Lee Davy sits down with the former November Niner, Sam Holden, to talk about philosophy, feminism and Page 3.
Sam Holden knows what it’s like to be inside the body of a World Series of Poker (WSOP) November Niner. He also understands the feeling of walking away from something you love, to try and make a difference in the world.These days, poker plays only a small part of his life.
He has bigger fish to fry.
Last time we spoke you had taken a break from the game, how do you feel about that decision?
“I feel really good about the decision. I’m back at university. I’ve been studying for just over a year and am enjoying it. I can still play poker online when I want. It was the right thing for me to do at the time.”
It’s November Nine-time, what are they experiencing?
“Probably a bit of a whirlwind. I remember feeling very busy. I felt quite tired from doing a lot of interviews. It was nothing compared to the real world, I guess, but because it was so new it was just a little bit stressful. It was also a lot of fun. It all flies by so quickly. It’s also new and exciting and a little weird and absurd I suppose, but that’s great. It’s supposed to be like that, right? It’s not intended to happen twice, and it’s a unique experience.”
Remind everybody what you’re studying
“I’m studying philosophy.”
Can you recommend any modern day philosophy books?
“It depends on what you’re into, but someone like Peter Singer would be a more contemporary philosopher. I’m quite into feminist theory at the moment, so I’m reading books by Jennifer Saul and Susan Okin. Feminism is still such a relevant issue today. It’s a topic I can get my teeth into and be passionate about.”
Do you come across ageism in your studies?
“I haven’t studied it too much, but it’s another thing that’s just irrelevant. It’s easy to say, but it’s just a number. I put a lot of these problems down to sensationalist media. People make storylines up out of nothing.”
Our upbringing must make a significant difference in our sub-conscious handling of these crucial matters?
“Partly yeah, obviously whatever has happened in the past doesn’t justify things like that in the present and, unfortunately, those ideas are perpetuated by our society and our upbringing – like the toys that we buy for children.
“I was trying to buy Lego for a five-year-old the other day, and you can’t buy gender neutral Lego. It has to be cars and trucks for boys or pink stuff for girls, and I was just appalled by that. It starts at such an early age, and then the media has its angle as well.
Ageism isn’t so different, but the more we think about it, the more critical we can be about our behavior, and that allows us to change. It’s not just our society, it’s everywhere, it’s the assumptions humans make without thinking.”
I certainly didn’t think about such issues when I was growing up, nor did anyone try to promulgate them into my theory.
“Sure, but it’s good to see that we all have growth and progression. We look back at parts of our behavior and things that we’ve said and had regret. As society moves on we will get away from that more. I always like to see a progression, when things start going backward is when you need to worry, but we’re going in the right direction.”
What does progress look like for you?
“Learning and having new experiences and being able to learn from those experiences.”
What was the best toy you ever owned and why?
“I remember having a huge box of toy cars, and I remember racing them around the bedroom. They were cheap ones. I would keep results of who would win, even though I was controlling them – just loving the statistics behind it, and having my league table.”
It’s interesting how we find it so easy to create fun when we are younger, and more difficult when we become older.
“It’s not too different from what I did in poker. I set myself targets and kept my results on Excel spreadsheets and made graphs, and chased people on Pocketfives rankings. It’s all games, isn’t it?”
What is the one thing in the world you would like to abolish and why?
“I guess right now I would have to say sexism given that I’m studying feminism so much, and it still seems so rife. I think there are too many inequalities in the world, but it’s such a major one for half of the world’s population to be experiencing.”
Where do we start with something like this? How do we affect change? My son’s girlfriend’s on Facebook are all taking sexy selfie’s and posting them online. It’s a whole new world. It worries me because I don’t understand it.
“It’s a copied behavior of what people see in the media, I mean exactly where do you start? It’s about taking small steps where we can. I think there is still inequalities at home that lead to differences of opportunities between men and women in workplaces, and that can be another thing that can be impressed upon children at such a young age. We are moving forward regarding Page 3 not existing anymore as far as I know.”
They have replaced the boobs with photos of celebrities in various hyper-sexualized imagery.
“The tabloid agendas are for selling papers. Their only priority is making money. You could try and censor them, but I think that has a lot of risks regarding press censorship and media censorship, so my preference would be to try and persuade people that they’re not worth buying. I think the Internet can come to our aid in that respect in terms of providing new and original content that perhaps isn’t so traditional for want of a better word. It’s all small steps as I say, progression is what I’d like to see.”
The topic is very confusing and difficult for children to comprehend, and yet I believe it should be taught at this level because they curate their beliefs and values at such a young age.
“It’s easy to say to your niece, ‘that dress is beautiful,’ because you are trying to say something nice. That is how we were raised, and that’s how we were treated as children most of the time. No one ever told me how beautiful my jeans were when I was a kid. We just end up in these formative gender roles, but being aware of that and stopping yourself from doing that is so important and it will make a difference. I think we will get there.”
What are some of your bad habits in this respect?
“Regarding my relationship, I think Jade and I are both very conscious of equality, and we’re both anti-traditional regarding relationships or regarding conforming to the usual stereotype that we both have no interest in doing that. Hopefully, we don’t fall into too many traps, I’m sure we do, I just can’t think of anything right now.”
Give my teenage some advice.
“I’d say be careful when you’re conforming to society or when people are encouraging you to do that. I find a lot of people saying, “what do you want to do when you grow up?” That creates pressure, even on me at the age of 26, and everyone that I’ve studied with, everything is career driven and I think there’s more to life than that. I believe that this is a very structured system in our society where it’s basically career based and although you need to work there are options open to you, and it’s important to do something you enjoy, so don’t conform to those ideas just for the sake of it.”