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High-Stakes Poker Pro Jason Mercier: "I've Played Less Than 50 Hours Of Poker Since Last Summer"

Florida Pro With Nearly $19 Million In Tournament Earnings Makes 2019 WSOP Debut In $50K PPC

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For about a decade, Jason Mercier has been grinding a full schedule at the World Series of Poker. He was one of the high-volume, highly profitable players that would fire hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournament buy-ins.

Last year, at the WSOP, however, Mercier’s volume dropped off considerably. He only cashed in four tournaments, one of which was the $1,000 tag team event. This year, he didn’t play a single tournament for the first month of the series. He finally made his 2019 WSOP debut at the end of June in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship.

Mercier’s responsibility as a father is what has kept him away from the tournament felt. His first child, Marco, was born in October of 2017, just a year after Mercier’s best summer ever when he won two bracelets, made four final tables, and cashed in 11 events en route to winning WSOP Player of the Year honors.

Last summer, Mercier concentrated mainly on high-stakes cash games, which gave him the flexibility needed to spend time with his family. This year, however, he wants to bring his focus back to tournaments again.

Card Player caught up with the 32-year-old Floridian to talk about balancing poker and fatherhood, his plans for the rest of the summer, and his future in tournament poker.

Steve Schult: You’ve been a dad for nearly two years now. What has fatherhood been like for you?

Jason Mercier: It’s pretty awesome. Every single day I hang out with my son and get to do something with him. It’s pretty much the best experience I could imagine. So, it’s nice to take a step away from the game and spend the time with them while Natasha really needs my help with our children… Well, our child and our kid on the way. She’s six months pregnant.

SS: Congratulations! How have you been able to fit poker in your schedule? Have you been able to balance fatherhood with your poker career?

JM: I haven’t really, to be honest. Since last summer, I think I played maybe under 50 hours of poker total. So, I played a few tournaments in Florida. I went to the Bahamas and played just the $25,000 [PSPC] and one other tournament.

Outside of that, I haven’t really been playing much poker. I thought that it would be easy to travel with a kid. And it’s not. We are trying to figure it out. We are considering maybe moving to Las Vegas or something.

SS: You aren’t planning on leaving poker as a career then? You’re planning on grinding poker tournaments for the foreseeable future?

JM: I mean, right now, I’m kind of like a part-time player. I like to play. It’s nice to take some breaks and whatever. I don’t see myself stopping, but with my current situation living in Florida and not really wanting to travel. It’s kind of hard to play all the time. I think if we don’t have any more kids after this one. Maybe in a couple of years, we’ll start to travel again if we don’t move to Vegas or something.

SS: You came back to the World Series of Poker and made your debut in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. Was this always the plan?

JM: It was just kind of the timing. I wanted to come here for the whole series. We didn’t really make plans and we had some obligations in Florida that kept us there longer than we thought. Initially, I wanted to come here and play the two big PLO events before this event – the $25,000 and the $10,000, but ended up getting here just in time for this. [The Poker Players Championship] is pretty much my favorite event of the year, so I was happy to get here in time for [it].

SS: That’s a prestigious event to just jump into after so much time off. Did you feel rusty or shaky in any spots, or is just like riding a bike?

JM: The thing that has bothered me the most was being tired at the end of the night. I’m not used to the 12-hour sessions, at least not recently. And being on East Coast time and trying to get here and flying and everything. I’m just super jet lagged and I’m just not sleeping very well.

Outside of that, playing is like riding a bike for me. So, I haven’t really felt any rust. Obviously, I’m not playing perfect, but I feel like I’m playing well and holding my own.

SS: Given your time off, what kind of expectations did you come into the summer with?

JM: I mean, my expectations are to try and win a bracelet. There are a few guys that won their fifth, like ‘Grinder’ [Michael Mizrachi], and John Hennigan won his sixth. So, I’d like to win my sixth.

SS: Your wife Natasha also has an impressive poker resume herself with a couple of WSOP final table appearances and more than $1.2 million in lifetime earnings. Has she been able to play much lately?

JM: She hasn’t been able to play this series yet. Her mom gets here in a few days and then she can help with the baby. Then she might play. I’m not sure if she will be able to play many events though. It’s a big time commitment and my son has become very attached to her and me.

Mercier’s WSOP Bracelet History:

Year Format Buy-In Field Size Payout
2009 Pot-Limit Omaha $1,500 809 $237,462
2011 Pot-Limit Omaha Six-Max $5,000 507 $619,575
2015 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Max $5,000 550 $633,357
2016 No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw $10,000 100 $273,335
2016 HORSE $10,000 171 $422,874