Famed Author Anthony Holden, Who Wrote Poker Book Big Deal, Passes Away at 76
The poker world received sad news over the weekend when it was revealed that famed author Anthony Holden passed away on October 7, 2023, at the age of 76. Holden, who resided in London, suffered a severe stroke in August 2017, one that left him confined to a wheelchair with his left arm and leg inoperative. Fortunately, the stroke did not impair his memory and cognitive skills, and he even spoke about it with PokerNews in 2018.
Born on May 22, 1947, Holden was well known to poker fans as the author of 1990s Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player and the 2007 follow-up Bigger Deal: A Year Inside the Poker Boom. More recently, he wrote He Played Poker for His Wife and Other Stories.
Big Deal documented Holdens year on the poker circuit in the late 1980s and gave the mainstream a glimpse into the mysterious world of poker. Holden ventured to Las Vegas, battled the biggest names in the game, and wound up with a profit of $12,300. Hed earn much more than that from the book that followed as it sold nearly a million copies.
In Bigger Deal, Holden revisited the poker world after the Boom had occurred. He did so by playing in card rooms across Europe and America, in home games, and online. It was a generational transition for the game, and there was no one better to highlight it than Holden, who also served as the inaugural president of the International Federation of Poker (he served until 2013), which argued for poker to be classified as a mind sport, like chess.
Holden previously told PokerNews about his book: I would say that Big Deal is now really a history book or a period-piece; it emerged from a much more colorful but now bygone world, pre-internet, pre-much poker on TV, when the WSOP was still based in Glitter Gulch at Binions, whose eponymous founder and his family were still around to offer gold-standard anecdotes and bottomless pits of rich eyewitness material.
He continued: As indeed were such poker greats as Johnny The Man Moss, Puggy Pearson, Amarillo Slim Preston and others of an era now represented only by the likes of Doyle Brunson, Bobby Baldwin and Eric Drache, then the WSOP tournament director - who had just invented the satellite, without which my whole adventure would never have happened.
Famed Poker Author Tony Holden Opens Up About Severe Stroke, Memoirs & More
The Poker World Remembers
Tony was one of the Four Horsemen of the British poker scene, a motley quartet that included Al Alvarez, David Spanier, Des Wilson, and the man often described as the royal biographer. How fitting that he focused so much time on a different set of kings and queens, said poker historian Nolan Dalla. He could be charming, and wickedly funny all in the same moment. He was sued. Called vulgar names. He was a regular on the BBC. Tony was such a master of language, he could insult you and you'd still think of it as a compliment.
Holden, who won TV's first Celebrity Late Night Poker on Channel 4 in 2000 for $10,239, previously did an interview with Dalla in which he shared that Honesty, laughter, fatherhood, friendship were the things he stood for, while the things he stood against were War(s). Dishonesty, bigotry, officiousness, pomposity.
As for what Holden was most proud of?
Treating other people honestly and decently my children absurdly so, he shared.
While the poker world will remember Holden for his books on the game, he was an extremely accomplished writer in other areas. He translated Greek tragedy, and wrote biographies on Tchaikovsky, Leigh Hunt, Laurence Olivier, Prince Charles, and more. He was respectfully referred to as the Royal Biographer and developed a friendship with the late Princess Diana, becoming her regular lunchtime companion.
Holden was named Young Journalist of the Year in 1972, News Reporter of the Year in 1976, and dozens of non-poker works such as A Week in the Life of the Royal Family, Queen Mother, and Charles: A Biography.
The Telegraph wrote a thorough obituary on Holden, which you can view here.
Understandably, Holdens passing was a great loss to the poker world.
I read Big Deal cover to cover at least ten times. This book is why I ended up spending around 10,000 hours playing and very much enjoying poker. May Mr. Holden rest in peace, wrote Corky Parks.
Michael Major shared: In the poker community, there are only a handful of well-known individuals about whom I could honestly say the following: I've never heard a negative word about Tony Holden as a person.
Ashley Adams said: He was a great writer, had a really keen wit, and was a very warm and personable man. May his memory be a blessing.
Fellow author Peter Alson added: This is devastating news. Tony was a dear, dear friend. An inspiration who I always loved to see and spend time with. I'm wrecked by this. I'll write more later. Too upset right now.
Holden is survived by his three sons, Ben, Sam, and Joe.
All three of my sons are canny occasional poker players, if not regulars, Holden once told PokerNews. l used to play with my own sons regularly not least a Christmas Eve knockout tournament played to the soundtrack of Guys and Dolls; but I must leave it to them whether or not they encourage their own children to become cardsharps.
PokerNews offers condolences to the friends and family of a true gentleman of the game.
For more on Holden, check out the Telegrah's obituary here.
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