Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 26: Observing Obrestad

Annette ObrestadThe last three days have been a bit disjointed for me. Have been trying to spend some quality time with Vera, although unfortunately I’ve had to work and so that’s been a bit of a challenge. But we’ve still managed to have some fun during the hours I’m not at the Rio.

When I have been at the Rio, I’ve been covering different events each of the last three days -- the $10,000 Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship on Sunday (Event No. 35), the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em-Pot-Limit Omaha on Monday (Event No. 38), and the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout yesterday (Event No. 39) -- which adds to the disjointed feeling. But I’m back on the final day of the Shootout today, which I’m looking forward to, as Annette Obrestad won her second straight table and will be there to play in the final.

Incidentally, the Shootout ended up attracting 1,397 players who played 140 (mostly) ten-handed tables the first day, then 14 ten-handed tables yesterday. Those 14 return today to play what is essentially a two-table sit-n-go in which each will start with the same starting stack (450,000 chips). Kind of messes up the Shootout format a little -- plus the payouts got a little screwy, too. But that’s how it is.

It took Obrestad until about 1 a.m. or so yesterday to win her table, so she was one of the last to move on to the final. As a result, I got the chance to watch her play a little more than I have thus far this summer.

I first saw Obrestad in an WSOP event a couple of weeks ago. It was just after I’d returned to Vegas from Peru, and I had gone in to help out on Event No. 17, the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event that had attracted most of the big names. I wasn’t scheduled to work that day, but had gone in primarily just to reacquaint myself with the site and some of its features, since during the days I had worked before I’d left things hadn’t been functioning so smoothly.

Eventually I’d end up taking over for a colleague who wasn’t feeling well, and so it turned into a regular day of live blogging. Before that, however, I was in a more passive mode, helping with entering chip counts or whatever else was needed, and not really going out onto the floor much to see what was going on.

Anyhow, it was during that earlier part of the day I did take a tour around to see the field, and I remember being a little startled to see Obrestad, standing out most consipicously from the other players at her table. I don’t believe she had played in many (or perhaps any) events prior to that one, as she had had some obligations that had prevented her joining the Series at its start.

I’ve long gotten past feeling at all starstruck around poker “celebrities.” I know during the first days of the WSOP a couple of years ago, there were a few moments here and there where I was marveling a little at seeing folks like Brunson, Hellmuth, or Ivey in such close proximity, but that went away pretty quickly.

For example, just a few days ago I was covering the $10,000 Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship, and was there to catch Tom Dwan’s bustout hand in Round 2. He and his opponent, Andrew Rosskamm, were one of the last matches to finish in that round, and so all of the surrounding tables were empty. It was just the dealer, Dwan, Rosskamm, and Erik Seidel, sitting at the other end of the table watching the match. And me, a few feet to the side, noting the action.

I recall thinking (fleetingly) then that some might find this an interesting spot in which to be. And it was -- Dwan is a pretty compelling figure to watch play. But then again, it was also just another hand. Like all those whom we see on television or who seem somehow “larger than life” to us, they’re just folks like you and me, and it perhaps becomes easier to appreciate that when dealing with them in person.

That said, I’ll admit to having that same sort of silly “OMG” feeling when first spotting Obrestad in that $5K event. It is really her? The one whom we’ve read and seen and heard so much about? I remember Dr. Pauly wrote something around that time about how seeing her play at her first WSOP like this was “like [seeing] a young Miles Davis perform at clubs in NYC in the early 1950s.” I knew what he meant. Something special going on here, I couldn’t help thinking. I should really pay attention.

In terms of her appearance and dress, Obrestad obviously stood out last night as one of the few women in the room, although watching her one soon gets the sense that she very much belongs. That is to say, of all 140 players I saw yesterday around the tables, she looked as comfortable (or more so) as anyone in the room.

She wore her familiar wrap-around shades, and had on a long-sleeved sweater to help combat the air-conditioned chill of the Amazon. Obrestad generally sits very still, her arms resting on the edge of the table, hands stopping the cards as they are pitched her way. She had the sleeves of her sweater pulled forward over her hands so that only her fingers, with painted nails, were exposed. When the action reached her she would carefully check her cards, then more often than not slowly pull a few chips off the top of her stack and toss them forward, following a similar motion each time.

Not unlike Dwan, actually, was Obrestad in the conservation of movement. That said, she was no robot at the table, and often between hands would chat with the other players -- about hands, but also about other things, too. Vera was there last night for a little while and watched Obrestad from the rail, and she noted how sometimes Obrestad would let out an infectious giggle that reminded one she was indeed still young.

But poker-wise, she’s seems anything but youthful. My sense was she was never seriously threatened in her match yesterday, although she did need a double-up late to survive. Perhaps it is her demeanor and successful hiding of tells that is affecting my impression of her, but it never seemed to me like she was unsure about what to do next (something I can’t always say of all players I watch play).

Like I say, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how Obrestad does in today’s final. J.C. Tran also made it through. I had the chance to cover Tran when he won his first WSOP bracelet two years ago, and he’s another one I find fairly fascinating to watch. Would definitely make things interesting if those two made it to the final nine today and perhaps further.

You can’t watch, too, unfortunately. But you can follow our reports of what we see over at PokerNews starting a little later today.

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