While some have a hard time understanding why the young Brit would give up a golden ticket to travel the world and play poker - to study philosophy no less - PokerZeit's Dirk Oetzmann says it just shows how ahead of the game Holden's been all along.
By Dirk Oetzmann
The short career of former November Niner Sam Holden from England shows not everyone gets lost in the shiny world of poker.
Remember Holden sitting at the final table of the WSOP Main Event in 2011? If you don’t, it’s because he was the first player to stand up and leave.
However since then Holden has been a representative for 888poker, traveled the world playing poker on their dime and, it’s safe to say, he was one of the best ambassadors poker could have.
Always polite and never out of line when he showed up at live tournaments, he has surely played a part in his poker room’s (and poker's) positive development.
Now he's announced that he is taking a leave, or a “semi-retirement” from poker, and he’s done so in style.
Inspired by Effective Altruism, Choosing a Different Path
It's interesting to see that there seems to be a new breed of players developing who have managed to keep their minds straight and find life beyond poker.
Apart from young players getting burnt out almost before they're allowed to vote (remember the “retirements” of Peter Eastgate or Mike "Timex" McDonald) or those who slowly seem to lose touch with reality – how “professional” was Tom Dwan ending his sponsorship and slowly disappearing into the Macau high-stakes swamp – there are now players who take life with poker to a new level.
One of these ways seems to be via “effective altruism." Recently we reported how Philipp Gruissem and Igor Kurganov got involved in target-oriented charity funded by their elite poker skills and Holden, too, said he “drew some inspiration” from it.
As a matter of fact he made some donations himself before realizing that he wanted to go down a different path. Being highly interested in politics and ethics, he decided to take on a university degree in philosophy.
It is, by the way, his second degree as he already holds one in forensics.
The Serious Part of Life is Outside Poker
“Above all else, I really want to question every opinion, to listen to others and be consistently sceptical of my own views”, Holden wrote in his retirement announcement.
Strong words for a 24 year old. Compare that to the quote from last year’s winner Ryan Riess (“I just think I'm the best poker player in the world"), which probably cost him a lot of money and reputation even if he might have just been carried away for a minute.
Holden didn’t win his final table in 2011. In fact, he finished “first” in the sense that he ended up in ninth place.
His live career lasted only three years according to Hendonmob.com and he won two-thirds of his $1.2m live earnings on that one day in November.
The GPI lists him in 1,578th place. Not too impressive, you might think. But then whereabout are you on that index?
Sam Holden has left a mark on poker deeper than a lot of players twice his age, and he will continue to do so.
PokerListings had the chance to witness his composure several times, among those his appearance at the Battle of Malta in 2013. He was one of the nicest guys in the tournament.
And he’s not saying he's quitting poker entirely. In fact he’s already qualified online for UKIPT Nottingham.
He’s simply become aware that too much competitive poker has lost its appeal, and he wants the fun (and meaning to his life) back.
The serious part of life is outside poker, and Holden's ahead of the game for realizing it.