Published: 15:13, 01 April 2021
| Updated: 15:17, 01 April 2021
A former international poker star has bought a long-vacant city pub - where he plans to work behind the bar.
Sam Holden - who rose to fame after winning almost $1 million on the world poker stage - has traded in the baize for the beers after snapping up The Monument in St Dunstans, Canterbury.
The Grade II-listed boozer, dating back to the early 1800s, has been sold off by brewing giant Shepherd Neame.
It was previously Kent's only vegan pub, boasting an entirely plant-based menu. But it closed at the start of last year after licensees reported a "quiet summer", and has since lain derelict.
Mr Holden now hopes to breathe fresh life into the premises, as he prepares to reopen it in June as an independent establishment.
He first moved to Canterbury as a student when he was 18, and it was while studying forensic science at the University of Kent (UKC) that he began playing poker.
He found fame at 22, when he made it to the final table of the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas just a year after turning professional.
He finished 9th, scooping an incredible $782,115, and later that year bagged $150,000 by winning a poker tournament in Cardiff.
The following year he returned to Vegas, finishing 55th in the world series event, earning a cool $128,384.
His success allowed him to enjoy four years travelling the globe, representing 888 Poker on the world stage.
"It was very good for me," he told KentOnline.
"I was doing a lot of travelling in those four years, and it was a really fun experience.
"But after that I was ready to move on and try different things - I didn't want to play poker for the rest of my life."
In 2014, Mr Holden returned to education, studying a second degree in philosophy at UKC.
Now 31 and "semi-retired" from the world of poker, he has set his sights on his next adventure - running a pub.
Mr Holden and his family have a long history of working in the hospitality industry, and he describes himself as passionate about British pubs and real ale.
Having bought The Monument, he hopes to carry out refurbishments on the premises before reopening in June.
“Having been looking for my next project for some time, I am delighted," he said.
"It's going to be a traditional pub but it's going to be a little bit quirky.
"The beauty is it's going to be completely independent, so it's going to be something a little bit different. I think it's going to be a cosy pub with a lot of character."
Mr Holden says the pub will offer a wide selection of "high-quality food and drink at a reasonable price".
"We've got a lovely garden here too, so hopefully we'll be able to make the most of the good weather when it comes," he added.
"I'm really passionate about Canterbury. I moved away for a couple of years and realised how much I loved it, which is why I moved back.
"So I really want this pub to be part of the community - for locals as well as people passing through.
"I'm really looking forward to inviting everyone, come the summer."
Having lived in Roper Road for eight years, Mr Holden has now moved into a five-bedroom owner's flat above the pub.
He says he plans to be behind the bar once it opens, offering punters a "warm welcome".
The pub was sold on a freehold basis, off a guide price of £360,000, by specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co.
A Shepherd Neame spokesman said: “Shepherd Neame put The Monument on the market in January 2020, before the pandemic began, to be sold as a going concern.
"It was not a decision taken lightly, but the pub did not fit with our business strategy. We currently have no plans to dispose of any other pubs in Canterbury or the surrounding area.”