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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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Jason Mercier in hot pursuit of one more WSOP bracelet

5 Jul 2016

By Gary Trask
Jason Mercier has already done a career's worth of damage during this year's World Series of Poker, winning a pair of bracelets while making it to four final tables and cashing in 10 events. But he is far from satisfied. With the number of events remaining dwindling toward single digits and the Main Event set to begin on Saturday, the 29-year-old Florida native is hell-bent on becoming just the seventh person in history to win three bracelets in a single WSOP. He admits he's entering events he typically wouldn't even bother with, and he's multi-tabling events more than ever. Last week, for the first time in his career, the longtime pro was playing in three events at the same time — and for good reason. "Let's put it this way," Mercier said with a rise in his voice. "If I win one more bracelet, it's going to be raining money." To Mercier, that's all that matters. Yes, a WSOP Player of the Year, which he is running away with at the moment, would be a nice addition to his already extraordinary resume, which had three WSOP bracelets, a European Poker Tour and two WCOOP titles, and nearly $17 million in career earnings on it before this summer's epic run. Sure, he'd love to make a deep run in the Main Event, a tournament he calls "special" even though he hasn't had great success in it. As the accolades and victories keep piling up, he's fully aware that someday the Poker Hall of Fame may come calling. But Mercier insists he doesn't have a "bucket list" of goals like that. Poker is strictly a business to him. And right now, business is pretty darn good. "It's been an interesting summer, to say the least," he told Casino City over the Independence Day weekend, during an extremely rare period of 24 hours without entering a tournament. "It seems like every move I make is working. Every bluff I make is working. I'm getting paid when I have it. Along with that comes a lot of confidence, and then people become somewhat fearful of you. They start making mistakes without even knowing they're doing it. When you start forcing people into making mistakes without even really doing anything, it's a nice spot to be in." Getting 180-to-1 odds on a now very achievable feat is also a pretty nice spot to be in. That's what Mercier received from fellow PokerStars pro Vanessa Selbst at the start of the WSOP in what has become the most publicized side action of the summer. Mercier reportedly laid $10,000 with Selbst on the bet, and when he took down the $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship on June 13, then final tabled and took runner-up two days later in the $10,000 Seven Card Razz Championship, Twitter started to explode. Selbst claimed she was drunk when she made the wager and wanted out. Mercier didn't let her off the $1.8 million hook, and when he scored his second bracelet of the Series on June 15 in the $10,000 HORSE Championship, just halfway through the event schedule, the heat on Selbst was hotter than the sidewalks outside on the Las Vegas Strip. "I never expected this to be such a big deal, because I never really expected to win two bracelets, let alone three," Mercier admitted. "I've played the World Series eight times. The closest I ever came to winning two was last year when I took a first and a second. So, I really wasn't expecting any sort of sweat on this bet." When asked if the friction between her and Mercier was real or a social media creation, Mercier declined to go into details. "I'd prefer not to get into that," he said politely. "We've dealt with it. It's all worked out." Mercier told us the action with Selbst is far from the lone wager he made on himself this summer. He's already cashed multiple bets on winning just one or two bracelets, and many more are pending. "I have no clue how many I've made, but I've got a whole list of them and it's nice that a lot of them are already settled," he said. "I just bet someone the other day and took 11-to-1 that I could win one more bracelet. That's why I've been playing so many tournaments. I'm multi-tabling more than ever." Mercier said he felt great entering this year's WSOP, but never saw this kind of run coming. He does, however, feel like the stability of his life away from the table has played a large role in this summer's success. Eighteen months ago he began dating poker pro Natasha Barbour, and the relationship has done wonders for him both personally and professionally. "It's very helpful to have a partner who is supportive and understands the game," Mercier said of Barbour, who has 11 career WSOP cashes, with six of them coming this year. "A lot of times, my previous relationships put a strain on my professional career because the girl doesn't understand the game or why I would want to play for 18 hours straight, so it's been a relief to have Natasha here for me and to have her as my constant support." Mercier also feels like he's come a long way as a poker player over the years. His first career cash came in 2008 when he won the EPT Main Event in Sanremo, taking home $1.37 million. He's gone on to win events in London, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dublin, St. Kitts, Madrid and Monte Carlo. He holds the record for most weeks spent as the No. 1 player on the GPI Index at 84, and he now ranks 23rd on the all-time WSOP career cashes list. As much as he says it's all about the more than $17 million he has banked as a poker pro, Mercier does look back at his career and reflect with pride. "I'm proud of the fact that I've been able to adapt over the last decade and been able to consistently put up good results," he said. "I feel like as the game has changed, I have been able to change with it. And I did so by putting in the hours, staying up with the evolution of the game and always making sure I'm on top of my game. "All I want to do now is finish strong here in Vegas and get that third bracelet. I don't care what event it comes in, or how it happens. I just want to win it. That's all I'm focused on right now."
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