A 22-YEAR-OLD professional poker player has won hundreds of thousands of pounds at one of the world’s biggest tournaments in Las Vegas.
Sam Holden, from Herstmonceux, beat around 7,000 players to get to the final of the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas.
He and his supporters headed out to America and Sam played the poker game of his life on Sunday, November 6.
He went out in ninth position, but that meant he still took home a massive prize fund of $786,000.
Sam had many supporters to help him spread his risk and get him out to Las Vegas.
Around ten people sponsored him to enter the event which means he will take home 39 per cent of the prize – which amounts to a healthy return of around £200,000.
His mum Kay Holden, who lives in Herstmonceux and travelled out to Las Vegas to watch her son play, said, “It was crazy and a really amazing experience for him and his friends.
“One of Sam’s school friends, who he went to Hailsham Community College with, supported him by putting in £100 and he got a fantastic return.”
If Sam had defeated the other players in the final he would have got a multi-million pound jackpot but he and his family are happy with the amount he has won. Kay added, “We have become slightly blasè about it, but it is a huge sum of money. It is amazing.”
Kay and Sam’s dad Neil were two of around 50 people who went out to support Sam in the life-changing poker game and they all wore curly wigs.
Kay said, “Sam is known for having a mop of curly hair and in Las Vegas they really latched on to that, so we all wore crazy curly wigs.
“It was a great turnout of support for Sam.”
Sam studied forensic science at the University of Kent and started playing poker in the summer of 2010.
He started with just a £3 entry tournament but his success helped him pay for university and convinced him to enter some of the bigger competitions.
He is now a professional player for gambling firm 888 and his job involves being sponsored to wear the company logo while playing poker.
Kay and Neil admit they were concerned when they first heard their son was gambling as a student.
Kay said, “When he first started playing I was terrified and all the prejudices I didn’t know I had came up.
“I thought that anyone who was gambling would end up in the gutter in a couple of years but I gradually, as I learnt more about it, got used to the idea and felt more comfortable with it.
“To be honest, I had to get used to the idea because there wasn’t anything I could do the change it.
“Spending time with his 30 or so friends in Las Vegas has had a hugely positive impact on me because they are such nice guys, and I feel more comfortable with it now than I ever have done.
“He can look back on this in years to come and think what an amazing experience that was.”
Sam has been enjoying himself in Las Vegas since the big poker game last weekend and was due to fly back to the UK as the Herald went to press.
The young man from Herstmonceux has become an international star in the poker world and has been interviewed by many of the specialist magazines.
He was even followed around Las Vegas by an Irish television production company which is filming a documentary about his success.