Annette Obrestad goes from strength to strength. The astonishing
Norwegian 19-year-old had already banked $1m online before she scooped the live
World Series Of Poker (Europe) in September. Bucking all cobwebby expectations
of female poker players, or teenagers, she is fearless and focused: a
sensation, a prodigy, a Mozart of the baize.
But Obrestad's latest
result has caused controversy. A couple of weeks ago, she played the $10
"Sunday Hundred Grand Tournament" on PokerStars.com, and beat a field of 20,000
players to win $20,000. What's the problem?
The problem is that she's sponsored by
Betfair. At the time of writing, Obrestad's result has still not been formally
announced on her sponsor's website, and PokerStars haven't made much noise
about it either. Each site, I assume, is nervous of giving publicity to the
A mistaken rivalry has crept into online poker. Some sites want
to pretend that others don't exist. But strong websites should not feel
threatened by others' success. A bit of symbiosis (especially with TV events)
is mutually beneficial. It's good for the game if there's a busy marketplace; a
range of options will keep online poker booming and bring in more players for
everybody. It's great that Betfair's star signing has won another big
tournament, and great that one of PokerStars' key tournaments has been won by a
well-known player. Both sides should publicly celebrate the news.
Obrestad's result could be terrific for the game if properly
publicised. It symbolises her freedom, despite the sponsorship deal. It
benefits both sites. Best of all, it reminds us of the compelling joy of poker:
that a brilliant young player, despite her millions and titles, still wants to
play a $10 tournament.