The year has gotten off to a good start for me. I’ve played 12 live tournaments so far in 2014 and cashed six of them, including cashing the first three Main Events I played. Today I’m in the final 19 of the WPT event in Jacksonville, Florida and hoping to make the final table.
It has been a nice stretch, but I’m trying to stay hungry and not be satisfied. Even if I had won a few tournaments to start the year, it’s important for me to stay motivated and always be pushing forward and trying to play my best, no matter what the result is.
Last year I had a pretty rough streak playing tournaments that ran through the World Series and afterwards when I went several months without cashing a tournament. So I’m excited to be playing well and going deep, but I want to make sure that I’m not becoming complacent with just cashing.
One of the events in which I cashed in was the Alpha8 tournament in South Africa where I finished third. On that trip I had the chance to spend a couple of extra days in Cape Town visiting with a friend.
It was probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. The scenery is just amazing and there are all of these lookout points where you can view the mountains and look down on the city. I also got to see a bunch of cool animals such as penguins, baboons, ostriches, and seals.
It was my first time in South Africa, so it was definitely a unique and awesome experience. I’m hoping to go back eventually and maybe spend some more time there.
Now I’m back in Florida enjoying a little down time in between playing the WPTs that are going to be here. After this Jacksonville trip, I will play the WPT in South Florida at Hard Rock as well. After that I’ll be heading out to Monte Carlo for the EPT Grand Final and also to play SCOOP.
Meanwhile, with basketball season in full swing right now I’ve found myself occasionally thinking back to my time coaching the sport. I was 19 when I got my first job coaching junior high basketball at my alma mater, then the next year I coached junior varsity and then the varsity team after that. That last year I coached, we ended up winning the district championship.
That was the 2007-08 season. A couple of months after that I won EPT Sanremo and started traveling more, and so left coaching to focus on poker.
Even though I haven’t coached in almost six years now, it’s something I think about a lot and look forward to getting back into once I get older and have my own kids.
I still talk to some of the kids I coached, trying to reconnect with them once in a while. It’s cool to think about the positive impact I may have had upon their lives and how I motivated them to figure out what they wanted to do with their futures. And of course I hope some of the lessons I taught them about hard work and giving your all have helped them down the road as well.
I truly believe coaching basketball for those three years has helped me in poker, in a number of ways.
Coaching can be very frustrating at times, much more so than playing. When you’re a player, you feel like you have some control and are influencing the action. But the coach has to sit back and let the players execute instructions — you feel kind of helpless during a game sometimes, but you just have to make the most out of practice and get the kids as ready as they can be to play the game. You can make adjustments here and there throughout the game, but ultimately if the kids are not on their game, you just have to take the results however they come.
Coaching therefore taught me a lot about maintaining composure and not tilting, if you will. I was already getting serious about poker when I was coaching, so a lot of those lessons and the similarities between the two were apparent to me early on.
While coaching I also tried to teach my players the value of putting in the work and staying motivated — just like I was saying about not becoming complacent after enjoying a few successes, but continuing to try your best.
I’m hoping for a very successful next couple months leading into the WSOP. It’s always nice to enter the summer on a heater. Lets GO!
Jason Mercier is a member of Team PokerStars Pro