Team PokerStars Pro and Olympic gold medalist Fatima Moreira De Melo's laidback style and calm energy belie an intense work ethic and passion for poker. She talked to PokerStars Women about her image at the table, finding time to exercise between tournaments and a well-timed four-bet at the PCA Main Event.
PokerStars Women- Do you play a lot of Women's events?
Fatima Moreira De Melo- Yes, quite a few, mostly in major PokerStars Events with bigger ladies tournaments on the side (like the EPT Grand Finale in Monte Carlo and the PCA). Though really, if you're not scared to play with a table full of women then you definitely shouldn't be afraid of playing with a table full of men. Women are always way harder on each other than men are toward women so I don't get why some women are afraid.
PSW-In some cases, the women's tournaments can be very strong, especially the PokerStars Women events.
FM- I think so too. There are a lot of good female pros. Obviously Vanessa, Vanessa, Liv, they're all good--I don't want them to my left. On the other hand, maybe you'll have some good spots there too because they three-bet lighter and I can figure out their thought process a little easier than other women. You may at first think a player is ABC, but you don't know for sure how experienced she is.
PSW How do you work on poker?
FM- I learn a lot from playing. I also discuss hands with friends a lot and watch training videos.
PSW - So you play cash also?
FM- No mostly, tournaments. I'm very impatient and I'm scared that if I start playing cash games I'll just keep reloading and reloading and reloading. With tournaments, there is a certain boundary, and it gives me the structure I need as a person.
PSW-Do you think being in good shape helps tournament performance?
FM- Well I agree with that, though it depends on who you are. If you've never been a fit person, it doesn't matter as much. You've never known any better. Although I still think if you then work out, the focus will help you.
PSW- How do you manage to work out with the long hours of most tournament schedules?
FM- Many events start at noon and you easily have time to work out before that. If you bust an event, you have time to work out then too. It's just a matter of discipline and wanting it. For example, when Elky fought against Raszi (Lex Veldhius) they trained a lot in anticipation for the match. I just saw Elky again and he's lost 7 kilos since the match. He's still training and paying attention to what he is eating.
PSW- What do you do to work out?
FM- I don't like going to the gym and standing on a treadmill. I love playing tennis, but that's only enough exercise for me if I play with my boyfriend, who was a pro tennis player. I also like kickboxing training but it's more like interval training than for a fight.
PSW- Does your boyfriend play poker?
FM -Yes he played in about four EPTs last year and went deep in the Grand Final.
PSW-Can you tell us about an interesting hand from a recent live major, which gives us a sense of how you play?
FM-In the PCA Main Event, I cold four-bet from the big-blind with 6-3 offsuit. The button min opened to 400 at 100/200/25, the guy to my right, an aggressive guy three-bet to 1400. I made it about 3450 and they both folded. I seem like a pretty tight player . . . it was a good spot for me.
PSW-What were the stacks like?
FM-I had about 15K (effective) so it was that's why it was a good spot for me. They think that if you 100 or 120 big blinds deep, that's when you can cold four-bet, so that made it look even stronger as my bet was 1/5 of my stack.
PSW- Most people probably don't know as much about how you play as other Team Pros . . .
FM-No, and that's why in the beginning I stay a little calmer so they perceive me as a defensive or tight player, and then after the tourney evolves and the blinds go up a bit, it's nice to pretend that you're tight and then use the spots in a more efficient way so there are more spots you can take. Although of course, there's always a chance people will five-bet you.
PSW-What do you recommend for women of PokerStars who may be struggling to improve?
FM- Well it really depends what they are struggling with. If you can't beat a certain level, play games or tournaments that are a bit smaller. For tournaments, not just money-wise, but also participant wise. For instance, if you're playing the Sunday Storm that's going to take a lot of focus for a long time if you want to do well in it. So you may want to pick out an $11 or $3 SNG or an 18-player SNG .
PSW-Your experience as an athlete, how does that help you with poker?
FM- My mentality is that I always want to learn, I'm willing to work hard, I'm capable of focusing for a longer period of time, I want to win and I'm very competitive. I brought that to field hockey and that's something I bring to poker as well. That's just my character.
PSW-Do you think people underestimate you?
FM-Yes, I use that to my advantage as well. They don't expect me to be the type of player to keep bluffs in my range. I don't blame them for thinking this . . . many people are still not that good at poker. For instance, a lot of players bet their queen high flush on the turn and on the river and then if they get raised, they're thinking for five minutes. They don't know what to do because they haven't thought about it.
PSW So you're saying you need a plan! Any goals yourself?
FM-Oh, I'm not like that. I'm not that type of person. I think in life you never know where you're going. I don't like to plan. I like to do things that lie within my capabilities and my likings and see where it brings me.