Mer Brit, who plays on the PokerStars handle "peachymer" is not your everyday online poker fiend. She's a sweet Southern woman who loves photography, volunteer work and horses. The newest member of Team PokerStars Online is also a feared tournament player. PeachyMer hails from Atlanta, and describes her game as more focused on psychology and concentration than on math. It's hard to argue with her results. Her big scores include 9th at the 2009 WCOOP Main Event for $96,000 and many first place finishes, including a November 14th victory for over $37,000. But there are still new heights to scale, "I haven't had a six figure score yet," she said. I caught up with Peachy on a busy day just before the start of her Tuesday night session.
Jennifer Shahade (JS): I was just looking through your blog and admiring all the photography side by side with color-coded spreadsheets of your poker schedule. It seems like the outdoorsy nature of photography would fit really well with the more homey nature of online poker. What came first, your passion for poker, or your passion for photography?
Mer Brit (MB): It's funny that you ask because I never told anybody this, but it actually came from poker. The first SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera I got was through PokerStars with Frequent Player Points (FPPs). Before that I used to just have a point and shoot and thought that people with those big cameras around their necks looked silly. But I liked the Canon Rebel so much, I was just like "Wow." Photography is a great way to relax while actually doing something creative.
JS: Speaking of PokerStars rewards, applications to become part of PokerStars Team Online go out to anyone who makes SuperNova, or 100,000 yearly VPPs. That can be pretty hard to do with multi-table tournaments. What do you recommend for those who are looking toward that goal?
MB: Cash is probably the best way. I honestly barely make it (with tournaments) if I have a busy month outside poker.
JS: Why did you decide to make the transition from cash to tourneys?
MB: I'm kind of OCD so I work better on schedule, I like to set aside blocks of time to play. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but I wouldn't want to play cash for 12 hours on Sunday and feel that I need to keep playing if I didn't have a good start. I'm also that kind of person who needs that new hobby and new refresher. Tournaments are always new, it's always different people, always requiring a whole different mind-set.
JS: You seem like a very busy woman. Do you ever have any situations in which you are supposed to meet a friend or attend a party but have to cancel because an MTT is going longer than you expected?
MB: This only happens very rarely if I play on Saturdays. Usually I make my schedule to fit around my life. I play Monday through Wednesday nights and Sundays. My friends are older. I'm not that 20-21 year-old who is hitting the town every night.
JS: How many tables to do you usually play?
MB: I try not to go above six. I have three monitors, but for some reason, if I don't have a table on the main screen, I feel I lose my focus.
JS: Do you feel this gives you an edge against pros who are playing more tables and can't focus as well on individual games?
MB: I think it's really personality dependent. Some people like Randy Lew need to have that many tables. His mind functions in a different way. My brain shuts down when I have too many tables. I don't think it gives me a better ability against others, but it gives me ability for myself.
JS: You've stated that you're more adept at the creative and psychological aspects of poker. How does that come into your play?
MB: I think it's a question of right vs. left brain. I've always needed creative, interactive outlets. I'm not a math person. For instance, I'll shove in a spot where people will say, "You're not mathematically supposed to do that" and then when the other person folds, "they're not mathematically supposed to fold." But for me, I'm thinking about it more psychologically like if I was in their spot, would I fold?
I don't use any sort of HUD (Heads Up Display). I like to pay attention to what's going on. I find it's a distraction when I see all those numbers. For instance, maybe I could have a large sample size of hands against someone and they seem tight, well that doesn't mean they're not capable of making a non-standard move. I hesitate to say that can be "garbage info" because other people find it useful, but it's garbage info for my brain.
JS: Yeah, I can understand that. When you have limited time to make a decision in a tournament....having those numbers can make you focus on something very specific rather than what YOU think is important. Do you take a lot of notes on opponents?
MB: Weirdly enough I color code people! Go figure with my photography. That helps me a lot.
JS: What colors do you give for strong players?
MB: For people who are really good, I color code as purple or pink. Purple if I don't know them as well, pink if I know they are good and they are a friend. That way, if I see a pink-coded player at my table, I can go into the chat and say "hi" or "good luck."
JS: Wow, that's one of the nicest habits I've heard described from a poker player.
MB: (laughs): I love to chat. I get bored if no one chats. Weirdly, talking makes me more focused. When I play, I have to have classical music; I have to have a candle burning. I must have a very chill environment, it really helps my poker. If you chat with me, whether you're being nice or rude, I will answer back positively. It's fun to me.
JS: How do you recommend women to deal with chat that may not be so nice?
MB: You have to pick in your mind whatever rational explanation you have for their behavior. Some people are negative. I'm positive. Maybe it's a chemical thing and they can't help it.
JS: Do you have any live event plans in the future?
MB: Online suits me but I do plan on playing live. I'm hoping to play some things next year. I do love to travel but I try not to think about it too much, cause then I'm like "OHHHH, I'm missing that," but I have obligations here that I'm taking care of. When I do play, I'll be that person who goes a few days early to sightsee and scuba-dive. I want to experience some of these places where PokerStars offers tournaments. Sounds like heaven to me.
JS: Where would you like to go most?
MB: Almost all of them. Most of my traveling for volunteer work was in Africa and Asia, because I wanted to save my travel in Europe and throughout America for when I had kids and a family. That seemed easier. I would love to do every single stop.
JS: What sort of bankroll management advice do you have for women?
MB: Well for me, if someone gives me a standard for instance 300 buyins, I usually minimum double and sometimes quad it. I may be over-excessive in this way. It gives me a level of comfort. It takes out any possibility of stress in poker. That sense of disappointment if I take a shot and it doesn't work out...I'd rather avoid that and put in the extra time with lesser stuff.
JS: Sometimes I think bankroll management comes more naturally to women. What do you think about separate women's tournaments and the online women's league that PokerStars has started?
MB: I love it! I know it's against the grain and a lot of other respected women have a different opinion. But some may forget how it was at the start. If you get to play a women's tourney where you don't have other people berating you or hitting on you, that can be a great stepping stone to get more women into poker.
JS: Are you planning a full schedule for SCOOP (Spring Championship of Online Poker)?
MB: Oh yeah, my volume will go up for that and I'm greatly anticipating it!
JS: Are you playing anything tonight?
MB: Yes, I'll definitely be playing the 1K (Super Tuesday) and the 109 Rebuy. I don't usually play a lot of tables mid-week.
JS: Oh no, am I holding you up, it's already past 8!
MB: Don't worry, there is late registration.
JS: Cool, I'm going to come sweat your tables and say "hi." After all, my new goal in poker is to get that pink stamp of approval from you...
MB: Oh, sure, no problem. Just come and say "hi," I'll open your table and make you pink.
JS: (laughs) on a serious note, now that you are on Team Online, how do you plan to follow-up on all your success so far?
MB: It's a priority for me to continue to do well but I try not to focus on my results because that makes poker no longer positive for me. I want to refocus and really improve. I'm in a groove, so I want to push to motivate and fine-tune.