WSOP 2015: Jason Mercier on a bad summer turned good



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There was a time earlier this summer when Jason Mercier thought things couldn't get any worse. It didn't last long, but at the time he was 100 per cent serious when he said it was a terrible summer.

You might think this was odd coming from a man who had just won three SCOOP titles. But the numbers were pretty persuasive. He was down something like $600,000 in cash games, and $150,000 worth of tournament buy-ins. Nothing, it seemed, would stop the rot.

"I was just getting beat up in cash every session I played," said Mercier. "But I ended up kinda getting on the right track and winning the bracelet. Had a few nice scores after that and turned everything around."

Something about this was textbook Mercier. It's never that long before he gets himself out of trouble. As he would explain in that familiar Mercier baritone, that goes for off the table too.

First matters on the table. Was he able to put his finger on what went wrong?

"I think that it's just variance," he said. "I was playing pretty much the same way and things just weren't going well. There are times in poker when you're making every decision correctly and you just can't win a hand. So sometimes you have to just power through that and reassure yourself that you're playing well and continue to play well and not change anything."

Mercier did power through and got a third career bracelet in Event #32 to show for it. Days later he narrowly missed out on the final table of the Players Championship. Days after that he narrowly missed out on bracelet number four in the PLO Championship. Bad summer officially over.

"It's something I've learned over the last seven or eight years of playing. You can't just panic when you're not running well. You have to stay focused and continue to play your best and usually things turn around."

As Mercier admits, Las Vegas is more a place he has to come, rather than would naturally choose to visit, the latest stop on a road trip that dates back to April. So far it's taken in the Borgata, Monte Carlo and SCOOP, before he touched down in Las Vegas for the World Series.

"It's almost like a vacation spot that I have to go to multiple times," he said. "I've spent so much time in Vegas, at least two months every year for the last seven years, so I'm used to being here. I wouldn't say that I like being here, but I like being able to play poker at the highest level. If you want to be doing that during the summer you need to be in Vegas."

But like I said, it's not just on the table where Mercier has things fixed.

While Mercier might not exactly feel at home out here in the desert, it makes trips home to Florida to see family and friends all the more important. When he's not on the road he's back home catching up with the other stuff. The birthdays and the get-togethers, hanging out with people who don't care about poker titles or trophies, just catching up and talking about real life.

"When you're gone for two or three months at a time, a lot of times you lose touch with what's going on with family and friends. I try to make the most of my time at home and try to make up on missing out."

Family is a key part of the Mercier make-up, providing the crucial back-up regardless of what's taking place at work.

"They understand," he said. "My parents have taken trips before and seen the grind of it all and seen how much I'm playing and engaged in the responsibilities I have with PokerStars. They understand it. They may be worried it's not something that can be sustainable for their full life, and I kind of agree with that. It's not something I see myself doing for the next 30 years."

A couple of year ago Mercier took a couple of months out of the game. The pressures of travel, playing, winning and losing, all over long periods of time, can come with a high price; one that Mercier decided was not worth paying indefinitely. Instead, he took the decision to step back for a while.

"I think sometimes the constant go-go-go of this industry means sometimes you lose track of what the real world is actually like," he said. "Taking a month or two off every now and again gets you back to reality and helps you realise that this is not all that there is.

"I'm sure most players would benefit from taking a month or two off from poker and just relaxing. It's also just gambling, you know? If you're taking a month off poker and you're hanging out with buddies who are professionals, you're still immersed in that lifestyle. Taking a break and spending time with people who aren't professional gamblers is very helpful."

It makes his approach to the game a little more pragmatic as he takes his seat in the Main Event. Right now he's up plenty, having tripled his stack. Any worries about the summer are now happily behind him, with the biggest event in the world now his pre-occupation.

"I'm kind of excited about continuing this grind."

Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog. Photos by Jayne Furman of PokerPhotoArchive.com.