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May 8, 2005

Isabelle 'No Mercy' Mercier


A nominee for the Best Nickname of the Year Award.

"No Mercy" Mercier (above) qualified as a lawyer in Montreal at the age of 20, then quit after six months to pursue her poker Jones.

Now 29, she's the current World Poker Tour "Ladies Night II" Champion.

I'd never heard of her until yesterday when I happened upon a short piece she wrote with Alex Wade for this weekend's Financial Times.

It follows.

    Queen of the Pack

    I love being a professional poker player.

    It sounds a lot better than being a lawyer, which was my first profession.

    I qualified as a lawyer in Montreal when I was 20, but quit after six months.

    Even then, I knew about casino life.

    To help put myself through law school, I had applied to be a dealer at the state-owned Casino de Montreal.

    I knew that although there were 3,000 applicants for the course, I would be one of the 14 accepted.

    My father taught me how to play when I was four or five.

    I would join him in games with his friends every week.

    My father is a really strong player, who wins because he bluffs a lot and knows how to play the other guys.

    I was there so much with them, they never seemed to wonder what a young girl was doing spending so much time playing poker.

    I liked playing poker with them more than going out and socialising with people my own age.

    Almost as soon as I qualified as a lawyer, I was applying to casinos and card-rooms for full-time work.

    I got my break when I was taken on as a dealer at l'Aviation Club de Paris.

    I would watch the players and always think about how to improve my game.

    Then I got involved in marketing and publicity, looking after the foreign players and meeting and greeting all the greats on behalf of l'Aviation.

    Watching so much of the game at close quarters gave me the urge to play.

    I played a lot on the side and found I was very successful.

    By January 2004, I had amassed $40,000 in prize money.

    I was tired of meeting and greeting and wanted to see if I could make it as a professional player, so I took the plunge.

    There are men who don't think women should be playing poker.

    It's true that there aren't many women playing poker professionally and the percentage is a reflection on life.

    But women have a sixth sense and it's nuts to think that men are automatically better.

    I've been criticised by men for not having "good poker etiquette".

    Some comments have been really hostile to me as a woman.

    Sometimes I think this is because I play really aggressively.

    I'm a small woman but when I'm at the table, I feel strong; I don't let men intimidate me and I won't let them talk down to me.

    A lot of men are really macho and can't stand it when I "raise" them.

    They think women shouldn't play aggressively.

    Once I broke a guy and I could see what it meant to him.

    I felt bad for him.

    Another time in Los Angeles, one guy spent 30 minutes trying to apologise after he'd lost his cool with me.

    I wouldn't have it.

    Those guys who get angry and resentful?

    I love taking their money.

    As a professional, I play all around the world and have been doing pretty well.

    I live out of a suitcase, from hotel to hotel.

    It's the way I like it.

    I have no real social life, no men in my life.

    I've got no interest in settling down, in marriage and children.

    I did have a relationship with another poker player but I kept beating him.

    In the end, he couldn't take it.

    Winning killed the affair.

    If I'm not playing in a tournament, I'm in my hotel room, playing online poker, meditating or reading.

    I stop drinking in the run-up to tournaments and try to be as ready as I can.

    I watch poker videos and read a lot of poker books.

    But books can put you in prison.

    For the European Poker Tour event in Vienna, I went out early because I played too conservatively, trying out a style suggested in one of the books.

    I'm not proud of some of the hands I played and I'm learning that I need to take more risks.

    It's always the same guys who are the chip leaders and I'm trying to figure out how to be one of them.

    My best result was winning the World Poker Tour Ladies' Night Out invitational in LA, in 2004.

    Winning meant that I had a $25,000 seat in the $5m WPT tournament in Las Vegas, in April.

    I made it to the fifth day and busted out with $56,000 prize money, in 28th position in a field of 453 players.

    I'm happy with the result but this was the big time and some of the guys out there really let me know it.

    They didn't leave me with a green light to go ahead and raise and steal the pots.

    But I've learnt from it and next year when I face those same opponents, I will be a different player with much more experience.

May 8, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


Nothing like making your favorite hobby your living!

Following your own path is the only way, regardless of intimidation or the uncertain.

(She can play poker over here anytime; I know legions of folks that would love to play cards with Isabelle. You can come too Joe, you can help run The Merchandise Table while 'No Mercy' and I win the bankroll for future Book Of Joe Merchandise.)

Posted by: Robin | May 8, 2005 6:41:08 PM

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