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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Annette Obrestad

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

A lot of poker players in the younger generation were able to get off to an early start in the game.  In the days before the internet 21 was the legal age in most places before one could even sit down at a poker table in a casino, making that the first time they had ever played for money outside of small games with family members.  Of course you could have managed a fake I.D., but still the percentage of people playing poker at a young age was minimal, at best.  When the “poker boom” occurred, a large number of poker rooms made their way to the internet. 

Sure, you were supposed to be at least 18 to join a poker room, but it was pretty easy for anyone to get an account, particularly in the early days of online poker.  Annette Obrestad was one of those “anyone’s” to get an account back then, at the ripe old age of 15.  A combination of an early start and an apparently brilliant mind allowed Obrestad to compile hundreds and thousands of dollars of online winnings before she was even legally allowed in a casino.  Her story is one that borders on the line of legendary, and she’s just about to turn 21.  That’s quite the feat.
Annette Obrestad was born September 18, 1988, making her the youngest player we have profiled in our “Where Are They Now.”  She was born in Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway, and continues to spend a lot of time there, despite making a name for herself on the world level as of late.  When you take up poker at 15 years old that is generally considered an early age, but before she was a poker player she was actually a competitive bowler.  Obrestad played in ten-pin bowling leagues from the age of ten, traveling around Norway to participate in different tournaments.  It was bowling that led her to poker, but in a pretty unique way.  When she was 15 years old she was watching a professional bowling tournament on television when she noticed a banner for a poker website over the lanes.  It was because of that she signed up to a free account and got her start with poker.

Obrestad wanted to put money on the website but because she was 15, and the only way she could deposit money was with a credit card, that was out of the question.  Obrestad asked her mother, who said no, mainly because she was a little skeptical of giving her credit card information to a poker website.  Obrestad could have perhaps given up her budding poker career right then and there, but instead decided to play freerolls.  Obrestad won a freeroll for nine dollars, and has never looked back.  She has said that she has never once had to deposit any money on any website, a claim not many can make.

From that initial nine dollar freeroll she has gone on to win nearly 1 million dollars just in online winnings all before her 21st birthday.  She started playing $4 180-man tournaments on Poker Stars, up to 8 at a time over 12 hour sessions, and has had very positive results.  She started playing 109 rebuy tournaments on the same site, and would routinely have top 10 results, resulting in a series of 15 to 20 thousand dollar prizes.  Her first big online tournament result came in October of 2006 when she came in 7th to win $163,150 in a $2600 buy-in high-rollers tournament.  In August of 2006 she won a $216 dollar buy-in on Full Tilt Poker to win $117,027.  Between the two websites she had dozens of five figure scores.  

Two of Obrestad’s more impressive online wins are actually two of her smaller prizes.  On March 2, 2008 she won the 100k Guaranteed PokerStars tournament with an 11-dollar buy-in.  Now that doesn’t sound that impressive, but what was impressive is the number of people in the tournament – 20,000.  The tournament has the largest field of any weekly tournament, and statistics show that the chances of winning it are slim, with some guessing suggesting that you can expect to win it once every 80 years if you were to play it every week.  Obrestad certainly showed she wasn’t a fluke by her previous wins in larger buy-in tournaments, and showed the diversity of her game by being able to win an 11 dollar tournament with 20,000 entrants.
Her other tournament win was even a smaller buy-in, but what she has claimed to do is the stuff of legends.  Obrestad claimed she won a $4 180-man tournament without looking.  She said she played the tournament without looking to prove the importance of position and paying attention to all the players.  It put a new meaning to the poker saying “you play the players and not the cards.”  She said she did this often to practice.  The one she won has been a topic of conversation since she did it a few years ago.  It was first believed she didn’t look at her cards once, which were covered by a stick-it note on her computer screen, but she has since said she looked once when she was faced with an all in for her tournament life.  Regardless, she showed that her skill level as a teenager was equal to those that have been playing the game decades longer.

When she was 18 she was allowed in most European casinos, and wasted no time making a name for herself in live poker too.  In just her fourth live tournament she ever cashed in she took down the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event for $2,013,734.  The victory was one of historic proportions for poker.  She won the event one day before her 19th birthday and took the record for the highest prize ever for a woman, narrowly beating Annie Duke’s two million dollar prize from the 2004 tournament of champions.  The victory also put her number one on the all-time money list for Norwegian players, putting her front of pro Thor Hansen, who started playing live tournaments a year before Obrestad was even born.  The win also put her 59th for all-time WSOP winnings, which is amazing because she’s not even allowed to participate in the WSOP in Las Vegas until 2010.

One month after winning the WSOPE, she finished second at the European Poker Tour’s Dublin, Ireland event for $429,181.  Between that score in October of 2007 and March of 2009 she had four more five figure scores in live poker.  This past April, she made a six figure score when she finished in 13th place at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo for $101,244.

Obrestad’s personality has been described as cocky by some of her counterparts, as she has shown very little respect for her opponents in interviews or at the table.  Other people say this could be because of her Norwegian background and perhaps the inability to project what she wants to say in English because of a language barrier, and in turn comes off rude sometimes.  In short time she’ll turn 21 and she’ll start to play in America much more.  It would be fair to hold off judgment on the young Obrestad’s personality until she has had time to adjust to American culture.

Annette is a Betfair Poker sponsored pro and in her short poker career has already done more than most players have dreamed about, and that was without even playing in Las Vegas once.  It’s unreal to think what Obrestad can accomplish over the next few years.  

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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