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World-renowned professional poker player James Obst has decided to pursue a career as a professional tennis player. The 28-year-old hopes to build up his tennis skills to eventually compete at Wimbledon. It’s a bold and unusual move from Obst but one that fans have met well.

Obst claims that he’s not retiring from playing poker, following his highest World Series of Poker Main Event Championship placing this year, but it will instead take place on the back burner while he devotes his schedule to the sport he’s loved since childhood. The Australian will, however, play in the occasional tournament to keep sharp and to maintain cash flow.

So, why does this move come as such a shock to the professional poker community, and can James Obst take any of his poker skills with him to the courts of tennis?

A poker prodigy

James Obst explains the reasons behind his online name and if being so young at the 2009 Aussie Millions poker tournament has an impact on the table.

Born in August 1990 James Obst proved to have the mind for intricate competition at a very young age, playing at the World Junior Chess Championship for Australia on three occasions. Then, poker came calling, with a 14-year-old Obst playing Stud Hi-Lo and No Limit Hold’em for cents.

From his years as a young teen prodigy, Obst moved his skills to the online arena, competing in many different forms of the card game. By the time the Australian had reached 19-years-old, he had already accumulated over $1.5 million in online poker winnings.

His online accolades are very impressive, especially as much of his accomplishments came as a teenager. James Obst, who plays under the alias of Andy McLEOD, has won a World Championship of Online Poker, four Spring Championship of Online Poker tournaments, and the Full Tilt Online Poker Series.

With so many victories and high placings at major online tournaments, people began to recognize his username. While online poker was very profitable for the young poker star, he had greater aspirations and decided to ply his trade in front of millions of poker fans all over the world by joining the live poker scene.

Huge accomplishments in live poker

World Series of Poker announces James Obst as the winner of the $10,000 Razz Championship, which earned him $265,138. Source: Card Player, via Twitter.

Obst’s move from the computer to the plush felt of a live table came on the 13th January 2009 when he entered the 2009 Aussies Millions Poker Championship in the $1,000 + 100 Limit Hold’em, finishing sixth for $5,470.

Many more tournaments in Australia followed, with his first live win coming on the 20th August 2010. Obst won the $1000 No Limit Hold’em at the 2010 Victorian Poker Championship to claim $9,872. Moving up, the poker prodigy accumulated more prizes in Australia, many of which exceeded $50,000, before taking his skills to the United States of America in May 2014.

Since his journey across the Pacific, Obst has competed in many high-class poker tournaments in the USA, in his home nation, and in the budding gambling haven of Macau. His total live earnings now tally $2,888,355, with a live cash high of $427,930.

Most recently, James Obst clocked in a high World Series of Poker Main Event Championship finish. Having made his way through the 7,874 players at the tournament, the Australian went on a deep run and was incredibly unlucky to fall where he did. His two aces, which he went all-in on, was bested by his opponent’s two tens when another ten turned on the board. Obst was later eliminated with a noble finishing position of 46th overall – winning him $156,265.

His best finish at a World Series of Poker Main Event Championship was back in 2016 when he stormed to 13th in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em to pocket $427,930. Known in poker circles as a master in hand-to-hand play, the Aussie forged a strong legacy in live poker to bolster his impressive online accomplishments.

Now 28-years-old, Obst has managed to work his way to being 484th on the all-time money list in live poker as well as tenth on the Australia all-time money list.

All in all, James Obst has achieved an incredible tally of close to $3 million through live poker play, which includes claiming a bracelet at the 2017 World Series of Poker. Winning the $10,000 Razz Championship is certainly one of his career highs and landed his second-highest live career win at $265,138. Now he turns his attention to the tennis courts and should use his years of experience at the table to give him an edge.

Using his poker strategies

James Obst discusses his strategy in Shootout Poker, including how you need to defeat each individual player and be flexible with your timing.

As shown by his early chess dominance and supreme performances at the poker table, James Obst is a master of the mind. He can think ahead and anticipate an opponent’s move while simultaneously acting to force them into doing what he wants. The Australian should be able to carry his opponent-handling skills with him to the courts.

As beginners pick up the game of poker and become accustomed to the rules of play, they begin to see that it’s a game of timed, focused aggression. It’s all about playing on the right hands and then coaxing your opponent into making a mistake. People who are experienced in the game employ a poker strategy which sees them act more aggressively than they normally would, be-ridding themselves of the overly cautious technique used by novice poker players. This timed and focused aggression enables poker players to force others into games that the player knows their opponents shouldn’t be contending in.

While poker is generally played at a large table of several players, the one-on-one or two-on-two formats of tennis employ a similar strategy. During a game, the ball is volleyed back and forth between the two players trying to edge an opening, and then an aggressive strike can force the opposition to stray from their regular positioning to return, leaving a greater area of attack to sink a win from the next hit. Poker is very much the same, coaxing players along until they feel comfortable to strike with aggression and play for the win.

The greatest element that Obst will be taking with him from his years of playing cards is his mental toughness. It’s his ability to keep a clear head and a focussed mind within any game of poker as well as his ability to assess and pick apart opponents with precision. In poker, of course, an element of the play comes down to the luck of the deal, whereas, in tennis, Obst will have even more control over his actions and how he chooses to handle opponents.

A reversal from a legend

James Obst isn’t the only star player who has made the switch between poker and tennis, as legendary tennis player Boris Becker found himself at the poker table after retiring.

The two-time Australian Open, three-time French Open, one-time US Open, and three-time Wimbledon champion has appeared at many top-class poker events over the years. He played at the European Poker Tour as well as the World Poker Tour.

Far more decorated on the tennis court, Becker managed to accrue $93,138 in live tournament winnings. The German’s best placing came in the 2008 EPT Grand Final’s €500 No-Limit Hold’em, which he finished in seventh.

In equal measure, James Obst is heading into an untested professional arena. While one of his main hobbies is tennis and he’s been able to overcome – or at least manage – some health problems, making it as a professional tennis player will be a tough task. He may even become one of the latest athletes to be paid in cryptocurrency, given how he clearly enjoys gambling.

Regardless, Obst can use the principles of some key poker strategies and his mental strength to overcome his opponents on the court and, of course, use his hefty stack of poker winnings to get a top-notch coaching team behind him.

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