Johnny Chan is the last player we will ever see win back-to-back World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Events. That’s a shame, but given the absurd number of entrants that the biggest tournament in the world attracts, you have more chance of nailing a perfect March Madness bracket than joining the likes of Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar and Johnny Chan.
So this leaves us with nothing but the run. The excitement, and furor, that surrounds the strength of the reigning champions challenge. We know they are never going to make it; but suddenly this awareness catapults the $8.5m hotshot to the biggest dog in the world; and we all love to cheer on the underdog.
In 2011, Greg Merson was that underdog. A recovering drug addict who took 20mg of Adderall every single day of the series just to get him through the day. It was a desperate time, but he found the strength and support to win that fight, and we all know what happened at the 2012 WSOP when Merson had finally gotten clean.
That amazing performance, in 2012, gave Merson the financial clout to head to Macau and play in the biggest cash games, and this is one of the reasons that Merson’s 2013 WSOP schedule was so much shorter. A quick glimpse of his Hendon Mob may give you the impression that his 2013 showing was woeful (a mistake this idiot duly made), but when you realize that he only played four tournaments, cashed in the main and had pieces of both Anthony Gregg and Chris Klodnicki in the Big One for One Drop it’s been pretty impressive.
And what about that run!
“It was one hell of a run and I’m happy with the results I have had. In tournament poker there is only going to be one person who is really truly happy. But after getting through 6,352 players to finish in the top 200? That’s an accomplishment…that makes me really happy.”
He seems a very happy person. A self-confessed poker addict, how has life been treating him now he has the money to play in the biggest cash games? Games that he loves?
“Whenever I can play big I am always going to take advantage of it. I started playing in the big cash games in early 2011. It’s nice to not have to sell too much action, or not to sell any at all. When you play No Limit Hold’em, even with players of similar skill there is going to be a limit that makes them feel uncomfortable. Having the ability to bluff 50k on the river – in real money – is a huge advantage. The guys that have all the money – the likes of Tom Dwan and Phil Galfond – continue to win all the money because they can pull these triggers.”
Merson told me that he has been playing poker professionally for six years, and despite a 2011 drugs relapse where he lost nearly half of his net worth, he has displayed good bankroll management restraint.
“I have always had good bankroll management for most of my career; except when I relapsed on drugs in 2011 where I lost half of my net worth. This is my sixth year playing for a living and for most of that time I have been clean; controlled and steady, while all the time understanding that sometimes I can lose a lot of money, but it isn’t going to change my life. I just need to be smart about it. It’s no different to day trading.”
I was interested to know how Merson manages his addictions in the midst of such temptation. The money that he now owns and the life that he now calls his own. If you were choosing an environment not to put a recovering addict into then surely the poker world would make the cut.
“Fortunately my drugs of choice don’t come up much in the nightlife scene. People are taking ecstasy and drinking and I was never a fan of either. So being around it doesn’t bother me. I am really lucky in that regard. It’s tough for a recovering alcoholic for example. Alcohol is everywhere you look. It’s thrown into our faces through advertisements and you can’t even go to dinner without seeing someone drinking. So I’m lucky that my drugs of choice are hidden. People don’t know too much about them I guess.”
Well there were times during this run that Merson made me feel like I was on drugs. It got the chambers of the heart beating, got the blood flowing and it was a shame that the run ended when it did.
His run was inspirational, but then again what do we expect, the man is inpirational.
Greg Merson finished in 167th place out of 6,352 players to cash for $42,990.