Jason Mercier could have been in Amsterdam right now. Having won his ticket to the PokerStars.com EPT San Remo on PokerStars Jason was all set to travel here with a few buddies until at the last minute his friends opted instead for a trip to the Dutch capital. Faced with a journey here alone, whilst they lived it up in Holland, Jason almost cashed in his seat. The decision not to cancel was a good one for the 21-year-old, earning him € 869,000 as the PokerStars.com EPT San Remo champion.
From Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Jason turned his back on a career in teaching after discovering online poker and developing that into a lucrative source of income. The EPT San Remo was just his second major live poker tournament and having busted out of the PCA on the first day (his first live event) he may have been forgiven for thinking he needed a little more practice.
Instead he came to San Remo, and in amongst the euphoria of a partisan crowd cheering on their home players he came out tops, beating Frenchman Antony Lellouche heads-up in just two blink-and-you’ll-miss-them hands.
It came down to a simple case of Jason betting, Antony moving all-in and Jason calling. Pocket sevens against A-Q for Jason which hit a second queen on the flop. Bang, this one was done. Two hours 40 minutes. Jason, in traditional EPT victor fashion, looked like he’d just finished a shift – happy but not tuned in to that millionaire way of thinking and what all this would mean – $1,340,867 and a seat to the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo next week.
“The two handed heads up was a surprise. I really wasn’t sure what he had when he raised so much, I thought maybe a weak ace, maybe a small pair, maybe just nothing so I figured the opportunity with KQ would be significant. Plus I’d still have the lead 3.4m to 2.6m.”
Here’s how the final table lined up…
Seat 1: Gregory Genovese – Italy — 694k
Seat 2: William Thorson – Sweden — 418k
Seat 3: Eric Koskas – France – PokerStars qualifier –449k
Seat 4: Jason Mercier – United States – PokerStars qualifier — 1,591k
Seat 5: Anthony Lellouche – France — 1,192k
Seat 6: Dario Minieri – Italy – Team PokerStars Pro — 1,832k
Seat 7: Dag Palovic – Slovakia — 585k
Seat 8: Marcus Bower – United States – PokerStars qualifier — 278k
The final started with some theatrics, a vignette if you like, starring Eric Koskas as the lead (who had moved all-in) and Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri in a supporting role. The two talked it over for a while making for some entertaining spiel, particular as both players have developed valuable reputations as being a little crazy. Eric wanted a call, Dario wanted to know what Eric was holding before he did. Ruthless assasins had become nervous all of a sudden. What are they doing talking?
“You think I bet all-in on the first hand with nothing?” asked Eric. “I’m crazy but not stupid!”
Dario would fold, eventually, a slow introduction to the rapid-fire final ahead.
PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower was the short stack on the day and as hand after hand passed him by it was only a matter of time before he’d be outside in the sun, away from this artificially bright place, with €76,700 to spend.
Coming over the top of a Lellouche bet, Bower moved his stack in. The camera closed in on Marcus wearing a winter scarf, white rimmed sunglasses and a look of inevitability on his face. It got back to Antony who called with A-J, whilst Marcus showed his pocket fours. It all looked good for the American until the river which delivered the fatal ace.
Slovakian Dag Palovic has built something of a reputation for himself in the fourth season of the EPT, marked out as a bit of an extrovert as well as being unpredictable. Dag made the final of the EPT Prague last December so was due some respect. Back then he finished seventh and he was destined to have the same fate in San Remo.
He moved in with pocket queens on a flop of 2-3-8. But he knew things were about to get bad when Dario Minieri insta-called holding a set of threes, a hand that evoked a Slovakian death growl from Palovic. Eights on the turn and river were no good for Dag who was out from the second final of the year for €111,800.
An hour and a half into the last day William Thorson would exit next. He led out only to be re-raised by Mercier, before re-raising all-in himself. A call by Jason with A-K put him ahead of Thorson with A-Q, a match-up that was stopped dead with a king on the flop.
A formidable master of tournament poker wherever he plays, Thorson was out in sixth, unable to go that step better than his third place in Dublin back in season three. €140,600 presumably little consolation.
Gregory Genovese arrived at Casino San Remo today cast as the understudy to Dario Minieri. Had anything gone wrong for Dario – a cataclysmic collapse in the first few hands perhaps — Gregory would have stepped up as the ‘Italian to cheer for’. In the shadows of Dario, Gregory would play a solid final in his own right, doubling up when he needed to, playing a tight game other times.
Ironically Dario started the pot that would eliminate his countryman, a 90k raise before Gregory moved all-in. What looked to be a simple case of Italy versus Italy took a different turn when Mercier called the all-in. Dario did the same but took no further part in the hand when, on the 7-A-5 flop Jason bet out again, changing Dario’s mind. It left Gregory’s fate to be determined by the two cards Jason had in front of him – A-3 for a pair against the T-9 of Gregory. The result was predictable, Gregory Genovese out with € 188,500.
Twenty minutes later the flamboyant Frenchman Eric Koskas would be next to go, crushing the hopes of the non-Italian table entertainer. No more talking, no more dramatics. The oft time chip leader from this week was eliminated by Mercier (again) in fourth place, the start of a shift up in pace at the San Remo final.
The hand had made it to the river reading 5-J-6-8-8. Before the last eight had hit the baize Eric had moved all-in, a ballsy move that put the pressure on the big stacked American who spent time thinking it over. Whilst everyone speculated on what hand Eric could have Jason was holding 9-5, good for a pair of fives that could only beat a Koskas bluff.
He called and found that to be exactly what he was up against – just ten-high for the Frenchman who had suddenly been bumped out ahead of his own schedule, €223,600 for his efforts, but not enough to wipe the look of pain from his face.
The big shock in amidst all this was the premature exit of Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri. An Italian superstar on Italian soil seemed too good to pass up for the press and not least the locals who had put their hopes of EPT victory on his young shoulders, wrapping themselves in the Italian tricolore, using hotel bed sheets to create banners of support.
Even the neutrals seemed ready to concede that this would be the week of Dario; this pocket battleship of a player who scampered his way through the field even when hands had backfired on him, leaving him in a hole. When they did his style was to lob in some dynamite and blast a way out; getting the crowd on their feet once more in the process.
To play a hand against him seemed to those watching like a gut-wrenching ride for whoever was involved – like waiting for your test score after a math exam. But one hand would change all that, actually carried out by a former math teacher. Jason Mercier again, setting the test that ultimately Dario would fail, silencing those bedecked in flags and thick accents in the process.
“I was planning on staying out of Dario’s way until I got down to three-handed or heads-up because obviously you have to take a chance on that.” Jason would say later.
The two went into the hand with over five million chips between them, a colossal chip lead making this an unexpected clash that would leave everyone asking ‘what happened?’ The pot was already 719k high when they saw a flop – 2h-7d-8d. Antony Lellouche must have been wondering what was going on.
Dario made it 200k and Jason moved all-in. Time to throw out the script – Dario insta-called.
“He raised from the button and I looked down and saw an ace and was planning on three betting all the way as standard.” Said Jason. “When he flatted I really wasn’t sure what he had. I was pretty much planning on giving up unless I hit an ace or a flush draw and a wheel or something like that. When I hit the flush draw I decided it was more profitable to check raise all in so then I get value if he bluffs. Then also I didn’t want to have to call the all in if I bet out 500k.”
Dario looked worried. He was ahead but not as far as he’d like to have been, showing pocket queens to Mercier’s A-4 of diamonds. There were two diamonds on the flop but also the threat of an ace. The turn added to that, a four of hearts. With the appropriate dramatic pause for television, the crowds and enough tension to bring the players to their knees, the river card was dealt – a three of diamonds and a flush for Mercier. Sudden elimination for Dario Minieri.
The crowd made a noise, kind of the exact opposite of a loud roar. Suspended in disbelief the colour drained from Dario’s face as behind him his friend Luca Pagano looked the same. From a sense of jubilee at the start today to a horrid anti-climax, the Italian dream of a home winner was over and it had catapulted Jason Mercier into a position of total domination. The shock of the week, the shock of the season.
Jason Mercier – United States – PokerStars qualifier – 5,782,000
Antony Lellouche – France – 1,392,000
A word should be said about the Frenchman, an accomplished and well-respected pro who had made the final in London earlier this season and is among the elite of French players on the European circuit. A gracious winner and noble in defeat, he stood little chance against the might of the sky line his opponent’s stack made. It took Jason Mercier two hands to win the EPT San Remo.
Antony found pocket sevens, a good hand heads up, and moved in. It just didn’t work out. Jason’s flush draw hit on the river and it was second place for Antony and a runners-up cheque for €505,000.
“I knew he was a tough heads up player, he played good all day long.” said Antony. “I got two sevens, a huge hand heads-up and I have the short stack so I don’t care about a coin-flip, so I pushed in my chips. I finished second by playing four pots of less than 100,000. But I think I played good. Not my poker but good poker.
“Of course I’m happy for the money but finishing first in an EPT event means a lot to me. I made one final and I played very bad in that final in London so I wanted to show to myself I could finish first. I finished second by playing good so I’m happy… 85 per cent happy… 15 percent not happy!”
Jason performed the obligatory procession as EPT winner. First the TV crews, then the cameras before the rest of the press pack got a word from the winner. He chatted briefly to sixth place finisher William Thorson on the way who asked a favour – to hold his winner’s trophy a second. “It means a lot more to you than its cash value” he said, shaking Jason’s hand.
So no regrets about turning his back on Amsterdam..?
“Oh my god, no! Actually the funniest thing is I was planning on selling my San Remo seat because my friend backed out of coming three weeks before. Two of my online friends said they were going but they weren’t going to play the event ‘you can meet up with us’ and I thought screw it and I go. They’re very good friends now.”
Jason had reluctantly turned down Amsterdam for four days of hard graft at the poker table; graft that paid off in spectacular fashion and presents the possibly of an upgrade once he can pencil Amsterdam back in to his plans. For now that involves Monte Carlo next week and then the World Series.
That would wait though. Now he had to find a phone to call mom back in Florida, he family having spent the last two days watching his progress on EPT Live.
“I told you when there were 32 left I’d win it…” he said down the phone.
Absolutely. Jason Mercier, the new EPT San Remo Champion.
The final table result of the EPT San Remo…
1st – Jason Mercier – United States – PokerStars qualifier — €869,000
2nd – Antony Lellouche – France — €505,000
3rd – Dario Minieri – Italy – Team PokerStars Pro – 287,000
4th – Eric Koskas – France – PokerStars qualifier – €223,600
5th – Gregory Genovese – Italy – €188,500
6th – William Thorson – Sweden – €140,600
7th – Dag Palovic – Slovakia – €111,800
8th – Marcus Bower – United States – PokerStars qualifier – €76,700
To catch up on the earlier action today you can check back on the posts form today below…