Photo provided by Betfair.com
Childhood and first steps into the online poker scene
Nevertheless she reckons she never was a good card player when she was a child. As she grew older, she started to bowl and went to the bowling club regularly. Through her passion for the sport, she eventually found her way into the poker community. One day, while Annette was watching a bowling competition on TV, she suddenly noticed an online poker room advertisement in the background. Curiously she searched the Internet and obviously she was clever enough to register. She entered Seven-Card Stud Hi Lo Sit'n'Go tournaments with play money and learnt to play different variants of poker. Texas Hold’em turned out to be her favourite game in the end, but playing without the chance of winning any cash did not really satisfy Annette. Being underage, she had to try and find alternative ways to play for real money.
She already took the first hurdle when signing up, but the biggest problem was still unsolved. The poker room only granted the offered bonus if there was a deposit on the account. As a 15 year old girl she did not have the money and her mother would not let her use her credit card. She thought her daughter’s hobby was rather peculiar.
Soon Annette had played in several poker rooms like PokerStars and was getting better by the day. This is your opportunity to follow in Annette’s footsteps!
The beginning of an extraordinary career
One fine day, Annette finally won $ 9 in a freeroll tournament and what came afterwards sounds like a fairy tale. She quickly amassed a huge bankroll and it did not take long until the whole online poker community knew what “Annette_15” meant! The name has been top in many online tournament rankings for years now. She claims she never invested any money and that she only plays with her winnings.
In an interview Annette once revealed that she used to play very carefully at the beginning of her career. She never bluffed and risked very little but she soon reached the point, where she felt absolutely safe entering small tournaments with low buy ins. She won one tournament after the next and gradually wanted more. Annette knew if she wanted to challenge the “big” ones, she would have to change her game. She was willing to take more risks and experimented a little bit, like raising the pot when holding a weak hand. Eventually - “after making many funny moves and a lot of mistakes” - she knew what she was doing and developed her own strategy. Poker was no longer just a hobby, but it had become a profitable source of income for Annette.
Today, she is certainly one of Scandinavia’s best players and is definitely a very aggressive type of player.
Between September 2006 and September 2007 she managed to reach first and second places in 20 rebuy-tournaments on PokerStars.com and she also won plenty of tournaments in other online poker rooms. If you add up Annette’s winnings at PokerStars, at UltimateBet and at FulltiltPoker, you will find she earned more than $ 800,000 just in this year! Give it a try as well!
Annette_15 breaking records
Of course Annette’s greatest wish was to take part in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, but she had to wait until she is 21 in September 2009 first. In the meantime she was very lucky: the WSOP was carried out in Europe for the first time. So she was able to prove her skills at a “WSOP Europe” live tournament in London in September 2007 already.
Plenty of international stars took part in the WSOP Europe Main Event, but the final table was ruled by young Europeans like John Tabatabai, Magnus Persson and last but not least Annette_15. Poker legends like Gus Hansen, Annie Duke, Jamie Gold, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu were all eliminated and in the end the Norwegian girl found herself heads-up with John Tabatabai from London. Tabatabai started off with chips worth $ 4,244,000 and Annette had $ 2,966,000. It took more than 94 hands until things came to an end.
Annette started off with a raise before the flop and Tabatabai called. The flop then showed 7♣, 6♣ and 5♥. This time Tabatabai raised and Annette immediately moved all in. Tabatabai was holding 5♠ and 6♦ and therefore made the call. The board finished out with a 2♣ on the turn and Q♥ on the river and made Annette “Annette_15” Obrestad the first female WSOP Main Event winner!
Further she became the youngest person ever to win a WSOP Bracelet! Probably that is why she picked up the Gold Bracelet before the prize money! She won £ 1 million, which is $ 2,013,734 and this payout broke the next record! Annie Duke’s $ 2 million payout was now topped by young Annette Obrestad. No female had ever won that much money in a poker event before!
The 19-year old girl turned the whole world of poker upside down and her unforeseen victory was an embarrassment for the WSOP organizers. The event’s slogan “Who will be the King of Europe?” was not really appropriate anymore and after finding the “Queen of Europe”, the WSOP Europe branch was forced to reorganize their whole marketing concept.
Annette herself was overwhelmed and could not believe what had just happened: “I never expected to win. I’m speechless. I really don’t know what to say.”
Annette is more than a one-hit-wonder
Through her spectacular victory she gained a great reputation and was now generally accepted within the poker community. Apart from that, she signed a contract with Betfair Poker, one of the WSOP’s main sponsors.
Critics may suspect that winning the WSOP was sheer luck, but whoever watches Annette carefully, will realize there is more to her game than that! Even long-established poker legends like Daniel Negreanu or Kirk Morrison, who also took part in the WSOP, described her style as one of the best they have ever seen. In Annette’s blog for Betfair Poker, she reveals she gets on very well with Daniel Negreanu and that they sometimes talk through different strategies together.
The WSOP Europe in 2007 was not Annette’s first appearance at a live tournament. Shortly after her 18th birthday, she entered the “2006 Ultimate Bet Aruba Classic” where she finished in 37th place at the no-limit Hold’em event and won $ 12,415. In the “EPT (European Poker Tour) Grand Final” in 2007, she came fifth and went away with $ 20,747. Afterwards, she entered two pot-limit Omaha events and managed to end up in thirteenth place at the “PaddyPower Irish Open” and in eighteenth place at the “EPT Barcelona Open”.
Annette nearly would have won her second major tournament only a couple of months later. She took part in the “EPT Dublin Season 4” and came 2nd in the no-limit Hold’em event. The first few hours Annette dominated the game. After she had eliminated Michael Durrer, Eidsvig Outski, Reijo Manninen and Caspar Hansen, she found herself heads-up against Reuben Peters from the U.S. She started off with chips worth 2.6 million and Peters only had about 700,000 left. After ten hands, Annette’s well-known aggressive style had in fact harmed herself more than her opponent. Peters managed to double his pile of chips and soon became chip-leader. In the last hand, Peters raised before the flop came and Annette re-raised. Peters called and the flop showed 10-6-3. Annette betted out 230,000 and Peters went all in in return. Annette sat there thinking for a couple of minutes before she counted her chips and called with her 7-7 pocket pair. Peters presented his cards showing A-10. The turn and river cards were no help to Annette at all and after the chips were counted trough twice, Reuben Peters was declared winner.
Annette still left with $ 429,181, which you might think is quite a lot of money for a teenager. But the young poker star had expected more and was obviously disappointed:
“The way I played the last hand perhaps wasn’t so good after all. In the heads-up I had plenty of chips, but I just didn’t get any good cards to play. In his case it was the other way around. I am really disappointed – I wanted to win the tournament! “
Annette even considered taking a time-out from live tournament poker after her “defeat”. She wanted to spend some time in her home-town and planned to buy a house for her mother and herself. This decision of course never kept her from playing poker and she is still far from quitting! Currently she spends 40 to 50 hours a week playing online poker.
In January 2008 Annette was tempted by a couple of major tournaments and she returned to the “real” poker world. She took part in the “EPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure” and entered the “Aussie Millions” main event. She left both tournaments without any remarkable winnings, but was very satisfied with her game. At least the “Aussie Millions” main event must have been worth it. In her Betfair Blog, she simply recalls: “We had tons of fun!”
Intuitive playing style - Annette doesn't even need to see her cards
Annette’s poker strategy is not really based on mathematical thoughts. Instead, she concentrates more on being able to read her opponents, even though she understands the mathematical component to it.
She admires famous online poker players like Mark “P0ker H0” Kroon, Cliff “Johnnybax” Josephy and Jeff “ActionJeff” Garza. In the eternal discussion about the difference between online- and live poker skills, Annette is convinced online players are the better poker players. She believes online players gain much more experience because they have to react much faster and often play on several tables simultaneously. In this case, she is consistent with other poker legends like Doyle Brunson, who once reckoned that an online gambler would play more hands in one year than he has done in his whole life.
In the virtual world of poker, Annette is certainly one of the best. She dominates high buy in tournaments and has great mass appeal. One of her most astonishing online appearances was a $ 4 buy in Sit'n'Go tournament featuring 180 players. Her victory did not really come unexpected except for the fact she won the tournament without knowing her own cards! According to her, she only took a glance once after she had gone all in. The rest of the time (including heads-up) she completely relied on bluffs and seemed to know exactly what cards the other players were holding. In an interview, Annette stated that she often plays blindly because it’s good exercise. After she won the tournament, she commented:
“[...] I really just did it for fun and that’s why I peeked on one hand. I didn’t think I was going to take it seriously enough. But when I got deeper, I wanted to win [without looking] to show everyone that it was possible.”
This experiment shows how important it is to adapt to the other players’ styles and to rely on one’s instincts. Annette trusts her instincts rather than the cards.
Another one of Annette’s major online tournament wins was at the “Full Tilt $ 500,000 Guarantee”.
She always relies on her aggressive, intuitive style no matter whether she is playing online or for real:
“You just have to pay more attention, which isn’t really that hard when you’re only playing at one table, except when you get bored. Just listen to music and pay attention, that’s all you can do.”
Negative headlines and criticism
The online poker community is ruled by Annette without any question, but Annette has also hit the headlines in a negative way already. In the “PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP)” main event in 2006 she came seventh. Later she admitted in a blog, that it was not her, who took part. Funny enough this incident had no effect on her popularity at all. After all, nobody is perfect!
Even though Annette’s young age is one of her great advantages, one can also find quite critical opinions on the subject in online forums. Some people disagree with the way she was brought up, because her parents taught her to play poker at young age. Annette does not care about this sort of statements whatsoever. Personally she does not think her parents have made a mistake at all and she still remembers how her mother refused to pass on her credit card details. Her parents never supported her poker career in young years but on the other hand they never stopped her from playing either. The fact she learnt to play poker from her father is not really a sign for bad upbringing, but Annette herself would not want her children to play for real money as minors either: “... because you can get in so much trouble if you’re not careful and I’m surprised everything worked out for me the way it did.”
Everybody loves Annette
The charming Norwegian girl is bombarded with love declarations and proposals wherever she goes. “Annette will you marry me?” has become a kind of slogan in many poker forums and chat rooms. In an interview Annette once straightened out that she has no aims to get married at all, which of course changed absolutely nothing...
Not only fans show her respect, almost every online poker colleague and opponents admire her and everyone is pleased when she wins. It does not look like she has any enviers it seems more like she is part of a big family. An online player about Annette after her WSOPE victory:
“It is funny how a girl that most of us will never meet has had such an impact... This young girl is like everybody’s little sister. We have no envy, no jealousy. We love seeing her do well... You have thousands of people thinking about you this morning and we are all smiling and thinking we are part of this as well.”
In the poker scene Annette can’t make one step without being asked for an interview and everybody wants to talk to her. She enjoys all the attention, even though the hype gets exhausting at times: “It’s cool all these people want to talk to me when I don’t feel that special – I’ve just won a tournament.”
The secret of her success
When she was asked to disclose the secret of her success, Annette answered:
“Erm, I just play a lot. I play a lot of tournaments and I work very hard at my game. I’m always reading books and forums and training sites and I watch videos. I guess you kind of have to have it in you, but I think if you work hard enough you can definitely be a winning player. It’s not that hard to be honest. So many people play so bad you just play the right game and try not to make mistakes.”
Annette claims she enters tournaments feeling totally relaxed. It used to be different, especially when she was the only girl at the poker table. It’s the other way round today: even though she is still the only girl at the table quite often, now the other players get nervous when Annette takes her seat. Most online players dread Annette_15 and immediately leave the table as soon as she turns up:
“I think I get a lot more respect than I deserve! It is good - they fold too much to me, but wait until the WSOPE is televised! I am never going to be able to get away with a bluff again!”
According to Annette, her private life was not really influenced by her poker career. Poker is not very popular where she lives (and by the way: live poker games are illegal in Norway!), so nobody recognizes her on the streets. She leads some kind of double life and is happy the way it is. She can’t identify with international stars having to be worried about paparazzi the whole day.
Basically Annette is a very modest person, but she definitely knows her skills and she is not lacking in self-confidence. She said she wants to take part in a ladies tournament one day, because women are easier to eliminate and probably this would be a good opportunity to win a bracelet. Of course she states, that winning a female event would not mean as much to her than winning a “normal” event but “money is money”.
Chris Moneymaker is a name often mentioned in connection with Annette Obrestad. Chris is presumed to be the pioneer of the new generation of poker players, which is a generation of common people, who found their way into the live poker community via the internet. When Chris won at the WSOP in 2003, he started off a real online poker boom. His message to the world was: “If I can make it, you can!” The same message was spread by the WSOP winner in 2004, Greg Raymer. Looking back, people might remember comparing themselves to the book-keeper from Tennessee and the solicitor from North Dakota. It certainly motivated Annette and today it is the successful female teenager from a small town in Norway, who motivates other people. Her achievements will probably elate plenty of young Europeans and especially women to play online poker and to take part in larger tournaments.
Annette does not really enjoy being compared to Chris Moneymaker: “I don’t want to be like Chris Moneymaker, just win one tournament and never do anything again.”
The young woman is very ambitious, her aim is victory. She wants to prove she is a good player while money has become less important to her: “I want to be the best poker player in the world.”
A lot of poker players like Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth have the same dream, but with all the experience Annette gained as a teenager it will become more and more difficult for other poker professionals to fulfill their dream.
Be careful Phil! Once they let whizz kid Annette_15 loose in the Las Vegas casinos, you will have to tighten your belt!
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