PRO-File: Jason Mercier Talks Faith, Goals, And Business For 2014
by Erik Fast | Published: Mar 05, 2014
Jason Mercier exploded onto the live tournament scene in 2008, winning the European Poker Tour San Remo main event for nearly $1.4 million after winning his entry in an online satellite. Still in his twenties, Mercier has already managed to become one of the most successful tournament players in the history of poker, winning 18 career titles and accruing more than $9.8 million in live tournament earnings, along with another $750,000 in online tournament winnings.
Mercier recently announced himself as a Christian after a few years of quietly grappling with his beliefs. Religion is not a topic often discussed in the poker world, but Mercier felt compelled to be open about his faith in a blog on his personal website, which discussed his beliefs and a recent commitment to finding balance in his life away from the poker table. Card Player caught up with Mercier during the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure to talk to him about his recent revelation, his goals for the year and more.
Erik Fast: So Jason, your grandparents just got in…
Jason Mercier: Both set’s of grandparents. All four!
EF: Both sets, and your parents as well. Is this the first time that your family has been able to come out and see you play poker professionally?
JM: I think it’s like the fourth time my parents have come out to watch me play.
EF: You’ve been mentioning on social media that you’ve spent some more time recently around your family and friends from your youth, and how that’s been a really good thing for you. So it must be cool to be able to include them in your work, as opposed to having the poker world and the family world being so separate.
JM: It’s nice for them to be here. A couple of my buddies have been here as well, and it’s nice because a lot of times I leave Florida and it’s like, “Okay, seeya in a month!” or whatever. It’s hard to maintain contact, so it’s kinda nice to have a piece of home with me.
EF: In the blogs you recently posted, you said, and I’m paraphrasing, that ‘in way, you feel as if you haven’t shown the poker world who you really are’. When you have two separate lives, split between poker and family, do you feel that you sort of end up acting like a different person in the poker world than you do at home? And if so, how do you think making a concerted effort to balance the two worlds better will help?
JM: It’s interesting, in regards to that, sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was subconsciously acting for the cameras that come around at events, and you don’t even realize why you are doing certain things. So I’ve learned to be open and honest and just act like the cameras aren’t even there. That’s something that Daniel [Negreanu] taught me, and it is definitely something that I’ve been working on. I’m just trying to be a good person and have everybody fall in love with me, if they haven’t already! (laughs.)
EF: Was there any particular misconception about you that you might be hoping to dispel with your recent focus on being true to yourself?
JM: I want people to know that I have a sense of humor and am not too serious of a guy. I’ve gotten people on Twitter and other forms of media who have come to the conclusion that I’m an arrogant prick. I think that the people in the poker media and my friends who know me would disagree with that characterization. That’s something that I’ve realized that I can’t control, so I’m just going to try to be as good of a person as I can be.
EF: Another thing that you recently brought up in your blogs is your faith, and your decision to discuss it publicly, something that you’ve been hesitant to do previously. Can you talk a little bit about why you might have thought that your faith might have been less than well received in the poker world?
JM: It’s just one of those subjects that, at the poker table, no one ever really talks about Church or that they do believe in God. It just seems like in the poker world, most people just think that if you believe in God that you’re ignorant or stupid. But, coming out with beliefs in the blog I’ve gotten almost nothing but positive responses. People just want to learn more about what I believe and why I believe it. It’s been cool to see the responses and see a lot of poker players say that they’ve gone through similar experiences and believe in God themselves.
EF: Were you really worried that a lot players in the poker world that you were friendly with would actively be against or react negatively to your beliefs, or did you just not want to put your faith out so much that people had to react to it?
JM: One of the things that I guess prevented me from talking about it was mostly my own insecurity about it and not having a good enough grasp of what I even truly believed in. My friends in the poker world that knew that I was a Christian would poke jokes about it sometime, and I wasn’t confident enough in my beliefs to do anything besides brushing it off, saying it was my parents’ thing. Better defining my own faith has helped me in the process of feeling more comfortable in talking about it.
EF: So you’ve been actively talking about finding balance in your life as a poker player recently. This kind of seems to fit in with a recent trend among many poker pros to focus on their fitness and physical health. It used to be that back in the day, many poker pros seemed to fit better into the old school gambler profile, while many of today’s pros are approaching their poker and their time away from the tables more analytically. What are your thoughts on that?
JM: When I posted the blog about balance, one of the things that I was really struggling with was not getting enough sleep. That’s something that I’ve had problems with over the past five or six years. I would go months with only four hours of sleep a night and then crash, talking a couple weeks off and sleeping 12 hours a night. Realizing that trying to get the same amount of sleep every night, at least seven hours, has definitely helped me. Not only am I better rested, but that helps me stay mentally focused at the poker table, and also helps me exercise more efficiently, which then in turn helps with sleep. It’s just kind of all connected, you eat better, you sleep better, you exercise better and you play better, and they’re all interconnected. Doing all of these things is part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
EF: So I also recently heard that you were looking for action on Twitter for a no-alcohol prop bet.
JM: Yeah, I actually haven’t been drunk in over four months now, and it’s something that I’ve been trying to stay away from and wean myself off the party scene for now. It’s not necessarily something I should be doing, because it’s not healthy for me. I drink four drinks, don’t sleep well, and that all carries over to the next day. The bet thing, I just threw out there and was surprised that I’ve been asked about it like a thousand times.
EF: People like prop bet stories.
JM: They do. Maybe I’ll put $100,000 down on dunking a basketball or something.
EF: You’ve also recently publicly made an effort to set more concrete goals, both in poker and away from the table. Can you tell me more about what those are?
JM: I’ve always been like, ‘My goal this year is just to make X amount of money.’ This year I wanted to set a goal of actually winning tournaments. The first four years of my career, 2008 to 2011 I won 13 live tournaments. In 2012 I won zero, and in 2013 I won one. Winning tournaments is definitely something that I’m trying to focus on, so I set the goal of winning three live tournaments this year, one of which I want to be a major title, be it a WSOP gold bracelet or an EPT of WPT win.
EF: You also mentioned some goals away from the tables, including possibly starting a charity?
JM: Yeah, I kind of want to start something like the Jason Mercier Foundation, and then formulate my ideas about what exactly the charity would do. I’m excited about possibly going on some missions trips with my church, and helping out either through my own charity or just helping to fund programs they already do. Just kind of trying to take a more proactive role in helping the world, and it’s something that I’m excited about.
EF: I recently spoke with tournament high roller superstar Phillip Gruissem, and he also has made a commitment to charity as a result of realizing that just playing poker with the goal of winning as much money as possible for himself wasn’t satisfying to him. Is that close to how you feel?
JM: You play poker and you spend so much time on it and all you are chasing is money, and while that helps you do the things that you want to do, it isn’t the end all, be all of happiness. I’m setting goals now for how I want to set up my life and live it during the next few years. Maybe down the line I might play poker less, so I’m formulating my ideas and making a plan.
EF: Along those lines, you’ve recently undertaken your first business venture. Can you tell me about that?
JM: Yeah, I just started a business called Doorstep Delivery. It’s a food delivery service that connects restaurants with customers, and I own the territory in Ft. Lauderdale, where I live. It just opened up at the start of January, and it’s really exciting. I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations, because my business partners are handling most of that, but I’ve been tracking it while I’ve been on the road playing poker. The idea of playing the circuit and having a machine at home, hopefully printing me money, is kind of awesome. I hope it’s successful, as my first business venture, and am looking forward to getting into some other things as well down the line.
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