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December 20, 2014

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Poker phenom to make long-awaited appearance at World Series of Poker

Age has kept Annette Obrestad away from Las Vegas tournaments until now

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SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In an event with thousands of participants like the World Series of Poker, no single player's debut demands much attention.

Annette Obrestad serves as an exception to that rule. Obrestad, a 21-year old Norwegian poker pro, has established herself as one of the game's most feared players during the last three years because of her successes overseas.

But she never was able to showcase her ability on poker's biggest stage, the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, because of age restrictions. That will change when this year's set of 57 tournaments at the World Series of Poker kicks off Friday, May 28, at the Rio.

"We'll see what happens," Obrestad said. "I'm hoping to play in as many tournaments as possible and hopefully do good in a few."

Obrestad, who spoke on a teleconference Monday morning to preview the 2010 World Series of Poker, should have no problem with that. Her results thus far are undeniable.

At 18 years old, Obrestad won the 2007 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event for $2.1 million and became the youngest person to ever win a coveted bracelet.

It was also the largest payout to a female in the history of tournament poker.

"She may have kicked off the women and youth trailblazing poker tournament winning streak that has occurred," said Seth Palansky, WSOP spokesman.

That victory is far from her only accomplishment. Obrestad started playing online illegally when she was 15.

Since she couldn't deposit money, Obrestad started playing free tournaments and made some modest cash. She turned that into more than $1 million.

Obrestad said to this day she never has been forced to play with her own money.

"I've always been a winning player," Obrestad said. "I'm pretty proud of that."

Obrestad has split her time between her home in Norway and Las Vegas during the last three years.

Although she was still underage, Obrestad said there was a simple reason for spending so much time in Las Vegas.

"I really just wanted to be a part of the experience. I wanted to have a good time," Obrestad said. "I really don't have anything to do at home, so I like to hang out here in Vegas."

But it made for some rough summers when all her friends detailed hands and described the action at the Rio. Obrestad couldn't even step foot in the playing area.

She plans to make up for it this summer and estimated she'd play in about 15 of the events, including the $10,000 Main Event in July and the $25,000 six-handed no-limit hold 'em championship that starts June 30.

Other than that, Obrestad will keep her options open.

"I'm going to go into it thinking if I feel like playing that day, I'm going to play," Obrestad said. "I'm not going to have a set schedule of tournaments that I play just in case I have a bad day or don't feel like playing."

With the rise of Internet poker, there are professional 21-year old players debuting in the World Series of Poker each year. Look no further than last year's world champion, Joe Cada, for an example.

But none of their appearances have come close to matching the anticipation of Obrestad's.

"I really don't know how to prepare because I've never been here and done that," Obrestad said. I'm just going to have to see what happens."

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