PCA 2012: Jason Mercier: player, model, failed coffee drinker
The life of a Team PokerStars Pro isn't quite as easy as you may think. It's not all playing, partying and hanging out with Liv Boeree/Daniel Negreanu/insert your favourite pro's name here. They have... obligations. Interviews, blogs, guest commentary, meet-and-greets all pepper a Team Pros life like variance. The upswings of silver service and comped buy-ins mark the upticks, added media scrutiny and sometimes having to get out of bed early form the downswings. Yesterday we decided to tag along on a magazine cover shoot to find out exactly what being a Team PokerStars Pro entails...
Randy 'Nananoko' Lew is in the Adonis room, across the hall from the press room, fielding questions about his successful Guinness World Record attempt in a Q&A session. Jason Mercier had already ticked that duty off having sat with Andre Akkari and world champ Pius Heinz on Tuesday. Today he's scheduled in for a photo shoot.
Mercier rolls into the press room just past noon wearing basketball shorts, a t-shirt and plastic sandals pulling a small red suitcase behind him. The wheel-on luggage is full of clothes; two t-shirts, two shirts, trainers, cap, trousers and trainers. Photographers hate it when you turn up to a shoot with just one outfit. Mercier has done this before.
The 25-year-old American was picked up by PokerStars in 2008, shortly after scoring the $1,372,893 EPT San Remo title which exploded him onto the live scene. Most of his $7,587,371 tournament cashes have been won while liveried and the global poker press has been keen to get the photogenic young pro on their covers.
"I've done twenty-five to thirty shoots. Seven, eight, maybe nine cover shoots," said Mercier, but his key concern is to get hold of a grande vanilla latte and a bagel with cream cheese - he hasn't had a chance to eat since his morning basketball game. His Team Pro handler agrees to pick his brunch up and drop it off when we've got a shoot location, after she's ferried some other Team Pro members around of course.
Ten minutes later we're on a bridge over the Atlantis lagoon, Mercier sat on the handrail worrying that his iPhone may fall out of his pocket. He smiles on demand, no easy feat given the amount of light bouncing up off the water.
"It's not easy smiling when you're squinting," points out Mercier. Try it sometime, it really isn't that easy.
Twenty minutes after that we're on a path leading out towards the beach. A few overweight tourists take their time to wander around aimlessly in the background, ruining the shot in the process. Photographer and assistant pause the production, being careful to keep hold of the tall flash light in the breeze. This happens several times. It's now close to one o'clock and it's hot, even Florida native Mercier thinks so.
The coast is clear and the Team Pro, under instruction from photographer Neil Stoddart, jumps a few inches off the ground. Stoddart is lying on his back, camera stuck to his face and aimed at Mercier.
"Jump a little higher," says Stoddart.
Mercier jumps a little higher. Further requests include that he opens his hands wider, then ball them up into fists. Now smile. Now do all three. Mercier keeps jumping, but the smile is wearing thin beneath the glaring Bahamian sun.
Do you feel like Derek Zoolander? I ask.
"I feel like an idiot," Mercier replies looking up as another group of tourists amble by, staring slack-jawed at the entertainment of a man jumping up and down on the spot with a forced grin plastered across his face.
The heat gets too much for me, I am English after all, and I head back to the tournament room. Mercier and the snappers are packing up to head to a basketball court, the third and final location, where they'll be for the rest of the two-hour shoot.
As a large circular reflector gets twisted and folded away next to him, Mercier squints at his phone, checking to see if there's a text message about his coffee. There isn't. The vanilla latte never arrives. It can be a hard knock life for these Team PokerStars Pros.