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24/03/2008 No. 65
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday Mar 24, 2008

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, 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 other.

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.

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