SCOOP 2015: Obst still learning, and still winning
As a live player James Obst rarely makes trips beyond his native Australia, except for the annual trip to Las Vegas and the World Series of Poker. But online he seems to be everywhere, and as far as SCOOP goes it's pretty much is manor. And with good reason.
If you need an idea of what it looks like to succeed in some of online poker's biggest games, you would do well to look in Obst's direction.
He has the talent, that's for sure. But it's a talent that spreads to other things, such as the talent for knowing what he needs to work on. Then he has the motivation to do just that, something he reminded himself of even this past week when he won the second SCOOP title of his career in Event 10-H
As he put it when asked what he expects of himself going into a series like SCOOP.
"I expect to put up a good showing," said Obst. "I think the big series suit my skill set so I demand of myself to rise to the occasion. Results wise I'm disappointed not to win any event I don't, so it's more just about expecting to play well and give myself the best chance to succeed - as you can imagine when that is the aim you're rarely satisfied, even including after winning sometimes."
That result come after a pretty arduous year for the Australian. After a near miss at the WSOP last summer, during which he cashed four times and finished third in the $10K seven card stud event, he returned to the online grind with lingering health concerns, recently diagnosed as relating to heavy metal toxicity.
It's a condition you'd think particularly irritating to a poker player, someone who relies on clear thought and even temper to make a living. Symptoms can range from, well, a lot actually, everything from headaches, to nausea, fatigue and even problems with memory. All of which can make identifying the cause a difficult task. Obst though appears to have tackled the diagnosis with the same clear headedness he brings to his game. As he said: "I have only just recently been able to begin understanding the magnitude and specifics of what it's doing to my body and the stringent requirements necessary to recover to 100%"
All of which makes his achievements during SCOOP all the more significant, a win against the likes of Joe Cada and Artem Litvinov, performed with typical aplomb, albeit with the staple skill shared by all the best players in the game, perceived luck.
"I had a big stack from pretty early on and it was going far more smoothly than poker usually does. Late on day one I had a table change, getting a good player with a big stack on my left. I made a bad river call in a medium sized pot against him and I couldn't be more glad it happened. It gave me a big jolt and helped me to uncover exactly what can go wrong at times in my thought process and what I need to do to fix it... it'll be one I always remember although it wasn't very notable in size.
"On day two I had a tough spot against Joe Cada, decided to go with it and we got it in basically coin flipping. That went my way and from there I went to the FT as the chip leader. It was an interesting final table in that you could sense the emotional conflict in the majority of my opponents between simply respecting the math (ICM) and saying 'screw it, I want to win'. Ultimately though I continued to run well and got the job done. Although it may have felt or looked easy, I'm very aware it only did so because the luck was consistently with me, so there's no illusions that next time I'm in that position I'll have to be ready to work a lot harder for it."
When he won the Super Tuesday last year I asked Obst how he celebrates moments like this. He doesn't, claiming there is no time to lose when it comes to SCOOP. As he put it: "Can't be wasting days!"
And he's right. It's proving to be a vintage year for SCOOP, with multiple wins for Mercier, as well as titles for Urbanovich, Chouity, Greenwood, Brammer, Anderson, Charania, Mizzi and other. It's something not lost on Obst, who talked about the quality of opposition.
"Certainly the stronger the competition the more satisfying it is to win. That said, the most satisfying thing is to play well against strong opposition as opposed to simply winning. I was overall quite pleased with my play but certainly uncovered areas to improve on."
For now it's back to work for Obst, who, assuming health issues remain under control, still has plenty in mind for the rest of the series.
"I'll do my best to come home with some steam. Just in the last couple of days I've had some revelations about causative factors for my energy level swings, so if I can get that right hopefully I'll give myself a shot at more success. Besides hoping for good results I'm planning to keep learning from my mistakes (I've made a lot today!) and to improve as a player each day."
Still learning, and as this past week demonstrated, still winning.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.