Fatima de Melo: Second place at UKIPT was a winner
"In poker, you can still win while losing," Fatima told us after her second place finish at the UKIPT Isle of Man Main Event. "All in all, I felt like a winner, just not THE winner."
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sentiment of a person who is a winning poker player.
When the UK & Ireland Poker Tour decided to add a stop to its 2013 season on the Isle of Man, many Team PokerStars Pros wanted in on the action, not only to play the unique tournament but to visit the home of PokerStars. Team SportStar Fatima Moreira de Melo was one of them.
She is no stranger to PokerStars tours, but this was different, as she became the star of the UKIPT Isle of Man Main Event show. She ended up finishing second in that tournament - the best finish to date for Fatima in major tournaments - for £59,660.
How Fatima did it
The soft-spoken Netherlands native started making a splash on the first day of that £1,000 buy-in tournament, finishing the night second in chips. She walks us through her thought process:
"I played calmly," Fatima said. "I picked the right spots without playing overly tight or aggressive. I made a big decision for my tournament life and called with A-K suited in a three-way pot, deciding to go for the win or go home. I ended up winning that hand and going from 98K to 270K. After that, I played more pots and ran up my stack because people at my table were playing pretty tight."
Going into the final table as the short stack, she had to adopt a new strategy. Her decision was to "play optimally considering ICM. Don't shove too lightly because the stacks were not that far apart. I still had like 23 big blinds, and I just told myself that I wasn't going to get anxious, just stick to my push-fold scheme that worked for my stack size."
And that was what she did. She did manage to double up early in the action, but she didn't get too overconfident. "I really just played every hand as it came."
How Fatima won by finishing second
As for finishing second, Fatima was honest in her reply: "I would have loved to hold the trophy and go home with the first prize, but I still felt like a winner. In poker, I've learned to be realistic and accept loss, much better than I was able to when I was still an athlete competing in the Olympics. In poker, you can still win while losing. I just felt like I didn't make many mistakes and was very fortunate to run good, so all in all, I felt like a winner."
It also helped that she had a group of PokerStars staff members and friends in the crowd, cheering her on. "It kinda felt like playing for a home crowd. It felt like, by doing well, I was able to give them a sense of pride by being one of the faces that is allowed to represent all the hard work they're doing behind the scenes. It felt nice."
Advice from a winner
Fatima has advice for tournament play that she practiced at the UKIPT Isle of Man. "The best thing to do at live events, I think, is to observe the other players at your table. Most players give away a lot of useful information, either when they're playing a hand or talking about themselves at the table. Watching them keeps my occupied, which means I'm not on my phone the whole time or playing too loosely out of boredom."
She continued with one of the most important lessons for any poker player. "Patience is key. Don't get nervous when you don't play a hand for a while; just keep in mind that anything is possible at any moment in the game. I don't mean to become passive, just calculated, considering your stack size and the dynamics at your table."
Fatima already added another notch to her poker belt. She headed to the Master Classics of Poker series in Amsterdam and played a €1,500 NLHE side event, in which she finished 15th for €6,027. "I felt so confident that my decision-making process was good that I was able to make good laydowns and calls."
As the holidays approach, she plans to play a tournament at the Belgian Poker Challenge in Namen, and then she'll head to Prague for the EPT stop in December. She also alluded to filming "some real exciting global poker content" but can't reveal more at this time.
She is evidently good at keeping secrets, too.
Meanwhile, Fatima is also looking forward the PCA in the Bahamas in January. "Really looking forward to that!" she admitted. And in general, "I just want to play a lot, live poker as well as improving my online game."
Clearly, her plan is working. She just finished fifth at the final table of the Women's Sunday, even with a $700 PCA Mega Satellite ticket bounty on her head.
That's what winners do.
Jennifer Newell is a PokerStars freelance contributor.