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Sabina Hiatullah: From Italian TV to Brink of Poker Breakthrough
In just seven months she's won a €50,000 Italian poker show and an EPT Ladies Event - not to mention been nominated for a PokerListings Spirit of Poker Award.
By several critical benchmarks - not the least of which is a great sense of perspective and a healthy lack of fear of men who enter Ladies events - Italy's Sabina Hiatullah is a name to watch in poker.
When we met her during a break on Day 3 of the EPT Barcelona main event, however, she was in a tough spot.
Having lost 50k in chips after 4-bet folding pocket jacks – the 5-bettor showed pocket aces – she had 30 BB left with 40 players to bust before the bubble.
PokerListings: You know they say you have to exploit the bubble scenario.
Sabina Hiatullah: Yes (laughs) but unfortunately I’m the short stack so I’ll be the one who’s going to be exploited.
Editor’s note: With four players to bust before the bubble, Sabina lost A-K to A-A and was left with eight big blinds. She did just make the money in the end.
PL: Right, sorry. By the way how did you get into the Barcelona main event? Buy-in or satellite?
SH: Neither. I recently won the Italian version of House of Bluff. First prize was €50,000 and part of that comes in tournament buy-ins, so the TV show bought me in.
PL: How did that show work?
SH: There were 18 people in the house. Six of them were from an online qualifier with additional casting and the other 12 were just regularly cast people.
Correspondingly many of them had nothing to do with poker and the level of play was very low. It was actually pretty easy for me to go through.
Apart from regular challenges there was basically a four-week-long tournament and every couple of days somebody busted. The whole thing was produced in the Villa Rosa in St. Julian’s, Malta.
We were locked away for four weeks without any contact to the outside world -- not even mobile phones.
PL: Four weeks without a mobile? Must have been terrible.
SH: It was a disaster. I was almost happier to get my mobile back than to win (laughs). Almost.
PL: So much for clichés. Where else are you going to play?
SH: I’m going to play at least one more EPT main event, probably either in Malta or the new stop that hasn’t been announced yet. Apart from that I will also play four main events of the IPT.
PL: You’re playing the Italian Poker Tour because of your personal background?
SH: Yes, my mother is Italian and I was born in Milan. We moved to Germany when I was four so I consider German to be my mother tongue. My Italian is not exactly perfect.
PL: Apparently it’s good enough to win an Italian TV show.
SH: Yes, but poker skills were more important there than language skills.
PL: Seven months after your win at the EPT Deauville Ladies event do you consider yourself a professional player now?
SH: It’s really hard to say. What’s certain is that, as I won that show, I’ll be on the poker circuit for the next six months.
If this works out I might carry on but if it doesn’t I’ll probably drop out and will only play poker occasionally.
PL: You’ve also been nominated for a PokerListings Spirit of Poker Award.
SH: Yes! It’s absolutely fantastic. I was checking the list of nominees and it’s full of world-class players -- and then there’s me in the mix there.
I’ve also read very funny comments about my nomination, like “well, some players have titles, others have tits." (big laugh)
PL: Must have been a different website. PokerListings readers would never write this.
SH: Ha, nice, but there is some truth in this, if you look at me compared to these top players.
PL: Money isn’t everything when it comes to our awards. It’s also about talent, social skills and inspiration. What would it mean to you if you win?
SH: I think it’s already ultra-cool to be nominated. Winning it would mean a lot to me. When is the ceremony going to be?
PL: During the Battle of Malta.
SH: The Battle of Malta is taking place right after the EPT. So, whichever way it goes, I’ll be at the EPT and then I’ll just stay for the Battle of Malta. I’m going to play it either way.