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Hand History: Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier Bursts Onto The Live Tournament Scene With Win In San Remo

by Erik Fast |  Published: Dec 28, 2011

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Jason MercierThe European Poker Tour began in 2004, with founder John Duthie looking to fill the worldwide demand for no-limit Texas hold’em tournaments in his neck of the woods. The EPT grew rapidly, and by its fourth season the decision was made to increase the buy-ins across the board due to heightened popularity and insufficient space at the host casinos. It was in this fourth season that the EPT San Remo main event facilitated the debut of one of tournament poker’s most successful players over the past three years, Jason Mercier.

Before becoming a regular on the live tournament scene, Mercier had been a successful online player while attending college in Florida. Mercier won a satellite into the EPT San Remo €4,700 main event, which drew 701 entrants and boasted a €869,000, or roughly $1,340,867, first-place prize. Mercier found himself with the chip lead at the end of day two, and maintained a healthy stack all the way to the final table of eight, where he began play second in chips behind Italy’s aggressive, but diminutive, Dario Minieri.

Here is a look at the chip counts as the final table began.

Dario Minieri – 1,832,000
Jason Mercier- 1,591,000
Anthony Lellouche – 1,192,000
Gregory Genovese – 694,000
Dag Palovic – 585,000
Eric Koskas – 449,000
William Thorson – 418,000
Marcus Bower – 278,000

Two Big Stacks, Two Approaches

There was a large disparity between the top three of Mercier, Minieri and Lellouche, and the rest of the pack as play began. Although they had similar chip counts, it was clear right from the start that the top two stacks would take very different approaches to this final table. Dario was involved in most every pot: raising, re-raising and chatting up his opponents. On the very first hand he had debated calling an all-in, chattering with opponent Eric Koskas for a number of minutes before folding an ace-jack high.

He went about establishing a loose-aggressive image, and then reaped the benefits when he flopped a set with pocket threes against Dag Palovic’s pocket queens, eliminating Palovic in seventh place. While Minieri was busy mixing it up and getting the table down to six-handed, Mercier seemed content to sit back and fold his weak hands while the chaos continued around him. Usng this dynamic, Minieri was able to execute a perfect squeeze play.

The blinds were at 12,000-24,000 with a 3,000 ante. After remaining uninvolved for the first few orbits, Mercier finally opened for a raise to 61,000 with KDiamond Suit QClub Suit. Lellouche called the raise, setting up Minieri for the squeeze. Minieri took advantage of the situation and re-raised to 266,000 with 6Heart Suit 4Heart Suit, knowing that his three-bet would look strong to all the players remaining in the hand, while probably also figuring that Mercier would be wary about calling with Lellouche behind him, and that Lellouche probably called originally hoping to see a flop multi-way and would not want to play heads-up against a re-raiser out of position. His probable assumptions proved correct, as Gregory Genovese folded 8Diamond Suit 8Club Suit as the next to act facing three-bets, and both Mercier and Lellouche folded too. Minieri took down the pot uncontested with six-high, and once again established that he was ready to mix it up, while Mercier seemed content to wait it out.

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

The blinds had increased to 15,000-30,000 with a 3,000 ante when the next big pot came up. Swedish professional William Thorson raised to 90,000 with AHeart Suit QHeart Suit and Mercier looked down at ADiamond Suit KHeart Suit and elected to re-raise to 225,000. Thorson certainly had a strong hand, but had to be wary of the sudden aggression from the thus-far inactive Mercier. Despite these warning signs, he decided to move all-in and was instantly called by Mercier’s dominating hand. The flop only served to increase Mercier’s lead, bringing the KDiamond Suit 6Club Suit 5Club Suit. The AClub Suit on the turn sealed the deal, leaving Thorson drawing dead in the hand and sending him to the rail in sixth place with $216,946 in prize money.

Mercier was still second in chips behind Minieri after eliminating Thorson, but he grew even closer when he was able to eliminate local Italian player Gregory Genovese in seventh place. Genovese was incredibly short stacked after losing a race to the wild, aggressive Frenchman Eric Kostas. Genovese got his last 122,000 all-in with 10Heart Suit 9Spade Suit. Minieri called with KSpade Suit 9Heart Suit and Mercier called with the AHeart Suit 3Club Suit. The flop brough the ADiamond Suit 7Spade Suit 5Diamond Suit and Mercier bet out 120,000 with his top pair, prompting Minieri to muck his king high. Genovese was in need of running cards to stay alive, and when the QDiamond Suit fell on the turn it was all over for him. He finished in fifth place for $290,855.

The Hand Of The Final Table

The blinds remained 15,000-30,000 with a 3,000 ante. In this hand Mercier was looking to capitalize on the tight image he had established for himself by staying out of the way during early going. He raised to 80,000 from under-the-gun, four-handed with 9Spade Suit 5Heart Suit. Koskas made a loose call to defend his big blind with 10Heart Suit 3Spade Suit and announced that he would check dark. After the flop brought the JHeart Suit 6Diamond Suit 5Club Suit, Mercier decided to check as well with his bottom pair. The turn brought the 8Club Suit, giving Mercier a gunshot-straight draw in addition to his pair. With only ten high and no draw, Koskas bet out 220,000. Mercier made the call and the river brought the 8Heart Suit. Almost as soon as the dealer pushed the final card into place, Koskas barked that he was all-in and jolted out of his seat. Mercier went into the tank for two minutes, during which Koskas did look slightly nervous as he stood behind his chair, occasionally sipping a bottle of water. After thinking over the hand a while, Mercier announced that he called, Koskas looked slightly stunned for a second before revealing that he had air. Mercier showed that he had called with bottom pair and fist pumped as he sent Koskas to the rail in fourth place with $345,015.

Mercier Sprints Down The Stretch

The very next hand after eliminating Koskas, another massive hand came up. Dario Minieri had spent the early portion of final table play terrorizing his opponents with relentless aggression. In this hand he looked to capitalize on his wild image as he looked down at QSpade Suit QDiamond Suit while three handed. With blinds still at 15,000-30,000 with a 3,000 ante he raised to 100,000. Mercier looked down at the ADiamond Suit 4Diamond Suit and decided to three-bet the aggressive Minieri to 340,000. Perhaps looking to disguise his hand, Minieri just called and the flop brought the 8Diamond Suit 7Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit. Mercier checked his nut-flush draw, only to raise all-in after Minieri bet 400,000. Minieri was covered, and called all-in for his tournament life. The 4Heart Suit fell on the turn, giving Mercier two more outs. Going into the river, he needed an ace, four or any diamond to win the hand and eliminate Minieri. The 3Diamond Suit hit the river, and just like that Mercier had eliminated Dario Minieri within minutes of busting Koskas in fourth. Minieri took home $443,767 for his third-place finish.

Now heads-up for the title against Anthony Lellouche, Mercier held a massive chip advantage of roughly 4-to-1. On just the second hand of play, the players got all their chips in the middle. It was a classic race situation, with Mercier holding KSpade Suit QDiamond Suit against Lellouche’s 7Spade Suit 7Diamond Suit. The flop brought the ASpade Suit QSpade Suit 4Club Suit, improving Mercier to a pair of queens and leaving him two cards away from the title. The turn brought the 8Club Suit and Lellouche was down to two outs to stay alive. The 2Club Suit was not one of them, and Lellouche was eliminated in second place for $779,215, leaving Jason Mercier as the last man standing at the 2008 EPT San Remo main event.

How the Hand Histories Look Now

Mercier took home $1,340,867 for his winning this prestigious title. Along the way he demonstrated patience, skill and a fierce desire to win. More than anything else, Mercier announced to the poker world was that he had arrived on the scene. Out of relative obscurity, he had won entrance into a major event and taken it down with prowess and poise. In the few short years since winning this first title in 2008 he has cemented himself as one of tournament poker’s greatest players, with 78 cashes, 15 titles and $7.3 million in earnings. Mercier is now often spotted deep in events, with his trademark pyramid of chips growing up to his neck as he does his best to buy-up and accumulate all the low-denomination chips in play. With all he has done in three years, he could be on the path to a hall of fame career, one that began in the small Italian beachfront city of San Remo. ♠