WSOP Main Event Day 1D: Staked - Jason Mercier and his East Coast entourage

By Mad Harper

In April 2008, a little-known online poker professional from Florida took down EPT San Remo, one of the biggest tournaments ever held in Europe, for the euro equivalent of $1.3 million. It was an astonishing victory for Jason Mercier, who was playing only his second ever live event after winning his seat in a satellite on PokerStars.

Since then Mercier, now a member of Team PokerStars Pro, has won eight major events and made the final table in 11 more. He is generally considered to be one of the best live tournament players in the world today and has accrued nearly $5 million in little more than two years. He is still only 23-years-old.

Behind every great man, they say there's a woman ... but behind Mercier, there's sardonic, wry East Coasters Dan O'Brien and Allen Bari. Mercier met O'Brien and Bari a few years ago at Caesar's Palace and the three have been pretty much inseparable ever since, travelling the world together, hanging out and playing poker.


Dan O'Brien, Jason Mercier and Allen Bari. Photo by Anne Laymond

It's Mercier, from Florida, who is ostensibly the star and it's his money that, for the most part, is keeping the gang together. Virtually since day one of their friendship, Mercier has been staking O'Brien and Bari into major poker tournaments around the globe. But within the friendship, there is no clear leader - they all support each other. Poker can be a brutal world and having people you trust around you can prove vital in maintaining perspective.

Mercier's staking is not about altruism either. Although O'Brien and Bari have yet to match Mercier's earnings, they are both highly-rated players with solid results behind them and promising futures ahead.


Jason Mercier on day 1D of World Series Main Event

Staking other players is common in live tournament poker but it's usually carried out on an ad hoc basis - one player pays a percentage of another's tournament buy-in fee in return for a percentage of any winnings. With Mercier, O'Brien and Bari however, the relationship is continuous and on-going.

Now a TV production company has shown interest in following their fortunes with a fly-on-the-wall documentary filmed at this year's World Series of Poker. All three are playing day 1d today - the last of the four day 1s - of the $10,000 Main Event, and the cameras may be on them. It should make for entertaining footage. The three friends are sharp and quick-witted, teasing each other relentlessly with good-natured but acerbic banter.

But what happens if O'Brien and Bari never hit the big bucks? Will it affect their friendship? None of the three think so. O'Brien said: "I've lost as much as I possibly could lose, and we're still doing fine. I've been down as much as $150,000. Actually I would probably be making more money if I was just playing cash games on my own but Jason's investment means I have the opportunity to travel and play these big tournaments. I couldn't do that without him."


Allen Bari, right, began day 1D sitting beside the Team PokerStars Pro Hevad Khan, left

Bari says he was down as much as $170,000 at one point but with $1.4 million overall tournament winnings to his name, he is definitely no slouch on the live circuit. He has already cashed four times at this year's WSOP - including 14th in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event for $113,000 - and recently snagged seventh place at the EPT Grand Final High Roller event in Monte Carlo for $145,000. Both O'Brien and Bari are hugely ambitious. They want to win, and they want to win big. They also have the skills to make it.

For his part, Mercier says he will continue to back them "until they leave me or I run out of money". Neither scenario seems likely at present.



We've now seen all the players in the World Series Main Event, and it's time for a full update of how all the Team PokerStars Pros (and assorted friends) are standing. This is where they're at:

David Williams - 112,225
Chris Moneymaker - 107,475
Thierry van den Berg - 99,700
Matthias De Meulder - 98,475
Gavin Griffin - 97,000
Florian Langmann - 95,025
Lex Veldhuis - 91,925
Jan Heitmann - 83,875
Joe Cada - 67,150
Johnny Lodden - 64,475
Anton Allemann - 63,500
Pat Pezzin - 63,275
John Duthie - 61,425
Henrique Pinho - 59,025
Greg Debora - 58,225
JP Kelly - 53,075
Marcin Horecki - 51,200
Pieter De Korver - 46,850
Marcello Del Grosso - 46,325
Sandra Naujoks - 42,600
Luca Pagano - 41,175
Gualter Salles - 35,575
Salvatore Bonavena - 32,825
Fatima Moreira de Melo - 32,450
Angel Guillen - 31,750
Julian Thew - 30,650
Veronica Dabul - 30,175
Pierre Neuville - 29,250
Vadim Markushevski - 24,675
Daniel Negreanu - 24,475
Ruben Visser - 23,725
Tom McEvoy - 22,950
Marcel Luske - 20,550
Christophe De Meulder - 20,275
George Lind - 11,900
Andre Akkari - 10,850
Dennis Phillips - 9,500
Thomas Bichon - 5,725

Still playing on day 1D

Anh Van Nguyen
Noah Boeken
Vanessa Rousso
William Thorson
Jason Mercier
Barry Greenstein
Vanessa Selbst
Tony Hachem
George Danzer
Alex Kravchenko
Bill Chen
Humberto Brenes
Hevad Khan



Johannes Steindl


Arnaud Mattern
Greg Raymer
Martin Hruby
Alexandre Gomes
Darus Suharto
Maria Mayrinck
Johannes Strassmann
Chad Brown
Dario Minieri
Vicky Coren
Ville Wahlbeck
Victor Ramdin
Ivan Demidov
Joao Nunes
Juan Maceiras
Richard Toth



Jason Mercier: 91,000
Bill Chen: 59,000
Barry Greenstein: 45,000



Players from Days 1A and 1C will be returning tomorrow to play Day 2A. Today's flight will join Day 1B for Day 2B on Saturday.



PokerStars qualifiers are invited to the PokerStars party at the Palms on Sunday night. Snoop Dogg will be there, fo' shizzle.



Sucrose, modified food starch, artificial flavor, carnauba wax, gum acacia, red #40 lake. = Atomic Fireballs



Here's Aaron Gustavson. He's a PokerStars qualifier at the WSOP, but you might know him as EPT London champion.