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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Mercier takes over No. 2

"The Nuts" is a monthly feature that takes a look at the best poker players in the world. This feature aims to produce a list of the best players of the moment. Our panel includes's trio of poker contributors (myself, Gary Wise and Bernard Lee), Bluff magazine editor in chief Lance Bradley and senior writer Jessica Welman, PokerNews editor in chief Matthew Parvis and tournament reporter Don Peters, Poker News Daily's Dan Cypra and Poker Road's Court Harrington.

When we first began running this feature in December, Jason Mercier occupied the sixth spot on the list. The young kid from Florida was simply crushing anything he entered and slowly but surely, the panel began to notice. His performance on the WSOPE broadcasts was impressive and his results over the past month continue to prove what we've known since he's hit the scene: the kid can play. Now, only weeks after telling me that he didn't think he could go any higher (than No. 3), Mercier finds himself in the second spot behind Phil Ivey.

"That's pretty sick," said Mercier reacting to the news. "It's pretty cool [to be No. 2]. I think that I've reached as high as I can go. I don't think I have any chance of beating out Ivey."

The past month featured live tournaments at the L.A. Poker Classic, the North American Poker Tour, the LAPT, the EPT, and of course, the National Heads-Up Championship. Tom Marchese made a splash by winning the NAPT event just weeks after finishing third at the Borgata and received some votes from the panel, but the real mover of the month was Tom Dwan. After a short downswing to start the year, Dwan crushed the action online for $2.7 million. Despite having an up-and-down month, Cole South has been rewarded for his stellar 2010 and is now ranked at No. 9. This honor is overdue for South, who has proved he'll be a fixture at the high-stakes tables.

Also making his debut on the list is WSOP bracelet winner Scott Seiver, who had two six-figure scores within the span of one week. In fact, the last three cashes for Seiver have all been for more than $215,000. Falling off this month's list is Bertrand Grospellier and Jeffrey Lisandro. Grospellier cashed in the EPT main event in Copenhagen and finished 13th at the Euro Finals of Poker, but even with those results, the surge of South and Seiver couldn't keep him in the top 10.

In first? Well, you know that answer already. Ivey retains his No. 1 spot and it would take something drastic for anyone to overtake him anytime soon.

On the bubble:

Remember the name Dwyte Pilgrim. He's already had seven cashes in 2010 and many players on the circuit are ready for him to break through. … Steve Gross continues to be on the bubble. More on him later. … Don't be surprised to see Alexander Kostritsyn on this list next month. The Russian superstar is up over $1.2 million this year playing online as "PostflopAction." … Tom Marchese received some votes of confidence from the panel this month, but can the "KingsofCards" manage to crack the top 10? It will probably take another big score before he'll make his debut on this list. … Dan Shak cashed again at the NAPT main event, but despite receiving some votes, he still fell short of making the list.

Final thoughts:

Bradley: I think a lot of people will be surprised to see the change at No. 2, but Mercier keeps putting up final tables and scoring big. There's also some new blood here which just goes to show how volatile the life of a professional poker player can be. One month you're one of the best in the world, the next month you're an honorable mention.

Feldman: I think this month our list is more complete than it was in February. I'll be honest, the Antonius gain on the list after dropping a couple of million made me wonder what was going wrong, but this month, we see some new, deserving faces and some more accurate rankings. However, my campaign to get Steve "gboro780" Gross back on the list is apparently not good enough. Gross had another fantastic month finishing third in the $1,000 FTOPS event for $155,641 and 13th in the two-day FTOPS $2,500 event. It's hard to discount his performances, but I think as this list continues to evolve, Gross will make his reappearance down the road.

I was taken by surprise at how high Daniel Alaei was rated by some of the panelists, but I understand their case. Alaei is the complete package. He'll play in any game, anywhere and most of the time, he'll have the advantage. That said, Alaei didn't move this month as other panelists felt that he didn't deserve a higher spot. I'd be shocked if he isn't able to retain this spot or move higher next month.