For those of us following the European tournament circuit over the last year or so, Jason Mercier is hard to miss in a crowd. Just look for the crisp, white baseball cap donned askew and a massive tower of chips, constructed into a tall, thin pyramid. A friendly, yet reserved young man when you meet him, 21-year old Jason Mercier looks like he could be your fraternity brother, except this one can school you at no-limit hold'em while enjoying a frosty brew. Mercier (pronounce MER-SEE-YUR, unlike his similarly surnamed fellow pro Isabelle Mercier) has enjoyed more tournament success in the last six months than many can hope for in a lifetime on the felt, and it wasn't too long ago that he was just grinding it out online like many of us, just trying to make a living doing what he loves.
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Mercier's first exposure to poker came by playing weekend games with his friends while he was still in high school. It was when he was in college studying to be a math teacher that he discovered online poker. Mercier started out playing and making spending money in small buy-in tournaments, but it was when he transitioned to no-limit hold'em cash games that he started earning a good living at the game. College became less and less important to him and Mercier ultimately made the decision to discontinue his studies and play online full-time.
"I knew what I was getting into when I dropped out," said Mercier in an interview with EPT's Kara Scott.
What he got into was a life grinding it out at the virtual tables. Mercier spent his days multitabling $2/4 and $3/6 no-limit hold'em cash games under the handle "treysfull21", occasionally taking shots at higher limits like $25-$50. In January 2008, he won a seat into the PokerStars Carribean Adventure and headed down to the Bahamas to play in his first live event. Unfortunately, he didn't make it past Day 1. Undeterred, Mercier continued playing online and a few months later won a PokerStars Steps satellite to the EPT's San Remo stop. He arranged his travel to Europe, but the two friends he was planning on going to Italy with elected to head off to Amsterdam instead. Mercier thought about cashing in or selling his seat and heading to Holland with his friends, but decided to let them go and remained in San Remo to play the event. That might be the smartest decision Mercier ever made.
Jason Mercier took the chip lead on Day 2 of play at the EPT San Remo and rode it all the way to the final table, where he faced off with William Thorson, Anthony Lellouche, and Dario Minieri. He ended up making one of the most amazing calls ever seen on the EPT after France's Eric Koskas moved all-in on the river with the board reading J-6-5-8-8 and Mercier went with his read and looked him up, holding only 5-9 for bottom pair. Koskas had nothing more than ten high. Ultimately, Mercier bested Anthony Lellouche heads up and captured his first EPT title and €869,000, or roughly $1.3 million U.S. dollars. Like on those early seasons of the World Poker Tour, an overnight sensation emerged to become an instant millionaire, only Mercier did it on the banks of the Mediterranean, rather than under the neon lights of Las Vegas.
Vegas though, was Mercier's next stop. He played a number of events at the 2008 World Series of Poker, making three cashes, including a 13th place finish in the $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em Event. Once the WSOP wrapped up, Mercier headed back to Europe for another month on the continent, playing a number of events. His first stop was the EPT Barcelona and he wasted no time making another final table. Mercier finished sixth in Barcelona, banking another $325,000. From there it was a short jaunt to London, where he played in the WSOP-Europe. Mercier made the final table of the £5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event and arrived at the final table second in chips, but ran bad in several big pots early on, landing him an eighth-place finish for nearly $49,000. But Mercier wasn't done with London yet, not by a longshot.
Following the EPT's regular London stop at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino was the £20,000 High Rollers Event (yeah, that's nearly a $40,000 U.S. buy in). The event drew a who's who of poker pros, and Mercier made the star-studded final table that included David Benyamine, Scotty Nguyen, Isaac Haxton, and John Juanda, who had just won the WSOP-Europe Main Event across town at the Empire. Mercier ended up heads-up with Juanda, who was going for astonishing back-to-back victories. Though Mercier started off heads-up play at nearly a 2:1 chip disadvantage, he doubled up right away and ultimately busted Juanda on a hand where Juanda held A-J, Mercier held K-Q, and he dramatically flopped the nut straight. Only six months after capturing his first EPT title, Jason Mercier won his second. He took home $945,000, with his career tournament earnings now topping $2.75 million.
Mercier still calls Florida home, where he also coaches the basketball team from his former high school.
(Photo courtesy PokerStars)