Sam Holden came to the University of Kent in 2007 to study Forensic Science. He joined the Poker Society and soon became a professional poker player, travelling the world and winning tournaments for four years.
During his time playing poker, he developed an interest in philosophy and came back to Kent for a BA and then an MA in Philosophy, graduating from the MA in 2019.
After graduating, he worked from home for a sports statistics company, before settling on a new project to invest in: The Monument pub in Canterbury.
What is it about Kent that brought you back?
It was Canterbury in particular for me. I moved to London for two years when I was playing poker and the country is just more my place. I love the sense of community, being in a small city and having everything I want within walking distance. And if I do want to go to a gig, for example, being so close to London is really convenient.
The city and the University are positive places to be, everyone working together. The campus itself is a beautiful spot, on top of the hill; it has always attracted me here.
Which societies were you part of while at Kent?
The Poker Society was a big deal for me because it ended up forming a big part of my life. I met a lot of good friends there with similar interests.
More recently I restarted the Philosophy Society when I went back for my Philosophy undergraduate. And we had an unofficial postgraduate philosophy society during my Master’s from which we put together a quiz team. I’ve always been really keen on the social element of academia – particularly in something like philosophy – I get a lot out of informally talking about the work.
What are your favourite places on campus and off campus (which may now be the Monument!)?
Off campus: a shout-out for Bramley’s Bar in town as well. On campus: back in the day Ruby Tuesdays in Origins was my scene! And particularly when I was a postgraduate, sitting out on the hill overlooking the city in the summer was really enjoyable. I also spent a lot of time in the Gulbenkian.
What areas of philosophy particularly appeal to you?
The beauty of doing philosophy was that it was so varied so I had a lot of different interests. But I'm really interested in social epistemology: that is to say, how knowledge or beliefs are acquired in social situations, for example through group decision-making or expert testimony. That’s what I wrote my dissertation on for my Master’s.
And then also quite different to that is an interest in existentialism, trying to come to terms with whether there's any meaning in our existence. I found that very helpful to be honest – it’s good therapy!
Why did you decide to buy the Monument, and what are your plans for it?
I was looking for my next career and I wanted to establish and maintain somewhere in the community. The location is perfect for me, between the University and on the way into town, maybe as a stop for a quick drink on the way down to the train station.
In some ways with the pub I’d like to replicate that sense of community from the departments and societies at Kent. Somewhere that isn’t too rowdy and that is comfortable, with a lot of books.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew while you were at Kent?
After graduating, it’s important to continue pursuing interests outside of work, as you did while at university.
‘What's the most trivial hill you're willing to die on?’
Knowledge is overrated.