World Series of Poker Main Event: Texas Holden
by Mad Harper
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Sitting on Table 35 today is one of my all-time poker heroes, the British journalist Anthony Holden - here courtesy of winning a PokerStars media event in London.
As you should definitely know (and award yourself five minus points if you don't), Anthony wrote Big Deal:A Year as a Professional Poker Player - one of the best and funniest books ever written about life on the poker circuit. But, outside the poker world (is there a world outside poker?), Anthony is much better known for his biographies, particularly those of the British Royal Family. He's written 12 royal biographies in all, including "Diana: Her Life and Legacy", "Charles at Fifty" and - my personal favourite - "The Queen Mother: A 90th Birthday Tribute". Actually, sorry Tony, I haven't read any of them - but I have read Big Deal about a thousand times.
It's 16 years since Big Deal and Anthony is now working on a sequel called Bigger Deal covering another year on the poker circuit - including several appearances at European Poker Tour events (which is where I first had the pleasure to meet him). So, joining Tony for a secret, pre-event cigarette round the back where the dealers hang out, I asked him how he was feeling about today's play. "Well, I've already outlasted around 3,300 players, so that's good. And even if I go out in the first hand, I've come 5,400th or so I'm in good shape."
Tony actually seemed more worried this morning about what to wear. Temperatures in the Amazon Room vary wildly - ferocious air-conditioning creates arctic conditions round the edges while the middle of the room remains at boiling point - so Tony just couldn't make up his mind whether the long-sleeved shirt he has on was the correct choice. Bringing him luck will be his card-protector - a Binion's "dollar" gaming token - which Anthony is using 'in protest' at the event being moved to the Rio.
But Anthony might not need luck. It's a fact that he has already proved his mettle poker-wise by triumphing over the last three World Champions. Joe Hachem, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer all played at the PokerStars media event in May where Tony won his WSOP seat (after beating Late Night Poker creator Nic Szeremeta heads-up). So, I am hoping that these words from Big Deal don't come back to haunt my hero later in the day:
"Whether he likes it or not, a man's character is stripped bare at the poker table; if the other players read him better than he does, he has only himself to blame. Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he will be a loser in cards, as in life."
Update: Anthony had a good first level getting as high as $12,000 at one point. The reverse of his Binion's dollar shows an AK of Spades and he was dealt this in the second hand - although forced to muck when it didn't improve. However he said Level 2 was abysmal and he "didn't see a thing". So far no one at his table has realised who he is.