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World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table Profile: Greg Merson

Cash Game Grinder Looking For Second Bracelet Of The Year


Greg Merson, a 24-year-old high-volume online grinder from Maryland, has likely played more hands of poker than anyone else in main event history.

He said he has played about seven million hands on the virtual felt.

“I’ve been playing 20-24 tables at time, putting in 1,500-2,000 hands an hour, for the past four or five years,” he said. “There aren’t many people who do that.”

Merson, a bracelet winner from this summer, has also dealt with personal issues leading up to his historic run. He was abusing a slew of drugs in 2011, before fearing death en route to getting clean about 10 months ago.

Since doing so, Merson hasn’t looked back. He entered the WSOP on a huge heater.

The key for Merson is knowing when to quit.

“My emotional control and ability to walk away when I’m tiling or about to tilt is so sick these days,” he said. “I avoid the super big losing sessions.”

Merson was out of debt to Anthony Gregg, his backer for live games, before the $10,000 buy-in shorthanded event, but he decided to keep the deal in order to feel less financial pressure. The decision paid off. Merson won the event for more than $1 million. With the bracelet and all the attention it brings, Merson had some tangible proof that he had turned his life around.

Less than two weeks after his huge win, Merson outdid the performance.

He was standing among the final nine in the main event, poker’s most prestigious and largest tournament of the year. He now has a shot at millions more, a lot of which will be sent to Gregg thanks to their business relationship.

“I will be writing him a big check,” Merson said. “But, I’m not bitter at all. He’s done so much for me in my career. To repay him like this is so cool.”

Aside from playing more and spending some money on his family, Merson said he has only spent about $500 on himself — just some new clothes. Online grinders like Merson are known for playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars in mesh shorts and the most casual of t-shirts while in front of a computer. Don’t expect Merson to change if he soon has multiple millions sitting in a checking account.

Merson, while humble, said that it’s been nice to obtain some recognition after spending years grinding almost anonymously. But, again, it likely won’t change him: “I’m not going to think that I’m better than I actually am. There’s still plenty I need to improve on.”

“The six-max victory validated him as a live pro, and the main event is making him a legend,” Gregg said shortly after Merson, who was down to just a handful of big blinds on day five, made the final table. “It’s crazy. It doesn’t seem like real life.”

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus