Bad Company Tales: Venetian Signs Annette Obrestad as Poker Room Spokesperson
In a deal that’s wholly incongruous and carries a bit of a whiff of desperation on both sides, the Las Vegas-based Venetian has announced the signing of former online-poker wunderkind Annette Obrestad as a spokesperson for the casino’s poker room.
Obrestad joins Erica Lindgren as an official representative of the room, and comes as the casino tries to reverse the ongoing trend of slowly dwindling attendance and interest in its long-running Deep Stacks Extravaganza series. The Venetian’s poker traffic has suffered in general in recent years due to an informal boycott by much of the poker-playing world, due to the anti-online-poker crusade led by billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the CEO and primary owner of Las Vegas Sands, Inc., which in turn is the parent company of the Venetian.
That’s part of what makes this signing so, so strange, so seemingly desperate on both sides. Obrestad gained fame not only for playing the exact game, online poker, that Adelson has spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years trying to ban throughout the United States. Worse, Obrestad made her online mark while playing underage, beginning at age 14 or 15, and thus immortalized in her online “Annette_15” handle.
Obrestad uses that “Annette_15” screen name to this day, even in conjunction with her Venetian work, despite its historical contrariness to what Adelson and LV Sands claim to represent. But then again, neither side in this particular deal seems to be nearing the summit of Mt. Moral in their ongoing poker- and gambling-world dealings.
Obrestad hasn’t had much success in recent years since her gigantic win of the 2007 WSOP-Europe main event. That win was worth a hair over US $2 million, and came just after she was actually of legal age to play in the event. However, she hasn’t been as able to translate her online success to live results as readily as many other online pros. While playing many major events, she hasn’t had a six-figure cash since 2011.
Then there’s the whole Lock Poker fiasco. Obrestad was one of the site’s A-list representatives, happily cashing endorsement checks while that company’s ownership looted tens of millions of dollars from its primarily US-based clientele. Those checks ceased arriving in the months before Lock finally closed its doors, yet Obrestad was one of several former Lock reps who not only refused to leave the site when its problems became obvious, but refused to even speak out against Lock and primary owner Jen Larson once the damage had already been done.
Obrestad’s well on her way to establishing herself as one of those poker “pros” who will sign on to represent damn near anything that comes along, no matter how bad it smells. She’s not quite in the category of Johnny Chan or fellow former Lock pro Michael Mizrachi, but she’s young. Give her time.
There’s already been a lot of talk about this Obrestad-Venetian deal, both for better and worse. There’s plenty of reasons to dislike Obrestad for this and several other actions of recent years, but in true poker-world fashion, a chunk or public commentary has resorted to sexist and misogynistic attacks, as evidenced by the usual garbage found over at the 2+2 discussion forums. Poker’s social-discussion shithole has lived down to its reputation on this topic, indeed.
As for Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands and the Venetian, they’ve long since proved that there’s no floor there for reprehensible behavior. The latest Adelson games haven’t been online-poker related, but they’ve been ever bit as disgusting, first in trying to buy and bully his way out of two different lawsuits regarding LV Sands’ and Adelson’s corruption- and bribery-laden Macau casino operations.
And the latest about that vastly over-priced purchase by Adelson of Nevada’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal? The more evidence that comes out, the more it appears that one of the purchase’s driving factors was Adelson trying to acquire and use the LVRJ’s considerable clout to attempt to dig up dirt on one of the Nevada judges overseeing one of those Adelson corruption trials.
Now, that’s an evil man. And this is the man and the business that Obrestad has signed to do business with, despite that man’s and company’s stated opposition to what amounts to her own poker roots.
She must really, really need the money.