WSOP 2015: Playing short with Fatima Moreira de Melo
Fatima Moreira de Melo may be larger than life. A field hockey champion, an Olympian, a poker superstar, a model...there aren't many avenues she's traveled where she hasn't stood taller than everybody else in the room.
This is what I'm thinking when I approach De Melo on Day 4 and start actively worrying whether my angle over her will reveal any errant nose hairs. That is, De Melo, while a woman of giant character and personality, is actually quite petite, and--despite the fact I'm not really a tall guy--I feel like a towering doofus in front of her.
De Melo has proven throughout her entire life that she can play short, and she's proved it here this week. There was a time on Day 2 when she had only 6,000 in chips, a penance compared to the 30,000 she started with on Day 1. Did it even occur to her that she could be here on Day 4 with 453,000?
"No, but I was very determined," she said, careful not to look up my nose. "Okay, I never thought I'd make it to Day 4, but I never thought I wouldn't either, you know?"
This is a woman who doesn't give up, even when she doesn't have much to work with.
"I've been short-stacking here at other World Series events," she said. "I'm more comfortable with it, and I don't give up, so I don't spew them off."
Yesterday, De Melo played for a while with WCOOP champion Fedor Holz who had an enviable chip count. Today, she started the day as the biggest stack at her table.
"Now I've got a stack. It's playable," she said. "I can feel out my table and take a couple hits if needed, but also accumulate chips hopefully."
This attitude is a bit of a different De Melo than people knew at the beginning of her poker career. Over time, she's developed a more mature and nuanced view. Being down, for her, doesn't mean being out, and as a result, instead of conceding the game earlier this week, she's in the money and guaranteed at least $20,000.
"It's just the experience and knowing you can run it up if you have the right ranges and make the right shoves and right folds," she said. "I'm just more used to it now than I was before."
Now, it's just a matter of making it on to Day 5. And who knows? Before the end of the year, she could have champion's picture hanging down from the rafters of the Amazon Room. It wouldn't be the first time she went from playing short to towering over everyone.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging. Photography by PokerPhotoArchive.com