According to her personal Twitter account and the casino, the inaugural champion of the World Series of Poker Europe, Annette Obrestad, has signed an “ambassador deal” with the Venetian Las Vegas. The deal, of which no details were announced, apparently began this weekend.
The mysterious details began to leak out earlier this week when Obrestad bubbled over her Twitter feed, “Have a pretty exciting announcement (for me anyway) coming up…Stay tuned.” On Thursday, the other shoe dropped in that little tease when the Venetian Poker Room announced over their Twitter account, “We are pleased to announce Annette Obrestad as ambassador of the Sands Poker Room. Welcome to the team!” along with her official “team” photo. Obrestad would waste little time in saying, “Guys, its (sic) official! I’m now an ambassador for Venetian Poker. I’m SOOOO excited. I hope to give a lot of you a chance to play with me soon!”
That chance came on Saturday when, during one of the Venetian DeepStack tournaments, Obrestad took on her first tournament. “(Will be) Playing my first tournament as a Venetian Poker ambassador today. Don’t be shy, come say hi if you’re there!” As of a couple of hours ago, Obrestad reports she’s doing well because she “keeps getting Kings…ez game LOL.”
Now, for those of you that haven’t quite captured the irony of all of this yet, please stay tuned.
Obrestad is one of the most well-known players in the game and her history is also well-known. She got her start as a 15-year old, hence her online poker screen name of ‘Annette_15,’ where she was able to hone her game on PokerStars’ free play room. Once she made enough money from the freerolls, she transferred to the cash tables and tournaments, even once playing a tournament – and winning it – without ever looking at her hole cards. This was all before she could even vote in any political election, let alone enter a casino legally. It also allowed her to be able to be the youngest ever World Series of Poker bracelet winner (at one day prior to her 19th birthday) in the esteemed organization’s history.
Since that time, however, Obrestad has had a few rough years. Despite winning over $600,000 in 2010, she didn’t even crack five figures in each of the last two calendar years and it was pretty lean in the three years prior to those. She also hasn’t had a great streak in online poker sponsorships either; in May 2010, Obrestad signed a sponsorship deal with Full Tilt Poker (the company was shut down slightly more than a year later) and, following that, she was ready for a “great beginning of a new and exciting relationship” with Lock Poker in 2012. Lock Poker shut down in April 2015, owing players conservatively around $15 million.
What makes Obrestad’s new position interesting is that it is with a company that is, for all practical purposes, trying to ensure that Obrestad has to leave the United States to be able to play online poker. Obrestad’s new boss, Las Vegas Sands Corporation chairman/billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is the bankroll behind the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which has been active in the prohibition of online poker on the federal level through the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, or RAWA. Adelson and his cronies have also traversed the United States, testifying wherever and whenever a state looks as if it will pass any form of legislation that will regulate online gaming or poker for its citizens.
There is no word on whether Obrestad knows of the irony of her situation (or if she really gives a damn), but the poker world has obviously taken notice and U. S. players aren’t very pleased about it. One commenter on a Facebook chat noted, “Another pro not showing any support for us, so aggravating.” On Twitter, Obrestad’s association with Lock Poker and now Adelson was noted, saying, “People who KNOWINGLY promote scams such as Obrestad should not be given ANY jobs in poker.” Another Twitter user stated, “So an online prodigy represents a brand whose owner wants to ban online poker. #Baffling”