This is slightly old news, but with the 2018 World Series of Poker having occupied our thoughts for a while, forgive us if we missed this. Aussie poker pro James Obst announced this month that he plans to ditch that “pro” designation, effectively retiring from full-time poker.
Most young poker pros – Obst is just 28 – who retire or take a break from poker often do so to start families, go into finance, start businesses, travel the world, or what have you. James Obst is taking a much more interesting, unique route: he has designs on becoming a professional tennis player, with the dream of playing at Wimbledon.
So has Obst been playing tennis at a high level during these poker years? Nope, which makes this quite the ambitious endeavor. But hey, if I had millions of dollars to fall back on when I was 28-years old, I might have chased my professional baseball dream, too.
On Twitter, Obst offered his retirement speech of sorts, writing, in part:
I never even conceived the possibility of sharing this publicly, but after feeling all of the support and interest in the last couple of days, I realise that if I all but disappeared from poker that some people would want to know why — and I’m out of reasons not to share. My dream has always been to a professional tennis player, and to play in Wimbledon. Despite a wretched history of health problems since [age] 16, I always believed I’d make it eventually, just as I wholeheartedly believe it today. Now that I’ve finally gotten on top of most of the issues, it’s time to commit properly. I’m still an incredibly long way away physically, but the dream can’t coexist with playing much poker anymore. The most powerful part of my transformation, though, is that if I’m ultimately proven to be delusional and never get close, I’m OK with people seeing that. It’s still going to be a fulfilling path to go down, and worrying about what people think is no longer a priority.
He also encouraged poker players to maintain a healthy lifestyle, something that isn’t always easy to do when you are sitting down, doing something mentally taxing for hours upon hours a day.
“Prioritise your health and don’t settle for anything less than the life you dream of,” Obst said. “If you’ve never gone all in on optimizing your health, it’s likely you actually have no understanding of how much better your reality could become.”
James Obst has nearly $2.9 million in live tournament earnings in his career and had a very deep run at the 2018 WSOP Main Event, finishing 46th (though he called his overall WSOP results “disappointing”). Obst has also been a long-time online player, competing on the internet even when underage, earning untold sums in both cash games and multi-table tournaments.
Lead photo credit: WSOP.com