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Mental Game & Life Strategy

The ability to set goals and the discipline it takes to achieve those goals without letting the rest of your life suffer are two of the most important things you need to master in order to improve as a poker player and begin getting serious about becoming a pro. One of the best parts of playing poker is getting out into the real world, playing in person, meeting new people and going on crazy adventures. This is also the riskiest part of the game because it takes you away from your comfort zone, and leaves you playing without your safety net. The solid footing of any healthy lifestyle depends balance and control, and a thriving poker lifestyle is no exception. Set realistic goals and learn to govern yourself so that you’re always working towards achieving your goals without letting the other, more glamorous things hinder your success. 

Table strategy is great to know, but you'll also need to understand how to manage yourself off the table to maximize your edge - and here’s where things get personal. I invite you to keep up-to date on my life and times as a poker player, and learn from my experiences so that you can learn from my triumphs and avoid my mistakes.  Any pro poker player will tell you your  mind is your most powerful weapon. Sharpen it, nurture it, rest it and give it peace so you can take to the tables - and your life - with killer confidence. 

My Greg Merson Story

Evan Jarvis

For those of you who don’t know Gregory ‘gregy20723’ Merson you’re about to get a taste of poker on a whole new level. Currently sitting in 3rd place at the WSOP Octo-nine and listed at 4:1 on pinnacle sports betting, Greg is a steal for any poker bettors out there. A shorthanded specialist, 2012 bracelet winner and front-runner for player of the year, this kid knows how to play cards.

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Here is a quick summary of Greg’s accomplishments to date:

  • University of Maryland student (2 years)
  • Supernova Elite on PokerStars (3 years)
  • High stakes live and online aficionado
  • WSOP 2012 10k No-Limit 6-max Champion

I call him my mentor, I call him my coach, but most importantly I call him my friend. 14 months ago I had never even heard his name before, he was somewhat of an underground poker superstar, but since then he has opened my eyes to high level poker and brought me into the poker community with open arms.

Last summer I arrived in Vegas halfway through the series, just planning to play the Main Event as my year hadn't been going as well as I had hoped for. My friend John Nixon told me I had to book an earlier flight so I could meet this mystery man Gregy; he had a good feeling.

We immediately hit it off, he was a rakeback grinder (playing upwards of 200,000 hands a month) and I was a big time poker affiliate, a match made in heaven. Fortunately we were both avid fans of the WSOP, WPT, EPT and all other poker TV broadcasts, so we had a lot in common; we were die hard poker fans. He is a very kind and caring individual, it was easy to get along, we clicked right away.

Unfortunately we both weren't at our peaks in poker, both coming off our worst year in the game, and our performance in the Main Event was sub par (both busting out on day 2). But this was for the best, it made us hungry for next year, motivated to get back to our former glory so that 2012 would be different. I told him I had an extra bedroom back in Toronto and that I’d love to have him come spend the year with me, training hard on and off the felts to gear up for next year’s World Series. It didn't take any more convincing, Greg booked his flight immediately after that conversation and 2 days after finishing the Main Event we were on our way back to the city and I was about to get my mind blown.

Now Greg is not your average poker player, being good is not enough for him, he aspires for greatness and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. Every night he would watch at least one training video, spend 2 hours studying his opponents mistakes in Poker Tracker and about 6-8 hours on the virtual felts. Dedication is an understatement.

He began by 24 tabling 1/2 No-Limit to build up his bankroll (the same way he achieved supernova elite for 3 consecutive years until black Friday took away his livelihood). While it was extremely difficult to keep up with the action, he was still always willing to answer any questions I had about hands, introducing me to new and exotic lines, exposing me to the five-slide and leading flops, turns, and rivers among other tricks (I don’t want to expose all his secrets)

Within the first 2 weeks he’d already built his bankroll from 10k to 25k and was ready for the bigger games. I introduced him to Ongame as I felt his style would be much more suited to the sports bettor’s environment and I was right. Over the course of 10 months he won just shy of 250k playing 2/4 3/6 5/10 10/20 and even 25/50 at the Ongame network under the name "BMRBNZRBNTLY" (check out his poker table ratings, Nanonoko graph anyone?)

Gregy’s volume also did wonders for his profit as a poker player. Every month he would pick up between $10-12k in rakeback to tack on to his already very strong win rate. While most players stick to shorthanded or heads-up play, Greg is well versed in all forms of poker, preferring to play 3 and 4 handed tables over the alternatives. This not only means more hands, it means more rake, and more difficult spots which leads to a more well-rounded player. Another reason he is such a steal at 4:1 is that everytime someone gets eliminated from the final table his advantage will go up. Very few tournament players have experience playing shorthanded, and this kid knows how to adjust to all the various dynamics that exist in short and super short handed play.

You will hear in his interviews that he is not much of a tournament player and that’s no lie. He has failed to cash the Sunday Million in his past 24 attempts, and at the beginning of January he eliminated tournaments from his weekly grind completely. Cash games are a much more consistent source of income for a player of his caliber, and it made little sense for him to lower his hourly for the simple sake of glory hunting. Playing CAP games for a period of 6 months as well, his ability in 20-40 big blind situations is definitely in the top tier of the poker community.

What most impressed me about Greg was his drive and competitive nature. Everyday he would try his best to play 10,000 hands per day, being disappointed if he didn't manage at least 5,000 hands. Even on the day’s he was supposed to take off, I would think he was sleeping, but he was immersing himself in poker, watching interviews on PokerNews, browsing the Two Plus Two forums or getting in more study. Always a creative individual Greg would spend hours on Flopzilla and Pokerstove trying out new lines that he would implement in the Main Event, the 10k 6-max as well as the 4-max event he final tabled. These lines and concepts are not being taught at any training site which gives him a great advantage, since they are so new and different it’s hard for people to know how to react to them.

Another great skill of Greg’s has been his networking. He is great friends with some of the game’s up and coming greats: Tony Gregg, Rich Lyndaker, Christian Harder, Andrew Lichtenberger, Aaron Jones, Dan Smith and Timothy Adams among others. Being surrounded by greatness is a great step to achieving your full potential in whatever discipline you select. And it’s not just work related, Greg treats all his friends with the utmost care and respect, and we’re all very lucky to have him in our lives.

Coming up on 10 months of sobriety and 8 months of personal training Greg Merson is now a poker player machine and a force to be feared. In the upcoming World Series of Poker broadcast’s you will get to see him first hand and now you will know that he is not just a tournament luckbox, he is one of the most hard working individuals I’ve ever met and deserves all the success that comes his way.

Good luck in October Gregy, I can’t wait for you to show the world how no-limit hold’em was meant to be played. First place at the world series of Poker is $8.5 Million and the most baller bracelet I've ever seen, does it have his name on it? Personally…I think so.

If you’re interested in following Gregy on his run of a lifetime, follow @GregMerson on Twitter.

Quick update on Gregy: