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Mercier credits destiny for quick success
It's been a pretty incredible year for 21-year-old Jason Mercier.
Mercier earned his first live tournament cash this April in San Remo, Italy, when he took down the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour's fourth season tournament there. As if that weren't enough, a few weeks ago he captured his second major win of the year in London, this time taking down the EPT's High Roller event there.
Add a WSOP Europe final table, an EPT Barcelona final table and a few WSOP cashes in between, and the live tournament newcomer has already scored more than $2.75 million.
While plenty of people in the poker world respect Mercier's accomplishments, not everyone is jumping on his bandwagon. Mercier says that his rapid rise hasn't necessarily cemented his status as one of the better emerging players on the tournament scene.
"A lot of people on forums have been saying I'm a huge luckbox and stuff like that," he said. "You know, I can't really do anything about that. People are going to say what they want to say. But I know my abilities, and I feel like I am one of the good young up-and-coming players."
A sense of destiny
Of all his successes so far, Mercier's San Remo win still means the most to him.
"It was my first real cash, and I won the tournament. I don't think anything will ever really top that," said the young pro from Florida.
"Just because of where I was at in my life as a professional poker player, going from a $90,000 bankroll to now $1.3 million or whatever was big. And with the High Roller event, I had already made a few final tables and had a win. So the San Remo win was definitely more important to me."
Mercier also feels like the San Remo win was predestined. He said that one month before the tournament began he played a Step 5 satellite on PokerStars on a whim late one night when he saw that registration was almost full.
After winning that one, he immediately played a Step 6 and won his seat to the EPT event. Mercier's roommate had planned to join him before taking a bankroll hit that made him change his mind.
"I thought I was going to sell the seat but I found out that some of my online friends were going to go and they were like, 'You should come meet up with us; you should go.' That's what made me decide to go," he said. "I totally feel like it all happened for a reason, like it was destined to happen."
How does he do it?
Despite his high level of success thus far, Mercier said that making the transition to the live game has been a test of his skill.
"It's been - well, not difficult because I've taken to it pretty easily, but the adjustment has been challenging," said Mercier. "When I was playing online the last two years I was mostly playing 12 tables at a time, and live with just one table you have to be a lot more patient."
But, he says, the ability to play all those tables at once has actually helped his concentration level. "I definitely think that I have a better level of concentration than probably 90% of the players [I play against]," said Mercier.
It also help that his opponents aren't always trying as hard as he is to catch all the available information at the table. "A lot of the guys listen to music and talk to other people," he said, "and I try to zone in on the game and what people are doing and why they're doing what they're doing. I try to get as much information as I can at the table."
Despite the fact that so much of his success so far has come in Europe, Mercier doesn't think that the differences in structure have had much bearing on his success.
"With the EPTs, I think it's coincidence that I ran really well in them compared to the ones in the States," he said. "The way the tournaments are run, the EPT is run a lot faster than the WPT - it's kind of fast the whole way through. You only start with $10k in chips and have 60-minute levels. In this WPT I'm playing [at Bellagio] we started with $45k in chips and 90-minute levels, so there's a lot more play."
He also said that the difference in the caliber of the competition hasn't made a big impact on his fortunes.
"The fields for the EPT really depend on where you are," he said. "In San Remo a lot of the players were really inexperienced at the beginning [of the tournament], but at the final table, really the final three tables, it was pretty much all pros. It got difficult near the end there. At the end of any field, the players left are pretty good no matter where you are."
Down the road
In the near future Mercier plans to continue playing big events, starting with the Caesars Classic in Las Vegas and the WPT at Foxwoods. But before he gets back on the road after that he plans to take a little time away in November to spend his 22nd birthday with those who support him the most.
"My best friend Darko lives in Toronto and I went to high school with him. He's been my No. 1 fan and supporter since I first started playing online," said Mercier.
"He barely plays, but he's always calling me and talking about having a positive attitude and always thinking the best and being confident. I always have that in my head, you know. He's been a huge influence on my success in poker.
"And now my parents are real supportive, too, and my dad is always looking up [tournament coverage] online. It's real good to have the support of your family behind you."
Mercier credits that support with helping keep him focused in San Remo earlier this year. Even when he hits the road again, he can count on the support of his friends on the road. He says he's made lasting friendships with a number of players on the tournament trail, especially the Brazilian contingent of Andre Akkari, Felipe Ramos and Alexandre Gomes.
With so many people in his corner and the kind of confidence that makes champions, it won't be much of a surprise if Jason Mercier builds on his success in 2009.