Learning from the Best: Fatima Moreira de Melo

On my ever-evolving poker journey, I have always striven to improve my game and play to the best of my ability. I have even been harbouring the ambition of entering the 2014 Barcelona EPT Main Event. To make any kind of success even a remote possibility, I have been looking at the professionals to see what I can learn from them and if their playing styles work for me. This week, I looked at the European lovely, Team SportStar Fatima Moreira de Melo.

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She is cute and sassy, and instantly likable. As Fatima is still relatively new on the poker scene, I can relate to her and find myself on a similar learning curve. She has admitted that she loves the learning element of the game, which is a good thing because, when it comes to poker, every day is a school day. The fact that she started playing poker to keep her mind active rings true with me. I live in the hope that keeping my brain stimulated though poker is going to stave off the early onset of Alzheimer's that I fear is coming every time I wonder into a room with a complete blank as to why I am there!

Fatima's insight about having control over her emotions when playing poker has been particularly helpful. Being a woman playing in a male dominated poker industry, I sometimes fear the unspoken accusation that being female is to be emotionally compromised. But just one look at the final table of any high stakes poker game shows the range of emotions experienced by players, regardless of gender. Keeping emotions in check is a fundamental ingredient to success. This is still something I am struggling with. To be specific, I get frustrated, and as a poker player, this is the worst emotion you can allow yourself to indulge in. Staying cool and consistent is what yields results.

When it comes to trusting your gut, poker is a sure fire way of testing It. Fatima calls it "female intuition." So far, as a poker player, trusting my gut has been my main guiding force. While there is something to be learned by intuition, it has hindered me as much as it has helped me. Fatima's suggestion that this "female intuition" can be used as a guide, so long as it is tempered by logical facts, has been a revelation. So long as the two are balanced, I see there could be an advantage to be gained.

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Along with my sometimes-crippling frustration comes impatience and curiosity. It is a relief to hear someone as prestigious as Fatima admit to having these same feelings. Like Fatima, I, too, am frequently told by my boyfriend to play tight, as I am still learning and that once I am more experienced, I can expand my range. But I am curious to see how hands play out and more eager to see what my opponents have. I often question why he plays hands he would tell me to avoid and can't help teasing when he goes all-in, and loses, with ace-nine.

Perhaps the most endearing element of Fatima's play is that she finds people at the poker table to help her out. At the Barcelona EPT, she found herself a little out of her depth and, at the live tournaments I have played, I can definitely relate to this. But she is courageous and has shown me there is no shame in asking for help. Invariably, fellow players are keen to help out, and I am learning just how welcoming the poker community can be.

All in all, I have learned from Fatima that I am not the only female poker player struggling and striving with the game. To look at professional players, they are always so smooth and in control; it feels like they walked out of the womb flicking casino chips and reading hands, but Fatima gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, I'll make it to that Barcelona EPT. So, until then, I will practice and read, and then practice some more!

Ann-Marie McCarthy
@PokerStars in PS Women