When the World Series of Poker kicks off later this month, one of online poker's all-time greats will finally get his chance to play in poker's biggest spectacle.
Twenty-one-year-old Aussie poker pro James Obst will be making his way to Las Vegas this summer for the first time. The Adelaide native has been crushing online poker tournaments since 2006, cashing for millions of dollars under the moniker "Andy McLEOD" on PokerStars and "TheFatFish" on Full Tilt Poker.
Yes, you're doing the math correctly. Obst was 15 when he first started playing real-money online poker. As a teenager, he was introduced to the game by chess buddies Shane “Anbessa9″ Pacheco and Jon “apestyles” Van Fleet, both of whom turned out to be online poker superstars in their own right. Under their tutelage, Obst found early success by winning a $11 rebuy on PokerStars for $17,000.
A poker prodigy was born.
From there, Obst spent nearly every waking hour outside of school improving his game. Unlike most young aspiring poker pros, he wasn't strictly playing no-limit hold'em. Obst learned how to play stud, Omaha and draw games.
And he played them well.
Obst quickly became one of the most highly touted online poker players in the world after notching wins in nearly every high-stakes online tournament on the major sites. Only, no one knew his identity. He was simply known as "Andy McLEOD" or TheFatFish" by the majority of the online poker community.
For obvious reasons, Obst was content with flying under the radar.
But there were a select few who knew about his secret. And on one December morning in 2007, Obst suddenly vanished from the poker world. Another poker pro had ratted him out for playing underage, and Obst had his PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker accounts suspended until he turned 18.
Obst spent the next nine months focusing on other aspects of his life. He rented his own apartment in Adelaide and had it fully furnished. He also bought an $80,000 Audi A4 2L turbo.
When Obst finally turned 18, his re-introduction to online poker was seamless, as expected. His return from exile immediately drew headlines. In his first month, Obst final tabled the Sunday Million on PokerStars, finishing fourth for $75,870. He then took down the $300 razz event in the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) IX, earning more than $40,000 in the process. It was his second career FTOPS title — his first came during the FTOPS IV in a $100 no-limit hold’em rebuy event when he was underage.
He followed that up with a victory in a special $5,000 winner-take-all sit-and-go on PokerStars for $80,000.
In September 2008, Obst won his first PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) title in the $200 pot-limit Omaha event for $98,280. He bested a talented final table that included Isaac Baron, Chris Moneymaker and Chris Moorman.
Obst's WCOOP success carried into 2010 when he made four final tables and earned enough points to win Player of the Series, solidifying him one of the series' all-time greats. After another successful WCOOP in 2011, Obst was tied with Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier for the most WCOOP final tables ever (seven). He's also tied for sixth all-time in WCOOP cashes (33).
As incredible as Obst has been on the virtual felt, he's also had a considerable amount of success on the live circuit. Obst has more than $600,000 in live tournament cashes entering the 2012 WSOP, including a victory at the 2010 APPT Sydney High Roller Event for $148,300. He also took second place in the 2010 ANZPT II Melbourne Main Event for $120,330.
PokerNews caught up with Obst during one of his very first live events to learn a little more about the online legend known as "Andy McLEOD":
Obst told PokerNews this week that he hasn't finalized his WSOP schedule for this summer, but he will certainly be one of the players to look out for in a wide array of events. With thousands of hands in every variant already under his belt, Obst will likely have an edge over the field in every event he plays. With Obst, it's not a question of "if" he'll be a bracelet winner someday — it's "when." And if it doesn't come this year, you can bet that Obst will be back in Las Vegas for years to come.
PokerNews will be keeping a close eye on Obst in the coming months, so be sure to check our Live Reporting Page for the duration of the 2012 WSOP. Stay tuned for more rookies to look out for, as well.
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