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European Poker Tour Madrid Q&A -- Raemon Sluiter

Dutch Tennis Hero Makes Final 24 Of EPT Grand Final Main Event

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Just outside the top 10 on the chip leader board going into day 4, the penultimate day, of the PokerStars European Poker Tour Grand Final main event is Raemon Sleuter. Fans of tennis, and sport in general, should recognize his name as in 2003 Sluiter was among the top 50 tennis players in the world. After a successful career there, he turned his attention to poker, as did girlfriend and field hockey star Fatima Moreira de Melo, and in her EPT footsteps, Sleuter is now taking on some of the best poker players in the world.

As he prepares for the next leg of the battle towards the €1,500,000 top prize, the Dutchman speaks candidly about his poker experience, its comparison to tennis, and being in a poker relationship.

Rebecca McAdam: Tell me all about your journey to day 4; your experiences, big hands etc..

Raemon Sluiter: I started off three days ago, and I’m a pretty tight player, I’ve a lot of patience, I’m not really comfortable like a lot of the Scandinavians three-betting, four-betting, five-betting ⎯ it’s not really my thing. So I was just trying to pick some hands up and get a few chips. I got a pretty big set-up at the end of day 1 against Ben Wilinofsky, EPT Berlin winner, where I hit quads on the turn and he made his full house on the turn, so of course the money went in and I doubled up to about 80,000. Then I won 20,000 or 30,000 more, so I ended the day with 110,000, which is a lot of chips for me.

Then day 2 was rough, I didn’t pick up a lot of cards, and I was surrounded by great players, so I couldn’t do a lot, I was just trying to hang in there, and that’s what I did, I ended the day with 75,000. At the beginning of today [day 3] there were only like 14 or 15 big blinds and then I had a great first two or three hours where I was picking up hands when short stacks were going in and I found kings in a big pot and accumulated a lot of chips. Then all of a sudden I’m in the last 24.

RM: You mentioned aggressive Scandinavians… for someone who perhaps was going to play their first EPT and was a little nervous about getting involved with players like that, how can/do you avoid it (since you managed to successfully)?

RS: The thing is if you fold for a bit, they’ll give you credit for doing something, so then you can get away with three-betting with maybe some worse hands. Probably they see that I’m a little uncomfortable but I’m not that bad because I talk a lot with the Dutch players, and of course with my girlfriend Fatima, and I’m crazy about poker so I’m reading books and everything. I don’t have that much experience but I can play and maybe I can turn things my way a little bit sometime.

RM: What is your live event experience?

RS: I was allowed by PokerStars Netherlands to play four events so I actually played in London, Barcelona, the Bahamas, and here, so this is my fourth event. I played a couple of side events, I cashed in two €2,000 events, so that gave me some confidence.

RM: Did that give you experience ⎯ do you find your game has improved now?

RS: Well I’m probably a bit more comfortable, but in saying that, the last time I played live was in the Bahamas, so that’s five months ago. From my sports background I’m used to pressure, I’m used to waiting, so I’ve a lot of patience, so there are some similarities. I can take hits and get back from them.

RM: You must be very competitive then in everything you do, does that apply to poker?

RS: Yeah absolutely but I cannot take that too far because then the guys that are fooling around with me on the table and raising on my blinds every time, if I’m too much into it and too competitive, I’m going to be too aggressive and they’re going to fool me one time or another, so I try to keep calm, but of course there is a lot of competitiveness.

RM: How did you get into poker? Was it after you retired from tennis?

RS: Yeah in the last year I was already playing for fun and we had a home game for friends. Fatima and I were already playing and Lex Veldhuis joined the home game and he kind of blew it up a little bit, but I got to know him a bit, he was into tennis, I was into poker, so we started to talk a lot of poker, played a bit of tennis, and got a little bit into the poker scene. Then Fatima got asked to join the PokerStars team as a SportsStar and she took it with two hands, she’s playing everything and absorbing all the information, and I’m just traveling a bit with her.

RM: Would you like to play as many events as she’s playing?

RS: Well, I find it very hard, very hard…

RM: The concentration…

RS: Yeah, I don’t think I would be able to play a big tournament next week. In a couple of weeks or so, yeah, but also the highs and lows you get in poker, and the luck that is involved ⎯ I have a tennis background and maybe luck is going to influence the result in one match, it’s possible, but in the long run the best one is going to win ⎯ That’s also a little bit like poker, but this can be so cruel and so rough.

Today I kicked out William Reynolds. He’s so nice and he’s a great player, I’m nowhere near the player he is but I still kicked him out and that’s part of the game, and that’s also why poker is so nice because a little bit less-known players can get away with stuff and you actually get a chance to play with the big guys. I only know this guy from The Big Game.

RM: It’s brilliant…

RS: Yeah, it’s beautiful!

RM: You’re obviously very fit with your tennis background, you must find this quite an unhealthy way of life in comparison?

RS: Yeah that’s the thing, apart from me not being a really good poker player, that would be the thing that I really don’t like because it’s so difficult to keep up a healthy lifestyle. You have long days, the buffet here is hamburgers and fries, which is not a bad thing for one day, but if you do it like four or five days in a row… and you don’t get a lot of sleep. So that’s the thing I really don’t like about it.

RM: Do you try to get a balance and go to the gym and so on?

RS: Well you know on days like this… tonight I’m going to just relax for a few hours and then sleep. Tomorrow I’ll probably wake up at 10, we have to play at 12 again, we have a bus ride of 30 minutes to get there, so I’m just not able to go into the fitness then.

RM: Can I ask you about being in a poker relationship ⎯ is it a good thing in terms of support or can it be difficult for instance if you’re both having a rough time or on tilt or whatever?

RS: Well we had a few discussions every now and then when we played the home game, like, “How can you do this and that…!” We had a few fights about it [laughs], but that was good, and now we’ve got it really all figured out ⎯ we talk about hands after she’s been playing online, after an hour or so I’ll say if I would have done things differently, even if it’s good or bad, and we just talk a lot about it. I’m very proud of her because she’s a lady in a man’s world and she’s pretty tiny but she’s…

RM: A bombshell!

RS: Yeah, exactly… yeah, she’s great.

RM: Who’s the better player?

RS: I think she is. Maybe I’m a wee bit better in the mathematical side of the game, but she’s got a lot of…

RM: Women’s intuition?

RS: Yeah, women’s intuition, you cannot beat that [smiles].

RM: What are your plans now with poker?

RS: I don’t know. I’m going to get some sleep and get ready for day 4 and really focus. It’s a tough thing because I’m not really able to relax in between, so it’s tough to enjoy the ride, it’s going to come after the tournament when I’m finished. So I’m just going to gear up for tomorrow [day 4] and then after that, you never know! I’m pretty sure I’ll still play a little bit. I love this game.