A close-up image of a tennis racket positioned next to a vibrant yellow tennis ball.

James Obst is one of Australia’s most famous poker professionals who decided to try his luck at becoming a pro tennis player. So, how did his drastic change in career choice fare for him? This post looks at James Obst’s poker career and how he attempted to break into the world of professional tennis at 28 years old.

James Obst’s Professional Poker Career

James is widely known as being one of the ambitious poker players. He started out playing online poker as a fun hobby and quickly realized he had a knack for the game. He has won a total of four Spring Championships of Online Poker, a World Series of Poker Bracelet, and a World Championship of Online Poker. 

At just 19 years old, James had won over $1.5 million from online poker. He’s in the top 10 list of the country’s highest poker winnings. However, besides the massive tournaments and options of online poker in Australia, there is also a great culture of tennis. Being in Melbourne during the Australian Open season is enough to feel those vibes. Sometimes those vibes can make you even change your profession and break into pro tennis.

Why the Sudden Change From Online Poker to Tennis?

Well, the change wasn’t as sudden as you may think. James always aspired to be a professional tennis player. However, health complications got in the way and prevented him from pursuing that dream from an early age. 

He felt like he had gotten to the bottom of his life-long health issues which prompted his decision to pursue professional tennis. James wanted to fully commit to his tennis aspirations, hence his announcement to step away from professional poker. He wanted to put all of his efforts into training to get himself in the best shape. Not only did he want to achieve the status of being a professional tennis player, he wanted to take it all the way to Wimbledon. 

However, James seems to be mindful of how much of a reach this goal is. He has said that he is fine if he fails at his pursuit publicly as he understands it’s a longshot. 

The poker community supported James’ decision and many were inspired by seeing how he actually pursued his dreams. Something many people are afraid to do. James was also met with some skepticism about how he will practically be able to have a career in tennis at such a late age. 

James Obst’s Inspiration

James has been very open about who inspired him to make the move to play tennis professionally. 

Stanislas Wawrinka made his debut as a tennis professional in 2002. However, it took him 12 years to finally achieve a breakthrough which happened when he won the Australian Open at 28 years old. 

It’s clear that James sees Stanislas’ breakthrough at 28 years old as a motivating factor as he was the same age when he made the announcement. The difference, however, is that Stanislas played as a professional for more than 12 years before his breakthrough. 

Tennis used to be thought of exclusively as a sport where the young and fit thrive. But then players such as Roger Federer exploded onto the scene and continued to excel despite being past their “prime”. Recent studies are now suggesting that older tennis players perform better in speed, agility, and power compared to younger players. 

James could use these findings to his advantage to take the years he needs to develop his skillset to be able to compete as a professional tennis player. 

Nonetheless, trying to begin a tennis career at 28 years old is risky and some may even say it’s impossible. However, James’ mindset has served him well with online poker and it could give him the edge he needs to succeed at becoming a pro tennis star. 

The Links Between Tennis & Poker

There are professional poker players who made the leap in reverse by going from tennis to poker. For example, Boris Becker retired from being a professional tennis player to ranking in the World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour.

Patrik Antonius was a Finnish tennis star who was climbing the ladder and getting attention for his tennis abilities. He had also dabbled in online poker and after a career-ending injury, Patrik turned his attention to poker. It started as a hobby, but he was great at the game and amassed $12 million from poker tournaments. This makes him one of the highest-earning poker players in Finland. 

Not to mention, he is well known for winning the biggest jackpot in online poker’s history. Gus Hansen was another rising tennis player from Denmark. He showed signs of a promising tennis career, but he ended up delving deeper into poker instead. 

He has one World Series of Poker bracelet, one Poker Superstars Invitational tournament, and three World Poker Tours. Gus also has his very own online poker website. There are many tennis players who play poker. So, maybe there’s some overlap between the mindset of poker and tennis that James could use to his advantage.

Let’s not forget that both games demand absolute focus and a high skill level that’s acquired over years of dedication.


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