The poker machine

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The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in 2000 attracted a record 500 players. Over four days, contestants were gradually eliminated until just two men were left to face off in poker's flagship game, Texas Hold'Em. The more experienced player was a living legend named T.J. Cloutier, a 62-year-old Texan road gambler who was regarded by many as the best in the world. His opponent was a 37-year-old computer scientist from California named Chris Ferguson who had only been playing World Series games since 1996, never finishing higher than fourth place. Ferguson might have been a relative newcomer, but he was hard to miss. He had earned the nickname "Jesus" because he hid his face behind a long beard and hair that cascaded over his shoulders, buttressed by wraparound mirror shades and a big cowboy hat. Ferguson never spoke during a game, determined not to show any sign of human emotion; he didn't pay much attention to other players' nervous tics either, preferring to draw all his information from the cards. In Las Vegas that week he had destroyed the field and came to the table with 10 times as many chips as his opponent. More…Cloutier, a former football pro with huge shoulders, paws that dwarfed his cards, and a dominant presence at the table, had seen it all before.