2012 Main Event winner Greg Merson has quietly become one of the best World Champions in recent history.
The respected pro has amassed over $1 million in live tournament earnings since winning the Main Event, while speaking his mind and being an outspoken ambassador for poker.
Now the Maryland native has gone one step farther and become the first pro officially affiliated with WSOP.com.
First Official WSOP.com Poker Pro
PokerListings caught up with Greg while on break at the 2014 WSOP APAC to get his thoughts on repping WSOP.com, the upcoming November Nine and the insane journey he took to get to Australia.
PokerListings.com: Can you talk a little bit about the marathon 70+ hour trip you took to get to Australia?
Greg Merson: You want the short version or the long? [laughs]
First day I missed my connection because of weather. We had to stop in San Antonio for like two hours. So we get stuck in Los Angeles for the night.
The next night we board the flight at 9:50 pm. Then somethings wrong with the plane. We de-board. I don’t have my bag. Third day the flight to Australia got five hours in but there was an engine problem so we had to turn around and land in Hawaii.
I didn’t even think I’d get my bag. It came out in Hawaii luckily. On Day 4 there was no flight to Australia so we left at 8 a.m. on Day 5.
We missed our connection in Sydney but luckily that was only an extra hour. When we got here my reservation was initially canceled. It only took a few minutes to clear it up but when that happened I was like, “****, really?”
PL: What was your mental state like after a trip like that?
Yeah it sucked, man. I’m really spoiled, I’ve only flown these flights business class but because I was traveling with my girlfriend and Mom I was flying economy. It was just the worst. I never want to do that again.
PL: What’s it like having your family at a poker tournament?
I took my Mom to Monaco five years ago, and she’s been to the Bahamas with me, but my girlfriend has never been outside the country. She just graduated with her doctorate so it’s a nice break for her.
She’ll start working full time when we get back, at which point I’ll just mooch off her and retire [laughs]
PL: Do you find you see a bit more of the city when you bring your friends and family?
Yeah I did over 20 hours of tourist stuff over the last two days. I was here last year and all I did was walk around the city. I didn’t see a kangaroo or do any of the well known tourist stuff. There’s no way in hell I’ll go back to that.
PL: WSOP.com seems like a really good fit for you, especially at a time when a lot of poker pros are losing their sponsorship deals. How did that one come to be?
I had my eyes on getting that done for quite some time now. Once I was able to get my foot in the door to some meetings and explain how it would work for both sides, it started to make sense to everyone.
Now I’ve made the full-time move to New Jersey to play online.
Actually I stuck around in Vegas after the summer to keep playing on the Nevada site. I played a bunch during the summer too.
I think things are going well. It’s kind of my job to recruit players to the site. I know a lot of the guys that put in a lot of volume and make six figures a year.
Someone like myself is valuable to the company in order to bring in those customers that might be playing elsewhere or might not understand that we actually have games in New Jersey and there actually is traffic.
A lot of people think there is no action and there’s no traffic. There actually is. I played over 100,000 hands last month.
PL: It’s still early in the game but how do you like the WSOP.com software?
I love it. I really do. I’m not just saying that because I’m with the company. I’ve played on so many different sites and I would put WSOP.com in the top three or four in the world.
We’re using 888poker software and I couldn’t even touch that software a year or two ago. The update is really good and it runs smooth. It doesn’t crash very often. The tables pop up when there’s action, which is really important to me since I usually cascade or tile tables.
PL: It’s nearly time for the 2014 November Nine. Would you have any advice for those guys?
For me I just tried to do everything that got me there. I’ve actually been talking to Billy Pappas a lot. I just found out he was an amateur like a week ago. I had no idea.
I’ve watched all the WSOP episodes so far but I haven’t really gotten to that point yet. He’s the one I’m rooting for, just out of personal interest.
I also played with the chip leader [Jorryt van Hoof] a lot over the years so I wouldn’t mind seeing him win either.