PCA 2014: Jason Mercier and Ike Haxton, the comeback kids (sort of)

There's no two ways about it, half of the following post is irrelevant. "So little? You're getting better," I hear regular readers say. But hold your keen witticisms for a moment, there's at least a reason this time for the redundancy.

This was due to be a post about comebacks, about those short-stack ninjas who start with little, get it in at the right time, hit a few cards and fly up the leader board, battling right back into contention.

Team Online's Isaac Haxton was the focus. He had somehow managed to turn two-and-a-half big blinds into a workable stack. But then two things happened: First Haxton's flame fizzled and died. But then an even greater comeback came to our attention. It involved Jason Mercier.

So here's the re-shaped article. Part two (Haxton) used to be part one. And now what was part two (Mercier) is now at the top. It's Mercier first, Haxton second. And I'm sure you'll see why that is.

On the up with Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier didn't have many chips coming into today--15,400 to be precise. It was a surprise to everyone.


Jason Mercier in "not many chips" shock

Yesterday on his Twitter feed, Mercier had run a competition among his 81,000 followers for them to guess the number of chips with which he would finish the day (assuming he didn't lose them all). Such is the confidence in the Team PokerStars Pro among his fans that none thought he would possibly finish with fewer than 20,000 chips. A Twitter follower named Marko @okram_sonatnof Fontanos guessed 22,500 and that turned out to be the nearest.

The prize for the closest guess would be to become the 200th person Mercier followed on Twitter. And so it was that Fontanos went from 35 to 36 followers at the touch of a button, with his most recent follower by some measure the most famous.

But back to the tournament, and Mercier was on the ropes. Blinds started today at 400/800 and Mercier's stack didn't allow him to become too creative. But Fontanos, and the 86,000 other followers, will have looked on in delight as Mercier started to do what Mercier does best, doubling, doubling and doubling again.

At the end of the last break, reporters asked Mercier for the quick version of how he'd built up his stack. "Flopped a set of fours against aces," he said. "Then busted a guy who min-raised queen-king out of the small blind and I defended with ten-two. Flop came queen-ten-two."


Jason Mercier with chips. More like it

The latter hand had also made it to Twitter, because it took place in front of a very interested onlooker. Mercier's mother has taken the short flight over from the family home in Florida to watch her son at the tables.

"Like, never," Mercier said, when asked how often his mum watches him play. But she was "standing right there" when Mercier played the Doyle Brunson hand and sent his adversary packing.

Moments after players returned from their second break of the day, Mercier was back in set-flopping mood. He announced he had achieved yet another double up, putting his stack among those of the chip leaders, with about 137,000.

Up, up, down and dead with Isaac Haxton

Coming into Day 2 with the chip lead offers a player certain luxuries that others cannot afford. While Shankar Pillai can arrive late and find his chances in no way diminished, those at the other end of the spectrum had to be more careful about setting their alarm.

After a late-night spot of bother at the end of Day 1A, Isaac Haxton, of Team Online, knew he would return today with 2,100 chips. In tournament terms, that was two-and-a-half big blinds.

Haxton stuck his tongue in his cheek and laid out a game-plan:

As you might expect, Haxton was in his seat in good time and had picked up a bowl of soup to eat at the table. It was just as well. On the second hand of the day a pot played out between Matthew Fox and Thiago Nishijima that went all the way to the river, with thinking on every street.

It took an age to complete and Haxton had quickly wearied of rotating his four individual chips around his fingers. He picked up his bowl of soup and got supping. He needed the sustenance for this one.


Isaac Haxton: Fewer chips than fingers

After that hand finally finished, Haxton was under the gun. But where many players would likely have shoved blind, Haxton let his rags go, watching as his neighbour Kathy Saraf secured a double up through Fedor Holz when her A♥3♥ rivered a flush.

However, Haxton was in the big blind next hand, and that mandatory bet represented about half of his stack. One suspected all his chips were going in here, even if he had cards worse than the A♦K♦ he actually found.

Holz got his small stack in and Fox also called. Haxton put in his chips. "Only because I have a huge hand," he said. But moments later, he was looking at a potential comeback as the second flush in as many hands ran out to his diamonds. "All of it!" he said. "Tight is right!"

Haxton went on to secure two more double ups, finding ace-king again and then pocket kings. And by the time he table broke he was able to sit down alongside Vanessa Selbst and George Danzer with a workable stack.

But the poker gods giveth and the poker gods taketh away. And despite threatening the comeback to end all comebacks, Haxton couldn't spin it much further. He hit the top at about 20,000, dribbled back down to 15,000, then 8,000 and then out.

It was good while it lasted. At at least we still have Jason.

Our coverage of the 2014 PCA is comprehensive on PokerStars Blog, and it is simple to follow. The PCA 2014 Main Event page has a box at the top in which you'll find hand-by-hand coverage and chip counts after the action commences at noon. Below that are feature pieces, interviews and analysis updated throughout the day. You can also follow the action on PCA Live.