Sam Holden: 'Jobless Brit' of the November Nine

Sam Holden
Sam Holden

One year after starting his poker career, Sam Holden has a seat at the final table of the biggest poker tournament in the world.

The 22-year-old Brit will enter the final table of the 2011 WOSP Main Event ninth in chips with 12,375,000 chips. He’s already guaranteed $782k, but if he wins it all he will receive $8.7 million.

Holden flew back to the U.K. the day after making the November Nine and has already been profiled in major media outlets like The Sun and The Mirror

“It’s been great. I’m just trying to take it all in stride,” said the 888poker pro from his flat in Canterbury.

“I’m obviously not used to it at all and didn’t really know what to expect. Making the Main Event final table is not something any poker player expects to do.”

Holden was born and raised in Herstmonceux, a small town just outside of Eastbourne in East Sussex.

Like a lot of kids his age he grew up playing sports but he also excelled in his academic life.

“I was never particularly good at one sport but I always enjoyed maths and statistics. I always did quite well,” he said.

It’s one of the many reasons Holden was instantly drawn to poker when he started seeing it on TV while attending University of Kent in Canterbury.

“I definitely understood and enjoyed that part of the game,” he said. “I always enjoyed competition as well. I liked card games and strategy games.” 

Holden initially started playing for free online just to learn the rules and some basic poker strategy. It wasn’t long before Holden talked it over with his friends and made his first deposit.

“I think I made like three deposits and would lose each one in a few months,” he said.

Eventually something clicked for Holden, however, and he started to beat the micro-stakes.

In the later stages of his tenure at university, Holden started to win so much that poker essentially became a part-time job and he even quit his job at the local pub.

Holden started to play more and more online poker and by the time he graduated with a degree in Forensic Science last summer he realized he wanted to play full-time.

His parents were initially apprehensive but eventually got behind him.

“My initial plan was to go back to university after a year and maybe go for a Masters degree,” he said.

“As I carried on through the year I started making good money and really enjoying myself and once my parents could see that I was making money and could pay my bills they were happy.”

Holden had his first major score earlier this year when he final tabled the PokerStars Sunday Million. He eventually finished fifth for over $50k, which all but guaranteed a trip to Las Vegas to play the 2011 WSOP.

He bricked the first three side events he played but remained optimistic about his chances in the Main Event.

“I knew there was a lot of value out there and I knew I could beat the games,” he said. “To be honest I expected a much higher level of play in general at the WSOP.

"Table draw is obviously very important but there were so many poker tourists out there.”

Holden will enter the Main Event final table as the short stack with 12 million chips but the affable Brit didn't sound overly concerned about his situation.

“Having an online background I’m used to having a 25-30 big blind stack,” he said. “I’ve still got 24 big blinds at the final table.

"There’s some room there and I’m definitely not heading out to Vegas to just stick it in on the first hand.”

“I feel I’ve got a good chance to win or go very deep.”

Holden might even trade some of his chips for a different seat at the table if he had his choice as the enigmatic German Pius Heinz, Ben Lamb and chip leader Martin Staszko are all on his left.

“To be honest the whole table is tough and anything can happen,” he said. “If I had to pick one player that I was impressed with it would have to be Pius as he showed down very few hands and that’s generally a good thing.”

In terms of preparation for the November Nine, Holden plans on watching all the footage from the ESPN broadcast and playing a number of big buy-in live tournaments including EPT London, the WSOP Europe and WPT Paris.

“I’m trying to get as much live experience as I possibly can against good players,” he said. “In my opinion every poker player has things they can improve.”

In the meantime Holden has simply been enjoying the ride, even if some of the attention has been somewhat amusing.

Earlier this summer The Sun profiled Holden in a story that gave him the dubious nickname of “The Jobless Brit.”

“It was one of the first stories I did with mainstream media,” laughed Holden. “The story was fine but they went for a headline of 'Jobless Brit' and then told readers I’d been playing poker professionally for a year so they contradicted themselves a bit in the first sentence.”

“I didn’t take it too personally. I think they were just looking for an eye-catching headline. Lots of my friends do now call me ‘The Jobless Brit.’ It’s all in good fun.”

Find the full transcript of our interview with Sam over in the blog section.

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