Exclusive: In Celebration of WPT Ladies Night Casino City Talks to Isabelle Mercier

29 August 2005

By Anakana Schofield

Casino City Times

Isabelle Mercier has a great taste for freedom and she doesn't like mornings. It is this penchant for roaming and slumber that lifted her from being a young lawyer in Montreal to the poker rooms of Paris and now has her gracing our screens as a respected, world-class poker champion.

"I need a lot of freedom in my life and practicing law is one of those things where you have to follow a rude schedule and wake up every morning early and take only 2-3 weeks vacation every year." She tells me when we chatted briefly over email last week.

"It felt like prison to me. Having to go to sleep every night because I had to wake up early morning literally ruined my life. I wanted to travel the world, and it was not in my law firm downtown Montreal that this was going to happen!"

It takes a certain astuteness and bravery to walk away from a profession like law where you've invested years in your education only to discover once you're qualified that the lifestyle that accompanies your chosen profession doesn't suit you one little bit. This gives us insight into the character of Mercier, whom the WPT Tour host dubbed "no mercy" Mercier. Clearly fearless, and a risk taker, Mercier also had the advantage of working full time as a casino dealer while putting herself through law school. She decided to deal from casino to casino all around the world. However, she didn't have to travel far. She began work at the Aviation Club (ACF) in Paris and was made manager within two weeks. She recalls the time fondly.

"I had the best job in the world and travelled all over it for marketing purposes for the next 4 years." Then a familiar bell tolled for her; she needed more freedom, so she cast off and became a professional poker player. She made a rapid impact as a "money player" in cash games and really came into major focus when she triumphed over tables of first class players to take the WPT Ladies Night II. This week she hopes to defend her crown.

Given that she has worked and played poker on both sides of the Atlantic, I asked her to compare the poker frenzy in Europe and the United States and to tell us whether there is any difference in the style of play and atmosphere?

There is a big difference in the time frames: in the USA, most of the tournaments start early around noon, as in Europe, they mostly start between 6pm and 8pm. That's suits me better. Also, the fields are smaller in Europe and so the structures are better, and the general atmosphere of the Europeans is very relaxed, which make it fun to play over there. However, the biggest prize pools are obviously in America, and I truly wish to build a name for myself as big in America as it already is in Europe.

More specifically, do the French have a particular rapport with poker over other forms of gambling?

Poker is a relatively new game in France as poker has only existed over there for about 10 years, since the creation of the ACF's poker room. Still, the biggest cash games all over Europe can be found in Paris, and recently the WPT shows have been broadcasted on French National TV with French commentary made by huge French star Patrick Bruel, so now poker is really exploding in France.

Women players appearance and poker style are scrutinised and remarked on more often than their male counterparts, so I was curious about the assumptions that Mercier encountered from other players that are based on her gender and if there are there advantages to being female?

Generally, it seems that a man who sees a woman play assumes that she has a good hand when she bets or raises, so that's already an advantage right there, it's easier to bluff when you are a woman. Unless you become a well-known player, in which case it can be harder to bluff, whether you're a man or a woman. I think the biggest advantage women have is their instinct. It seems we have a certain aptitude to read a person, which comes more easily for us than for men. However, men have more aggressiveness within themselves, and this is also a big part of the game. Women have to work on that if they want to reach the same level of game as men.

In every great accomplishment there are often people who offer insights that change the way we perceive our situations or abilities. It was inspiring to learn from Isabelle of the generosity that exists between players when I asked what the finest piece of advice anyone ever gave her about her game.

Greg Raymer gave me very good advice recently in London. I was super stressed over the idea of playing "live" on TV during the British Poker Open, and he told me to go ahead and just play one hand at the time, the best I can. And he's right. When you start building a whole game plan for yourself, it can disturb your game and focus.

Finally I asked Isabelle to share her recent highlights at tournaments with our readers:

My win at the WPT Ladies Night last year was by far my most memorable poker night ever. Everything went perfect, I could not have dream of it better than that. And I will do it again this year! Outside of that, I played a really good game in Monte Carlo EPT Final and made it to the final table but busted out on a bad beat after 4 days of play. That was hard, but on that same night Gus Hansen gave me an hour of coaching and I came back the day after to win the last tournament of the week in Monte Carlo. I dominated the tournament from the first minute to the last, so that was another fantastic day! And finally, I'm happy to be the highest placed woman in the WPT Championship 25K$ this year, which is a direct consequence of my WPT Ladies Night Win!

Isabelle Mercier is proud to be participating in World Poker Tour Ladies' Night which will benefit breast cancer when it returns to the Bicycle casino beginning this Wednesday August 31st. "I'm more than happy to play in a fund raiser event for a good cause. Already I give away a fair part of my winnings and I wish there were more events which raise funds for diverse organizations."

Women interested in registering for Bicycle Casino's Ladies Poker Party on August 31 should call (562) 806-4646 or go to www.thebicyclecasino.com. The show airs on the Travel Channel, Saturday, October 22nd at 8 p.m.

Read more about Isabelle Mercier: www.isabellemercier.com


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