Jason Mercier is an anomaly in the poker world.
The 27 year old has been a force of destruction on the international poker circuit, racking up nearly $10 million in lifetime tournament winnings since 2008.
He’s also a Christian.
Religion is not something you’d expect to find in the high-stakes poker scene where stories of degenerate gambling, drinking and drug usage run rampant.
Mercier decided to come out to the poker world about his faith in an eye-opening blog post he wrote in October titled “Who am I?”
The Floridian was brutally honest and said that for years he was scared of what people would think about him if he told them he was a Christian.
“My faith is something I’ve struggled with my whole life,” Mercier told PokerListings while in between hands at the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. “I felt inspired to share that part of my story.”
Mercier Becomes Poker Rockstar After San Remo Victory
Jason Mercier back in 2008
Mercier was already an inspiration to most poker fans. After grinding online poker for years he finally broke through with a massive live victory for $1.3 million at an EPT tournament in San Remo, Italy.
From there Mercier went on one of the biggest runs in poker history, winning two WSOP gold bracelets and numerous high-roller titles while garnering the attention of online giant PokerStars, who signed him to a pro contract.
Still, Mercier wanted more. In the last year he decided to start organizing his life and re-finding his faith was at the forefront. He does not regret going public with his faith.
“I got a lot of responses on Facebook and Twitter with a lot of people supporting it, saying they were proud of me,” he said.
“I got a few texts from guys, who are more acquaintances than close friends, who were very supportive and said they believe in God or were Christian. It was kind of cool to know that I wasn’t the only one that was in the same place.”
Not everyone was supportive, however, and Mercier mentioned there were a few random Twitter users who accused him of being preachy.
“I didn’t feel the blog was very preachy at all,” he said. “It was more my feelings on what I’d been going through.”
Mercier: "People Think You Are Spinning the Roulette Wheel"
Jason Mercier's supportive family looks on.
The professional poker circuit is full of distractions and Mercier says it can be difficult for young players to remain focused.
“A lot of the things that we’re surrounded by as poker players are things that the Church would say to stay away from, like gambling and strip clubs,” he said.
“Temptation is the word I would use. For myself, I’ve tried to refrain from those kinds of activities in general.”
Mercier also has to deal with inquiries about his career choice from Christian friends and family.
Jason Mercier at the 2013 WSOPE
“A lot of people think you are spinning the roulette wheel when you tell them you play poker for a living,” he said.
“I explain it like being one of the best golfers or tennis players in the world. You travel and play a tour basically against the other top players. Except in poker anyone can enter. That’s kind of the draw to it.
"It’s hard to explain but poker is not the same as playing blackjack and a lot of people don’t really get it.”
Even Mercier’s parents had some major concerns about him initially getting involved with poker.
“They were very worried when I first got into poker,” he said. “They viewed it as gambling and that it was addictive. It was something that I had to prove to them. That I could play for a living.”
Despite some challenges, Mercier says that poker on TV has changed many people’s perceptions of the game over the last 10 years.
Although Mercier has made more money playing poker than most people will in their entire lives he’s still hungry. He says he feels more focused since getting his life organized and has big plans for 2014.
“I’m looking forward to playing a lot of tournaments,” he said, smiling.
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