Felipe 'Mojave' Ramos with Ronaldo playing poker  (Neil Stoddart)Felipe 'Mojave' Ramos with Ronaldo playing poker (Neil Stoddart) © Copyright

How to win at poker

Felipe ‘Mojave’ Ramos is a Pokerstars pro from Brazil who has taught footballers to play poker by making it relate to situations they find on the pitch.

I met Ronaldo when I played in a poker tournament against him. He told me some stories about playing poker with his team-mates. He said he would beat those guys because they were distracted, thinking about the match they were going to play. But in a real poker tournament, he was having a much harder time!

When I met Neymar, he was playing poker but didn’t have much figured out about strategy. He asked me for a couple of lessons and I was surprised at how fast he figured it all out. Whenever we talked about poker strategy, he would compare it to things he does on the football field. He’s very clever.

The Brazilian football club Palmeiras invited me to give them some poker lessons before an important match. I went to the hotel where they were staying and we talked about poker. Then I went to the match and supported them, even though I’m a fan of Corinthians – their biggest rival – and they won. After the game, the coach said, “my team is going to win the league because they are together, they like each other and they even play poker together.” And they did win the league. That’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced in poker. 

One of the first things I teach people is that you need to look for the weak players at the table. Don’t try to play against the good players because you’re going to lose most of the time. If you’re playing poker and have nine opponents, you could have two really good players and seven really bad ones. If you’re a striker just starting out, you don’t want to play against Sergio Ramos because you’re not going to get past him.

Another important thing to remember in poker is to look for the optimum play. Don’t always look to the good play – it can be predictable. For example: you have a corner kick. You’re playing against an opponent you’ve studied. You know that whenever you play a short ball, they don’t come to cover because everyone is marking a man in the box. So what’s the optimum play? A ‘good’ play might to put the ball in the area, but the optimal play is the short corner because no one is going to be there.

You must balance your plays too, which means varying the way you play to make sure you are not predictable and can surprise your opponents. If they are completely lost and don’t know what to do against you, you’ll always be on top of the field and accumulating chips.

Sometimes you need to take a calculated risk to win more chips, even if you’re not sure you’re in a good position. You’re trying to grab chips where most people don’t see the opportunity; they only see the risks. It’s the same as a footballer attempting to dribble round the defender instead of passing the ball. It’s a riskier play but if you make
it past, you’re free to score.

Felipe 'Mojave' Ramos with Ronaldo playing poker  (Neil Stoddart)


Photo: Neil Stoddart


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