LAS VEGAS – Twenty-eight weeks into her first pregnancy, Natasha Mercier is battling fatigue, her ever-changing hormones and a fickle appetite, just like any other expectant mother.
The difference between Mercier and most other women in her condition? She’s not only going through her third trimester while sitting on the biggest stage of her profession, but she’s doing it quite well. And as her chip stack continues to mount at the 48th annual World Series of Poker Main Event during Thursday’s Day 3 play at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, so too does the pressure, the stress and the attention of ESPN cameras.
Day 2!!!! pic.twitter.com/vat8bOAriC
— Natasha Mercier (@natasha_mercier) July 12, 2017
“It’s been a wild ride,” a beaming Mercier told Casino City. “I’m just trying to keep my emotions in check and try to play my game. But being pregnant while playing the Main has definitely been a different experience. That’s for sure.”
Fortunately, the physical and emotional transformations seem to have led to better results. Mercier has 18 WSOP cashes in her career, including six this summer, but she has never been in the money in the Main Event. On Thursday afternoon, mid-way through Level 12 began, she sat in 20th place out of the remaining 1,800 or so players, with more 560,000 chips.
She’s thriving despite the fact that she’s doing some things at the table that she typically would never do.
“Oh, yes, the hormones have gotten the better of me a few times,” she said with a big laugh. “I had one meltdown at the table when somebody said something to me, and that’s typically not something that would happen to me. I had to go away to the bathroom to cry and come back.
“I’ve found myself saying some things that I’ve never said before. I’ve bluffed a couple of times when maybe I shouldn’t have. But this is poker. Sometimes it works out, even when you aren’t supposed to do it.”
Her success in the Main Event has added an exclamation point to what has been a whirlwind 12 months for Mercier. Last summer, her boyfriend and fellow poker pro, Jason Mercier, proposed to her at the table after she finished third in a $5,000 No-Limit event for a career-best cash of $348,374. At the time, Jason, a PokerStars.com pro, was having a summer for the ages by capturing two bracelets and cashing in 11 events overall on his way to winning the 2016 WSOP Player of the Year. The couple got married in November and announced Natasha was pregnant with their son in March.
“It’s been just an unbelievable year,” said Natasha, a native of Lebanon whose maiden name is Barbour. “We got married. We moved into a new house. I’m pregnant. Everything is just so new to us. But we’re enjoying every minute.”
Jason, who ranks 13th on the all-time earnings list with more than $18 million in career poker earnings, was clinging on with 80,000 chips during Level 12 of the Main Event as he tried to secure the 67th WSOP cash of his career. But predictably, he has been thinking about more than just his own chip stack.
“Yeah, it can be distracting knowing that Natasha is out there somewhere playing while carrying our son,” he admitted. “I know she’s a great player, but I’ve been more concerned about her mental state. These are long days. It’s the end of the summer. She’s been playing a lot of events and logging a lot of hours at the table.”
Natasha said that she discussed her WSOP schedule with both Jason and her doctors and decided she would still play in as many events, with the promise that she would pay extra attention to hydrating and to going home at night and resting.
“Sadly, no partying late night for us this year,” she said with a wide smile.
“It’s tough during the summer because I’m playing long hours too,” added Jason. “There’s definitely been some times when I’ve busted out of a tournament and instead of going to play cash games I’ve gone home to hang out with her and relax and get some time away. It’s been an adjustment for both of us.
“But the plan is for Natasha to keep running hot and win the Main Event. Then our son can say he was right there and can lay claim to the youngest winner ever. That would be quite a story.”