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No Mercy: Quebec card star dumped law for poker

She is 5-foot-2 and maybe 100 pounds but she is a fireball who burns with rage and, frankly, you don’t want to mess with her.

She is 5-foot-2 and maybe 100 pounds but she is a fireball who burns with rage and, frankly, you don’t want to mess with her.

At the poker table, where she ranks as one of the planet’s top five female players, Canadian Isabelle Mercier is fiercely determined to kick your butt – figuratively, of course. Mind you, as a trained kick boxer, there are no guarantees she’ll refrain from hoofing your backside literally, as well.

“Fact is, Isabelle scares men,” Tori Coxon, chief spokesperson for the wildly successful, multi-billion-dollar PokerStars business, says matter-of-factly. “She’s tiny, yes, but she’s incredibly aggressive, competitive and very intimidating.”

And somewhere along the way, this diminutive dynamo from Victoriaville, Que., picked up the nickname “No Mercy.” And, well, you get the picture.

“I really think,” Mercier says, “that I was born to play a game for a living. I always played games. I played card games with my parents when I was six. I live to play and win. Poker isn’t only my job. It’s my passion.”

And she’s good at it. Since finishing second at the Masters Classic in Amsterdam in 2002, Mercier has quietly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and, according to poker sources, has reached millionaire status -- to the point where she recently decided to stop living out of a suitcase.

“I got myself an apartment in Monaco,” she reveals. “It’s a beautiful place. I’m financially set for life. I’m happy.”

It wasn’t always like this. Mercier used to be a lawyer. Yes, she gave up her job as a full-time lawyer to become a full-time poker player. After obtaining a law degree at the University of Montreal, she practiced commercial law in the city for six months.

And she loathed every second of it.

“It was horrible,” she recalls, grimacing. “It was boring. I hated it so much that I’d spend hours in the washroom, sleeping. Every day.”

Did her legal background help prepare her for poker?

“Maybe,” she says, “but I learned much more about competing from my kick-boxing days.”

PokerStars became so enamoured of the hardnosed brunette and her style that it hired her as an ambassador. At 33 and single, she appears publicly in that role and plays against challengers frequently at www.pokerstars.net, the world’s largest online poker room. She also has written a book called Profession: Bluffer. The French version is out; the English version will be published soon.

But it’s at the table where she excels, frequently finishing in the money at tournaments around the world, throwing out the occasional F bomb, staring relentlessy at her predominantly male opponents and consistently frightening the bejeemas out of them.

“To succeed in poker,” she says, “you need confidence and an aggressive personality. Otherwise, forget it.”

Give the last word to Coxon:

“There aren’t many sports where a woman can match up evenly against men,” she says, “but Isabelle does. She’s shown that a woman can compete in a man’s world.”

 
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