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Sam Holden Announces Semi-Retirement from Poker to Pursue Philosophy Degree

Sam Holden

Last month, PokerNews reported that 2010 November Niner Filippo Candio, who became the first Italian player to ever make the World Series of Poker Main Event final table, was quitting poker. Now another former November Niner, Sam Holden, has followed in his footsteps by announcing his “semi-retirement” from poker.

Holden rose to poker stardom as a member of the 2011 WSOP November Nine. He ultimately finished that tournament in ninth place for $782,115, and ever since he’s been traveling the circuit representing 888poker. In September, Holden, who recently relocated from London back to Canterbury, will take a step back from poker to pursue a philosophy degree at the University of Kent, which is a three-year program.

“I’ve spent four incredible years playing poker full time and I never dreamt that my favorite card game could give me so many opportunities and experiences,” Holden said in a blog announcing his decision. “Being able to travel the world, record television programs, meet people from every corner of the globe and enjoy some of the best restaurants and clubs, all while earning money playing a game, is a privilege not lost on me, and a journey that has taught me a lot. More recently though, I have lost a lot of drive to play poker, especially in live tournaments.”

Since making the final table three years ago, Holden has notched several cashes including a deep run in the 2012 WSOP Main Event where he finished in 55th place for $128,384. In September of that year, he finished third in the UK & Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) Newcastle Main Event for $61,996, and most recently he took 26th in the WSOP Europe Main Event for $29,398.

In his blog, Holden also thanks 888poker, and commends Philipp Gruissem’s pursuit of effective altruism, which inspires him to play hard in order to donate a portion of his winnings to charity. While Holden adopted a similar attitude, he found that poker was no longer fueling his passion. That said, Holden admits that he likely won’t disappear from the poker world altogether.

"I’ll still play the odd live tournament too," he wrote. "I have always enjoyed UKIPTs and have met many of my closest friends in poker at those stops, so I know I’ll always enjoy them. Indeed, I’ve already qualified for Nottingham, so I might see you there,” Holden concluded. “I’ll still play a bit online, hopefully ticking over enough money to pay a few bills. I do still enjoy the game, throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to only have to play when I want to; this has had the added bonus of ensuring that I play closer to my best. I don’t want this to change, which is why it is time to move on, to tackle some new challenges and continue to enjoy this great game as a hobby for the rest of my life.”

Read Holden’s entire semi-retirement blog over at

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