother enlisted in the Navy and later became a well-known watchmaker and jeweler. He wanted to choose a different path. So he picked up gambling. He didn’t call it gambling. He was a consummate professional, never showing off his cards or giving away any information.
Although not much for publicity, Mr. Ferris started getting the attention of the other players and media as well. He started winning big pots, and high stakes cash games garnering the respect of his peers. His first big win came in a deuce-to-seven draw in 1980 winning $10,000. He then won $150,000 and a gold bracelet in the World Series of poker. After collecting his winnings, Fred Ferris was approached by a man named Stu Ungar.
Ungar did everything he could to convince Ferris that he could win the World Series Of Poker, but needed Fred’s help with the entry fee. Fred was unconvinced at first to help him out, after Ungar told him he had never played in a tournament before. Never the less, here stood a man so convinced he could do that Fred gave him a shot. Fred approached it as no different than playing cards; to him it was just another gamble. Ungar played masterfully, out dueling Fred’s arch rival Doyle Brunson to win the World Series of poker.
On April 22nd 1983 IRS agents approached Ferris in the card room and seized $46,000 in chips. It made headlines in on news circuits while sitting at Binion’s Horseshoe at high stakes games. The money was then reportedly seized because of back taxes Ferris owed to the federal government. One of the agents told Ferris to use the remaining money and buy a taco.
Fred “Sarge” Ferris and his scandal outrage the local Hispanic communities. Protesting that one of the agents mocked Ferris’ ethnicity. His parents were born in Lebanon but he was somehow mistaken for a Mexican. This was all a misunderstanding. Ferris said the agent was trying to be nice. The incident died off eventually.
During most of his life, he spent all of his time at the poker table. It seems appropriate to have his tombstone made out of a poker table, he died there. On March 12th, 1989, after playing in a high-stakes cash game, He suffered a massive heart attack. His funeral was held in Las Vegas. Many people attended his funeral. People came to show their condolences, some were happy he had died.
However after everything Ferris brought to the game he became the 18th inductee into the poker hall of fame. Later that year after a long investigation by both Las Vegas casinos and the Indian gaming commission, Ferris would be linked as one of five men who was in debt to the mob. To Fred’s credit the mob would never see their money.
He will be remembered for his accolades and achievements in the world of poker. His intelligence for the game and his techniques have earned him the respect of future poker players. Fred “Sarge” Ferris was called a “consummate pro” for a reason.