On Thursday the Venetian announced Annette Obrestad has been hired to serve as an official ambassador for the property’s poker room.
Obrestad almost certainly expected this to be an “exciting announcement,” and for the news to be received by a slew of congratulatory tweets – there were plenty of those. Unfortunately for Annette, it will probably turn into a bit of a social media and forum nightmare for the longtime poker pro, as the Venetian is a no-fly zone (for good reason) for a vocal segment of the poker community.
On January 26, Obrestad teased a forthcoming announcement. The tweet (embedded below) shows a level of unawareness on her part of the Venetian’s reputation in certain corners of the poker world:
Have a pretty exciting announcement (for me anyway) coming up. Stay tuned
— Annette Obrestad (@Annette_15) January 26, 2016
Annette officially announced her new role as an ambassador for the Venetian Poker Room two days later, and still seemed quite unaware of what kind of reception her tweet would receive:
Guys, its official! I'm now an ambassador for @VenetianPoker. I'm SOOO excited. I hope to give a lot of you a chance to play with me soon!
— Annette Obrestad (@Annette_15) January 29, 2016
Needless to say, she’s been catching some heat on social media for her decision to promote the Venetian Poker Room ever since:
@Annette_15 how can you sign on to represent someone that spends millions to block online poker? Very hypocritical!
— Tim Hayworth (@TimHayworth) January 29, 2016
— Kevin Taylor (@tayke2) January 29, 2016
— Rich Muny (@RichMuny) January 31, 2016
What’s so bad about the Venetian?
The Venetian has a terrific poker room. It’s fairly new, it’s upscale, and it’s well run.
The problem is, the Venetian is owned by Sheldon Adelson, who’s not only made disparaging comments about poker players on several occasions, but is the central figure pushing for an online gambling ban in the United States.
Adelson’s attempts to ban online gambling have made him public enemy number one in the eyes of online poker advocates, many of whom have called for a boycott of Adelson properties and are highly critical of any poker pro who so much as steps foot in the Venetian Poker Room, let alone a poker pro who decides to endorse and promote the property.
However, whether out of ignorance of the situation, or simply because they don’t care, the Venetian is still a very popular poker room with casual and pro players.
Here’s why Annette is likely unaware of the situation
The chances Annette pays much attention to the chatter on poker forums is pretty low, and I suspect she has the vast majority of her Twitter followers on mute.
Few poker players have suffered through more ad hominem attacks on twoplustwo and other poker forums than Obrestad, who first appeared on the rough and tumble male-dominated poker scene as a female teenager with plain Jane looks that made her an easy target for forum trolls. Having to deal with so much mean-spirited noise about her weight and looks has probably made it incredibly difficult for Obrestad to take seriously any criticism from the poker community.
To be fair to some of her critics, Annette’s decisions haven’t always been high quality (she was one of the last people to stop publicly representing the now defunct Lock Poker) and her confident/cocky personality has rubbed many people the wrong way.
— Todd Witteles (@ToddWitteles) January 31, 2016
Is it really a big deal?
There is a fundamental disconnect between online poker advocates and the poker community at large. Online poker advocates see fighting for legal online poker in the United States as fighting for poker; for them there is no distinction. On the other hand, many poker players either don’t play online, don’t particularly trust online poker, or they’re simply apathetic to it.
So, despite the poker community explaining the situation to them, many well-known poker players are still frequent customers at the Venetian.
Further, Annette isn’t the only Ambassador for the Venetian Poker Room. In November the Venetian announced Erica Lindgren (Nee Schoenberg) as an Ambassador for the poker room.
— Venetian Poker Room (@VenetianPoker) November 21, 2015
In the grand scheme of things, this is pretty much a footnote. And since I ascribe to the Don Corleone motto of, “It makes no difference to me how a man does for a living,” I’m not going to tweet Annette, and I hope the people that do are respectful and don’t badger her about it.