Monday, September 24, 2007


As one of few witnesses to Annette Obrestad’s triumph at this month’s World Series of Poker Europe, I feel obliged to assess a young lady who has undoubtedly become one of poker’s genuine prodigies.

Prior to this tournament, my experience of Annette had been limited to a splattering of Internet gossip and a few brief sightings in the Irish Open and the Monte Carlo EPT final. What I did know, however, was that she held a reputation akin to some of the game’s greatest online players, and possessed a cult status as one of those hugely successful, yet near mythical players that we all want to know just that little more about.

Hailing from a small coastal town in the southwest of Norway, Annette’s initial fray into poker was via her father who taught her the game of Five Card Stud. As the poker boom gathered speed, Annette’s attention soon turned to No Limit Hold’Em and it wasn’t long before she was ambushing the virtual tables.

However, at the tender age of 15 (hence the moniker, Annette_15), she was unable to deposit money so entered a freeroll where she won $9. The rest is history. A win on the Full Tilt biggie, $68,000 in the opening fortnight of May 2007, and a throne at the top of the Pocket Fives rankings that she has virtually made here own; Annette has rocked the online world and made thousands of dollars doing so.

Following in the footsteps of online giants such as Johnny ‘bad_ip’ Lodden, Jeff ‘Action Jeff’ Garza and Shane ‘Shaniac’ Schleger, Annette is the latest whizkid to translate her legendary status onto the live scene, but has been restricted to European venues due to her mere 19 years. Hence, her assault on the WSOPE in London.

Physically, Annette is a bizarre specimen within the confines of the cardroom. She is sheepish, camera shy and a far cry from the aggressive, unrelenting image that her playing style has shaped her up to be. In fact, on first sight, you’d barely notice she was a poker player; you’d barely notice her at all.

Whilst you could easily imagine a bouquet of flowers or set of knitting needles filling her palms off the table, on the table, her menacing image is set in stone: a deadly silence, unmovable Terminator shades and a deafly stare that could turn Medusa into stone – she seems 100% focussed on her game, and nothing will hamper her mission.

Initially, I considered her to be a right little madam, calling the clock on players when not involved in the hand, refusing interviews, making short, snappy comments and generally coming across as a grumpy brat, but on second glimpse, you realise that perhaps she has a more amicable side – it’s just that it has to be lured out of her and at a time when she feels comfortable.

We sometimes forget that she has only just turned 19 and been catapulted into a male dominated and sometime foreboding arena. However, judging by a recent interview in which she was questioned about the more experienced players at the WSOPE, age isn’t a factor, Annette quoted as saying, “I’ve played so many hands online that I think I probably have more experience than they have, playing certain situations, I’m just not as good at reading players as they are.”

If she were at least a little bit intimidated, then it certainly didn’t show at the table. In line with her actions at the virtual felt, if weakness was sensed, she pounced, whether it be Doyle Brunson or Joe Amateur. There were times when she admittedly got lucky (all-in with A-T vs. A-J, Q-J vs. J-J and a harsh cooler at the end) and she did demolish most of her stack unnecessarily with a pair of threes, but she had been one of the chip leaders for most of the tournament and never really looked troubled till the very latter stages.

If anyone ever questioned how much winning means to her and how determined she really is, then you need only speak to someone who witnessed her final hand. The dealing of the final card and the announcement/confirmation of her victory resulting in a mixture of emotions. Her friends, one being fellow player, Jason Laso, felt obliged to approach the table and raise her hands in triumph, because if they hadn’t, she may still be sitting their today, her mouth slightly ajar and her eyes watering in shock.

Too timid or flabber gasted to give an acceptance speech, Annette was sucked up by the crowd that had engulfed the tiny room and the applause that was being directed towards her. Previously, all attention had come from her computer, but now it was here in the flesh, and she had no choice but to face it in all its intimating glory.

For me, the defining moment came when a member of the audience commented, “Well done love for becoming the first female player to win a World Series of Poker Main Event” in a most patronising manner. Momentarily ignoring the ‘Is this actually a WSOP Main Event’ debate, I found this question to be slightly uncomfortable and was one which had unnecessarily reminded myself and everyone else in the room that she was female.

To me, it just doesn’t matter. The beauty of poker is that it brings all walks of life together and allows them to play on an even keel, their gender (or age, race, or occupation for that matter) is irrelevant. Annette was a poker player, and one that had fended off 361 other poker players to earn herself a vastly deserved million pounds. Highlighting her gender seemed inappropriate.

In this sense, I have much admiration for Annette. She might not be the most sociable or camera friendly of poker players, but I can only watch in awe of a player who achieves what she has without gender being a factor. With the likes of Erica Schoenberg, Shannon Elizabeth, Brandi Hawbreaker and co using their gender as a stepping stone into the fame and fortune that poker can bring the minorities, it is simply awesome to see a young lady like Annette Obrestad achieve what she has done without taking such a sour route.

At the beginning of the event, I asked my PokerNews colleague, Barry Carter, who he wanted to win, and he said Annette Obrestad. I’d controversially chosen Jamie Gold as I wanted to give him the opportunity to hold his middle finger up high and say ‘fuck you’ to the poker world. However, in hindsight, I wish I’d chosen Annette. I think her victory is worth a lot more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Just got off the back of a pretty heavy week (well, 12 days) at the WSOPE. It was pretty cool working for PokerNews and a few people said that the updates were of a high standard. I wanted to brighten them up a bit, so hopefully I achieved that.

Working for PokerNews during the day and blonde at night meant just the 5 or 6 hours sleep per night, and now it's all finished, I've dropped into lazy mode - sleeping lots, eating badly and generally not getting much done.

There's loads to talk about regarding WSOPE, but I'm still playing catch-up with work. In the meantime, take a look at this hand from the final table...

8 remaining
Blinds = 6,000/12,000 (2,000)
Magnus Persson = 1,240,000
John Tabatabai = 933,000

Magnus raises to 29,000, John calls in cut-off, small and big blind call.

Flop = 8h-3c-4s

Magnus bets 65,000, John calls, blinds pass.

Turn = 2s

Magnus checks, John bets 145,000, Magnus calls.

River = As

Magnus checks, John bets 400,000, Magnus calls.

John = 5c-6d
Magnus = 9s-9c

In my opinion, I just can't see how he can call. With Pocket Nines, the only hand he is beating is a flush, and with the only draw hitting the turn and the blinds still left to play, it's highly unlikely John has air like K-Q or something.

If he has an 8 or an overpair, then surely he is checking behind Magnus on this board. The way the hand's gone, you'd need balls of steel to put what is virtually your tourney life on the line by getting your man to fold if you think he has an Ace.

Anyhow, it just didn't make sense to me and eveything screamed fold, but Magnus somehow found a call for what was possibly a pivotal moment in the tournament for both him and his opponent, John.

Let me know if you disagree, but I think Magnus will be ruing this faux pas after his 7th place finish.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Unfortunately, the booze wasn't flowing quite as much as it should have been but nonetheless, dana managed to grab a few snaps of some of the action at the Empire Casino's charity event. All images courtesy of

Get your coat, luv, you've pulled


Enter caption here...

The Prof




Phil Gordon - the world's tallest man

Roland and THAT outfit

Scotty Nguyen, baby!

At the tables

A showgirl looking silly in a giant Martini glass

Me looking silly with a showgirl in a giant Martini glass

Some dodgy showgirl

Me and Benjo not realising we're being photographed until the last second

He11muth being annoying

Friday, September 07, 2007


It’s been a while since I last posted, but that’s because my life has been uneventful over the last week and I don’t want to become one of those bloggers who submits “Hi, I’m still here” posts without actually saying anything.

However, last night I was genuinely active, my PokerNews connection as one of their bloggers at the inaugural World Series of Poker Europe entitling me to a VIP pass to the pre-festival party at the swanky brand spanking new Empire Casino in Leicester Square.

There’s a very upper class kind of feel to the Empire and I imagine plenty of rich wankers in Versace suits infest the House games and flash their money around like arseholes, but that’s to be expected. However, the design is highly sophisticated and a distant cry from the normality of the Grosvenors, the open-plan casino being replaced by a cool, suave lay-out with multiple floors, winding staircases and transparent floors.

That’s not all though. As well as the surreal sight of sexy chicks in giant Martini glasses and showgirls performing on the staircase to Shirley Bassey’s “Get This Party Started”, two barmen did their best Tom Cruise impressions by juggling cocktail glasses downstairs.

The party was a little disappointing in truth. Although the Elvis waiters handing out sushi and whatnot and the free bar was a nice touch, it was overcrowded and packed to the rafters with egos, many of whom were only interested in looking cool and talking about themselves. I honestly could be bothered to oblige.

I guess for the average poker fan, being this party would be a dream come true, because literally anyone who’s anyone in the poker world was there. Just off the top of my head, I recall seeing Erik Seidel, Annie Duke, Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Tony G, Roland de Wolfe, Andy Bloch, Devilfish, Phil Gordon, Jamie Gold, Marcel Luske and Phil Hellmuth.

Phil Hellmuth was actually compering the charity comp, a £500 freezeout in aid of the Antes Up For Africa Foundation. There were a mix of pro’s and amateurs in this, but it was nothing serious. Actually, if anything, it was a little annoying being at a party and having to listen to Phil Hellmuth witter on all night. He genuinely isn’t as funny as he thinks he is.

If anyone made me laugh, it was the Devilfish. He was sitting next to some Marilyn Monroe impersonator, and the Fish couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Can’t blame him to be honest, she was pretty tasty.

I think Devilfish was taking full advantage of the free bevies. He had plenty of banter in him, although I do recall cringing when he told a joke to Tony G about the Aussies. Something like, “Have you ever noticed that the Aussies always tell you your answer at the end of their question – What’s you favourite hobby, sport?” – Sigh, I believe he actually called Australians “stupid” at one point, but I think that was just for Tony G’s benefit.

Hey, you know what, Tony G’s my boss now – well, one of them. Officially, I’m self-employed as a freelance journalist, so PokerNews asked Jen and myself to update the WSOPE for them. It’s good to spread your wings a bit, so I thought why not. I worked for them at the NPL, and their software was really easy to use, so for 10 days pay, I jumped at the chance. It’s weird having photographers, cameramen and interviewers in the team, not to mention ‘shadowers’ who check your facts, grammar and spelling.

Near the end of the party, tikay lured me into an interview. He beckoned me over seemingly innocently and before I knew it, the cameras were rolling. I think I botched one question, but apart from that it went pretty well. Tikay interviewed a sea of pro’s though, so I expect I’ll be left on the cutting floor.

I noticed a big gash on tikay’s forehead whilst doing the interview. I don’t think he realised how big it was until he got home, but apparently he’d been following Jennifer Harman, who is a tad smaller, under a barrier and managed to lose his sense of space and time and bosh his head against the metal surface. Ouch! But like a true professional, he battled on – even if he did look like he’d been in a scrap and lost.

The most pleasing part of the night for me, however, was on the way out. Not just because I was leaving what was ultimately a pretty tedious party, but because David Williams was being told to remove his cap on the way in by the bouncer. The bouncer obviously didn’t have a clue who he was, but you could see in Williams’ eyes that he was thinking, “Do you know who I am?”

Oh, sometimes it’s the small things that satisfy me.