Catching up with Fatima Moreira de Melo

women_thumb.jpgOne of our writers once described Fatima Moreira de Melo as a Bridgette Bardot look alike, and after meeting her in person, I can see why. With a halo of blond hair surrounding her striking features and that instantaneous smile of greeting that she flashes for cameras everywhere, she could easily be a movie star instead of a poker pro. But being in the limelight is not something new for Fatima, after all. She comes to this ease before the camera with a few years practice, even before becoming a Team PokerStars SportsStars member. As a former field hockey star and gold medal winner in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she is used to photo shoots and being interviewed. On her home turf in Holland, she is recognized everywhere and was voted Rotterdam Sportswoman of the Year in 2006.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Fatima at the PokerStars EPT Grand Finals in Madrid recently and our conversations covered everything from field hockey (she's retired) to jewelry (one of her current business interests).

Here are some of the highlights:

PSW: Fatima, as a PokerStars SportsStar I know you must travel quite a bit. Can you tell us about that?

Fatima: I travel about three months out of the year, so it's not as much as the other Team Pros. I don't go to all the tournaments, just certain ones.

PSW: Is it hard to maintain personal relationships with all the travel and commitments you have?

Fatima: My boyfriend, Raemon Sluiter, was a professional tennis player, so he can relate. He travels with me sometimes. We try to combine our agendas and it works out pretty well most of the time. He played in the EPT Main Event here as well.

PSW: Is he a good player?

Fatima: He's very good and is very patient and not overly curious.

PSW: What do you mean by "overly curious?"

Fatima: Being curious in poker can cost you a lot of chips. Sometimes people will call your bets just because they have to see what you have and whether you're bluffing them or not. That can really whittle down your stack.


PSW: What do you enjoy most about poker?

Fatima: I enjoy the fact that there's so much to learn. The skills and tactics involved are the most interesting part for me. And I'm very competitive of course, and I enjoy that part of it as well. But poker can be very creative too, and I enjoy a lot of creative pursuits, so that fits perfectly for me. I have to have something in my life that is creative and competitive to get fulfillment in life.

PSW: When did you get really serious about poker?

Fatima: It was in 2009. When PokerStars came calling, it was perfect because I was ready to quit field hockey. It was something challenging and fun to learn, and there is always so much to learn in poker.

PSW: Tell me about your plans for the future. Are you one of those people who have a five year plan?

Fatima: No, I don't plan far in advance. I just like to take life as it comes and weigh all the options. You can try to plan, but life always has surprises, so there goes your plan! Planning too far ahead is not for me.

PSW: Fatima, you've mentioned creative pursuits as being important to you. What is going on in those areas of your life right now? I've heard that you are an accomplished singer, for instance. Are you booked to sing at any big gigs right now? (She has performed at several major sporting events.)

Fatima: No, I'm not doing any singing at this point. My focus is primarily on poker. But I do have a jewelry line that I'm excited about called Zinzi by Fatima. I enjoy the creative part of designing the jewelry and working on the photo shoots. It's very rewarding.

PSW: How did you get into jewelry?

Fatima: I've always been interested in designing and had a dream of creating my own clothing line. I never went to fashion school however; I wound up going to law school instead. So anything related to fashion is very exciting for me.

PSW: So tell us about law school. Did you finish your law degree?

Fatima: Yes, I got my degree, but never practiced. I was happy to just get my degree. I decided it wasn't for me. I couldn't see myself in an office all day.

PSW: Okay, back to poker now. Just a few more questions to wrap up that compare poker and field hockey. Here's the first one. Which is more exciting? A final table in poker or a championship field hockey tournament?

Fatima: It's hard to say because one is a team sport where you are doing just your little part, and poker is an individual sport. When you win it's your win and it's your glory, but if you lose it's your own personal defeat.

PSW: Well, which one gives you more of a rush?

Fatima: In sports, you have to stay very focused and level-headed. You have to be very controlled and keep your emotions under wraps. In a team sport, the coach sometimes tells you how to do something and you just have to do it, even if you don't agree. You have to conform. I'm a bit of a know-it-all, so sometimes that's hard for me. But in poker I can make my own decisions. So that's a rush. Sometimes it feels like my heart is going to pound out of my chest.

PSW: So when you're not playing poker, traveling, or working in your jewelry design business, what do you do to relax?

Fatima: I love to just do simple things with friends and family. I sometimes like to go shopping; that's always fun. But mostly it's just hanging out. I also like listening to music, reading good books, and watching the TV shows I record on my DVR. If it's something I really like, I will sometimes watch the entire series at once.

PSW: Which shows are your favorites?

Fatima: I love Lie to Me, Breaking Bad, White Collar, and Grey's Anatomy, for instance.

For more information on Fatima, see PokerStars Women for all the details on her career in sports and poker.

Rebekah Mercer
@PokerStars in PS Women