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The Tigress of Poker

Isabelle Mercier has no home. Really, no home, no flat, no room in someone's place. She lives out of two suitcases and has done so for three years.

It's hard to imagine. No place to look forward to returning to, nowhere to chill out at or to hide away in. No pile of books and records. No bits and pieces picked up in journeys around the world. No shelf with framed pictures of family or friends.

She lives in hotels with vacancies. Her home is the Hotel Vacancy.

What kind of personality is this? Introverted? Socially disfunctional? A manic-depressive? Not at all. She's a bright, friendly, self-possessed, happy, "yes, I'm happy, 31-year-old French-Canadian, if she had a home, she could be the girl next door. Except that she has a passion for being free. And she is totally focused on what she's doing and has no desire or reason to "clutter it up" with an address or possessions.

It was to be free that she gave up being a commercial lawyer (this woman is seriously clever, gaining a dgree at the University of Montreal and a masters at the Sorbonne in Paris) and began to travel. It was to be free that she became a card dealer, because that would enable her to work anywhere. She ended up dealing at the Aviation Club in Paris where the famous French player and promoter of the club, Bruno Fitoussi, saw her potential and made her poker-room manager within two weeks.

She worked there for four years. During that time she took up the game and her passion for freedom was replaced by a passion for poker. She became friends with players like Gus Hansen, who has been a great friend and mentor. And she became a winner in cash games, then in tournaments.

She picked up the nickname "No Mercy" Mercier because of her aggressive play and intimidating stare while opponents are considering their moves. While usually relaxed and full of fun away from the table, she radiates determination when she's around the felt. No one playing against her can be in any doubt, this woman wants to win.

Maybe she wants to win too much, despite her usually positive personality, she can become over-stressed. And, like many players, she can have a dark few hours if she's lost. She's probably more merciless on herself than she is on her opponents.


She first appeared on the international scorecard in 2002, winning more than 50,000 euros for coming second in a no-limit hold'em event in Amsterdam, but achieved her first major success in September 2004 when she won the Ladies' Night WPT Invitational in Los Angeles, beating players of the caliber of Cyndy Violette.

The victory and television publicity mattered a lot more than the relatively modest $25,000. It was then that Mike Sexton dubbed her "No Mercy," and the nickname stuck. It also led to her signing as a PokerStars player with all the benefits that come with that.

With her confidence boosted, she went back to Europe and cashed five times that November and continued to play well into 2005.

She arrived in Monte Carlo in March of that year with her eye on the European Poker Tour Grand Final, but she suffered a bad beat and came tenth. That night Gus Hansen spent an hour with her. He patiently talked to her about the importance of playing position of how to play her blinds, good, solid poker talk that put her in the right frame of mind to storm back the following day and win another event at the same festival.

Part of the PokerStars team, she cashed three times at the 2005 WSOP and came back to achieve her best World Series result and highest payday in 2006, coming fifth in the $5,000 no-limit hold'em event and winning $175,000.

And everytime she wins, the poker world will celebrate with her, because Isabelle Mercier is one of its brightest stars in every sense of the word.