Pro Rivalries: Mercier vs Polk

5 years ago
Jason Mercier vs Doug Polk
27 Jul


Every game or sport needs to have its major conflicts, rivalries between the biggest and best which give their fans reason to cheer, shout, and generally get involved. I grew up when Borg and McEnroe battled for supremacy in the tennis world, the Swedish ice-man a stark contrast to the emotional American.

The chess genius Bobby Fischer against the entire Soviet chess machine gripped the world in the 1970’s culminating in his match v Boris Spassky and there are sporting rivalries such as Ohio State v Michigan in the US or Glasgow Rangers v Glasgow Celtic in Scotland which have spanned more than a century.

In poker, the rivalries tend to be very personal, more ‘short-lived spats’ when players share a table and get pissed off with someone rather than full-blown conflicts which run and run. However, a recent row between two of the game’s brightest lights has all the makings of a rivalry which could last some time…

Jason Mercier vs Doug Polk

When a war of words broke out between the two on Twitter at the end of May, the poker community jumped on it as did fellow high-stakes players. So what kicked off the trouble?

Well, Polk, on the Twitch channel for his Upswing Poker training site, apparently let it be known that he considers Mercier to be a ‘bad reg’ – someone who always plays but isn’t very good.

Naturally Mercier was less-than-impressed when he caught wind of this slur, tweeting:

…which pretty much descended into a slanging to-and-fro and then a free-for-all on Twitter.

Before we go into the details, let’s do a ‘tale of the tape’ between our two combatants:

Jason Mercier
Doug Polk
29 Age 28
USA Country USA
Tournament earnings
Online profit
Biggest win
5 WSOP Bracelets
Twitter followers

Well, some pretty clear differences between the two here, although most poker players, even good pros, would instantly swap lives with either guy!

Online, Polk is an absolute beast – the undisputed king of heads-up play following his victory over Ben ‘Sauce123’ Sulsky and one of the hardest working pros, who shares his training regime with fellow ‘Evil Empire’ crew members Jason Mo and Ryan Fee.

In live play, he’s also a feared player, but in all honesty, he still has a long way to go to match Mercier’s impressive resume in the bricks and mortar world.

Naturally, as soon as the poker world heard about Polk’s ‘bad reg’ tagging of Mercier, some heavyweights chimed in. Mustapha Kanit, another young player who will vie with both men for ‘best player in the world’ status in years to come, tweeted:

DougPolkPoker hey mr i hate everybudy and My shit is gold do u want cross % for the main? Don't touch famiglia @JasonMercier #back2back”

In recent years Polk has tried to distance himself from the arrogant, loudmouth approach of his Evil Empire crew buddies. Ryan Fee, for example, stated about Polk:

He came out of nowhere and f—d everyone up … He devastated Sauce. Anyone who doesn’t think Doug is the best heads up player is a f—ing retard.”

Which might well be true, but there are ways to speak and there are ways to piss people off! Polk has been trying very hard apparently to rid himself of the most abrasive and brash parts of his character, although he’ll probably have to keep trying given that the Twitter war wasn’t exactly put to bed by his response to Kanit, Mercier included, so he received the message loud and clear.

Mustacchione JasonMercier hey come on, I didn't say I hate everyone or my shit is gold. Jason just isn't very good.”

Ouch! Not even remotely an apology – and even if Mercier has struggled against the best at the nosebleed online stakes, being tagged as a ‘loser’ by a fellow pro is hardly conducive to good relations.

Not that Mercier is shy about defending himself, giving as good as he got in the ensuing melee.

DougPolkPoker how starved r u for attention? R u hurt that we stopped talking on AIM back in 2008? You're the talentless 1 #ImNaturalBro”

Naturally, for the truly talentless (such as myself!) this all seemed quite pathetic: how weak a player can you be when you’ve won millions and play at the highest level? However, everything is relative, and I remember Garry Kasparov, the former World Chess Champion, describing some other great players as ‘chess tourists’ – not contenders for the crown but just there to see the sights!

Ego is a huge thing in sports, and poker has its fair share of egotistical players. Hellmuth and Tony G Guogararely play a hand without explaining to the world how bad their opponents are – and it’s evident at lower levels too. Anyway, the Polk-Mercier duel was still raging on….

"JasonMercier lol Jason. You attacked me on Twitter then backed it up by saying let's play 3h+ mixed games. Simply a pathetic attack,” responded Polk – again bringing a quick jab in reply from his rival…

DougPolkPoker it was a counter to your heads up 8 game offer. I "attacked" u after your either troll or constant bashing of me on Twitch”

Polk, who really ought to have known better than to publicly malign a fellow top-tier pro replied:

JasonMercier what are you talking about "constant bashing". I have a labeling system on most regs. I said very little or nothing about you.”

DougPolkPoker I don't watch your twitch program,” countered Mercier. “Just been told things. It's all good man you're getting publicity which is your goal.”

Polk, unable to let things go, had another dig at Mercier:

JasonMercier I think you are a nice guy. I just think you ran massively over ev in your career and don't have respect for your poker game.”

This back-and-froth slanging match might have continued unabated forever, but things quietened down when Daniel Negreanu got in on the act:

JasonMercier DougPolkPoker Doug, I don't know if they give out a "tool of the year" award yet but you are in contention! alex_dreyfus

You might think that would be the end of things, but karma has a sure-fire way of biting you on the ass, as Polk was to discover in the run-up to the WSOP. The players found themselves at the same table in the SuperHighRollerBowl, the young American desperately trying to engage Mercier in polite table-talk.

Mercier, not unexpectedly, kept his replies to a bare minimum and was definitely hiding a smirk in his beard when Polk busted out early.

He was doubtless even happier when he went on a phenomenal run a few days later at the WSOP in Vegas, taking down two bracelets and umpteen other cashes while his rival Polk was barely heard of throughout the entire month.

Well, with the summer settling down and neither player making much an impression in the Main Event (not a huge surprise), talk moves onto the November Nine who did manage to struggle and fight their way through the massive tournament.

Polk and Mercier will have to find a different stage to wage war against each other on – but with both at the top of the game in so many ways, it likely won’t be long before their rivalry kicks off again!

In the meantime, if rivalry is your thing, check out this article for the most insane battle you’ll ever read about – it may not be true, but it shows that poker can be every bit as passionate as football and hockey!

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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