Anthony Holden, writer, champion of the game, and the first president of the International Federation of Poker, has died aged 76.
The British writer is known to the world at large as a prolific biographer of famous figures, including Shakespeare, the Royal family, and Tchaikovsky. However, to poker players, Holden was the man behind a number of famous books, including Big Deal and Holden on Hold’em.
Holden was not only the author of multiple poker books but a player in his own right. He took part in various cash games and tournaments, including the now legendary Late Night Poker.
Anthony Holden was on of poker’s biggest deals
Anthony Holden was born in Lancashire, England, in 1947. He attended Oxford University’s Merton College and spent time as a journalist before becoming a full-time writer. His passion, however, was poker and he remained an advocate throughout his life, even after suffering a severe stroke in 2017. Holden continued writing on a variety of subjects until his passing on October 7, 2023.
Holden’s best-known work is Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player. The 1990 book detailed a year on the poker circuit. Holden traveled the world playing tournaments in an attempt to make a living or, at the very least, a profit.
The focal point of Big Deal is Holden’s stint at the World Series of Poker. He ended his year as a pro with a profit of $12,300 which, at the time, wasn’t bad. However, his subsequent retelling of the adventure netted him a lot more.
Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player sold almost 1 million copies and was so well received that Holden penned a sequel: Bigger Deal: A Year Inside the Poker Boom. VANITY FAIR described Big Deal as a “remarkable odyssey – part Damon Runyon, part Dostoevsky,” while American actor Walter Matthau said it was the “best book about poker” he’s ever read.
Holden educated and entertained
Aside from anything Holden made from the book, Big Deal sought to educate mainstream readers. Holden was a firm believer that poker wasn’t gambling which, at the time of the book’s release in 1990, was the predominant thought. However, through Holden’s writing, people started to see the amount of skill required to be successful.
In fact, such was his desire to educate people on the game’s nuances that Holden became president of the International Federation of Poker in 2009 (now the International Federation of Matchpoker). As part of his role, Holden tried to get poker classified as a mind sport and something taught in schools.
Although he was unsuccessful in those efforts, Holden’s work put poker into the mainstream spotlight long before the internet. Big Deal and its sequel were both entertaining and informative. This made them accessible to novices and pros alike, a fact that help poker become popular on a wider scale.
Anthony Holden was one of poker’s pioneers. His love for the game was unwavering, even after the advent of online poker. This passion saw him become a popular figure within the industry and, more importantly, a champion of the game within the mainstream media.
Anthony Holden, born May 22, 1947, died October 7, 2023.