The November Nine break is days from being done and Sam Holden is making the trip from his home in London to Las Vegas to compete for the biggest prize in poker.
We spoke with him at the recent EPT London main event for this feature on Sam Holden, and since there was so many extras that didn't make it into the story, we're publishing the full interview transcript right here.
Read on to hear what it's like to sweat the biggest day of your poker career for four months.
First things first: What’s changed in your life since making the November Nine?
Yeah things are definitely different. Everything’s strange in my life since Las Vegas.
I was a professional poker player before so obviously the game was already a big part of my life, but I was very much grinding online sort of thing, and playing the odd live tournament but very low-key.
And now I’ve got a lot more to do, interviews, commitments for 888.com, and it’s a lot of fun.
I’m getting the chance to play a few more of these big buy-in tournaments and do all the media stuff which is really cool as well.
I’m obviously thinking about November a lot but right now I just feel really excited and focused on it and I’m really looking forward to it.
The last few months I’ve tried really hard to just be chilled and let it sink in and not play tons of poker, but now I’m getting ready.
Being the shortstack, how much are you focused on giving yourself a chance to win versus moving up the payouts?
I think it’s just important for me to play as well as I can. The thing I don’t want to do is turn up and punt away my stack playing really badly or something. If I come ninth but I’ve played a big hand well or whatever then I’ll be happy.
There are loads of things outside of your control in poker so I’ll just keep control of what I can and how I play my cards.
Also, going in as the shortstack there’s not really a benchmark where I’ll be disappointed if I don’t come third or something, which would be a bad thing for anyone. It would be really difficult psychologically to be going in third in chips and go out in ninth, and that’s going to affect their play.
For me as long as I’ve played well I’ll be happy and I already feel lucky to have made it this far.
What opportunities is this money going to give you in your life away from poker, depending on how high you finish?
Right now my main aspiration is to buy a house. I’ve actually just moved to London and I’ve been renting so the idea of being in a position to buy something is really exciting for me.
As a poker player you can’t really get a mortgage in the UK so the money will come in handy.
As far as business opportunities in the future are concerned, thatt’s something I’ll be thinking about in the next few years I’m sure and I’ll be trying to tuck a bit of money away for something like that.
Right now I’m really thinking about poker and the money allows me to play a few more big tournaments, plus the opportunities as far as endorsements go.
I’m definitely not trying to spend all the money anytime soon.
Like you said, you were a pro before making the November Nine, but how have people’s attitudes changed towards you since getting this level of exposure? Did it legitimize it in some way for the skeptics, or for people who didn’t really get it to begin with?
Yeah definitely. There were a lot of people who knew what I was doing and were happy for me to be doing my own thing, and my parents could see that I was happy before, and that I was doing fine and making decent money, but now they’re a lot more excited about it because they’re seeing me on television and gaining a better understanding of what it’s all about.
But for the skeptics, or more importantly for the guys who don’t really know what poker is but they know that’s what I do. Now they see me on the TV playing or in some interview they’re able to grasp it a bit better.
I mean, looking at this one thing as somehow legitimizing my career as a poker player is pretty results-oriented but no one knows any better. They don’t get it.
But they can see that I’m doing well and that I’m not wasting my life too much playing poker.
So it’s a good feeling for sure but at the same time I’d like to think that the people who are close to me and the people who are important to me were happy as long as I was happy and they hopefully won’t be changing their thoughts too much about what I’ve been doing.
And I think for the most part, other people’s skepticism is coming from a lack of understanding so they can’t be blamed too much for having some doubts. They’re just looking out for me.
What are your thoughts on the caliber of this final table and how it stacks up historically? Who are the players in particular that you think are the most dangerous?
Yeah I think this is one of the toughest final tables ever. It might even be the toughest.
There are so many good players in the world now, especially Texas Hold’em tournament players, and with a structure as good as the main event they really shine through.
There are a lot of really tough spots at the table but I don’t really want to single anyone out. I have to play against all of them and I feel pretty good about it so I’m not really worried about anyone.
It’s going to be an exciting final table.