“I feel good. Physically, I have recovered. I guess from an emotional standpoint, I don’t know that I still quite get what happened yet. Sounds a little weird but it’s still all surreal for me.”
It’s been a month since George Holmes played in his second-ever World Series of Poker Main Event, the outcome of which was an experience he could have only dreamed of having. The 49-year-old father of two from Alpharetta,went on a once-in-a-lifetime run in the $10,000 televised tournament, one that turned him from an anonymous everyday recreational player into the “Home Game Hero”, battling in poker’s bright spotlight against some of the best in the business ended up finishing as the runner-up for an incredible $4,000,000 score.
“But I feel good. I finally went back a week ago and kind of watched the stream of the final table. I think, for me, it’s about as good as it’s going to get as far as being able to put everything into perspective…it kind of is what it is,” Holmes said. “I’ve been, probably for the past week and a half, back in the normal swing. I came home, I went back to work the following week. I planned on working just because I enjoy what I do and it just gives me an opportunity to kind of take a step back and take my time and figure out what I want to do with all this money.”
Holmes works as an executive for a company that helps merchants process payments. It’s currently offering him a sense of real-world stability as opposed to his whirlwind experience in the Main Event filled with the highs, the lows, the lack of sleep, and the pressure to perform. But Holmes, who presents as level-headed and as even-keel as they come, insists that while he’s still processing what took place, his return to reality took place rather quickly.
“To know me, I’m pretty a pretty monotone, mellow person so I don’t get very high. I think coming back to Earth, for me, was a lot easier,” he said. “After the Main Event was over, it was probably eight o’clock. A bunch of my friends were still there from the rail so we went out to celebrate for a few hours. We hung out probably ’til midnight or one…we were all on a flight the next morning at six o’clock a.m. At that point, I wanted out of Vegas.
“For me, a perfect stint in Vegas is three or four days. Being there for a week and a half, I mean I’m just spent and I’m ready to go. Especially with the schedule for the World Series. You don’t really get to do anything. It’s poker, sleep, get up, poker, and then sleep again and that’s basically it for a week and a half,” he said. “So, for me to come down, it didn’t take much, probably a couple of days. Physically, I was drained, I was tired. Mentally, I was spent from just sitting at the table, looking at hands nonstop. But after a few days back at home, I was fine. I was still trying to understand what all happened and I told a couple of friends this, I kind of which I could’ve experienced this somewhat from their perspective, just being on the rail.
“But I was just playing, cameras in your face. Once you have that for a day or two, it’s normal. But I don’t know that I experienced it the way everyone else did. I mean, I’m hearing all these great stories, all these people that were cheering for me, but I don’t get to see any of the highs or the lows, I’m just kind of living in the moment I guess…kind of weird to explain.”
One of those moments he lived in was the final hand of the Main Event, one of the most thrilling WSOP moments for fans in some time. In summary, after spiking top pair on the turn, and being checked to on the river, Holmes moved all-in for his tournament life. However, Koray Aldemir, his affable German heads-up opponent (and eventual 2021 WSOP Main Event champ) had flopped two pair and was deep in thought about whether to make the call that could end the tournament.
“The longer he took told me that I did not want a call,” Holmes said. “I’m shoving, thinking I have the best hand. I would have never imagined [Aldemir] had such a miracle flop.”
“But the longer he took, I started replaying things in my head like, ‘Well, maybe he has two pair.’ Initially, I thought maybe he has top pair and maybe a flush draw. We had such a great rapport at the table…he looks up at me as he’s thinking and he’s probably halfway through his tank and he’s like ‘This might be it. This might be the hand.’ “
It was the hand, Aldemir did put his chips in the middle and both hands were turned face up. Aldemir read the board instantly and knew he was the new World Champion. He threw his hands in the air, turned to his rail, and the celebration began as Holmes also stood and leaned over the table, taking a long second look at what had just happened.
“To be honest, I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time,” Holmes said, reflecting on the moment. “I think I asked, because I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, if he had me covered at that point. I know I asked the dealer if he had me covered and to be honest, at that point, I did not care what happened.”
Holmes is back home, back spending time with his family and gearing up for what is sure to be a special holiday season for his wife, 13-year old son, and 15-year old daughter.
But Holmes is also back playing in the Atlanta home game he made famous on the WSOP coverage. It’s the one he’s been playing in for the better part of a decade. He’s come a long way since first getting into the game back in 1999, before No Limit Hold’em rose to power as the dominant variant of the game. Holmes says although he’s never been a serious student of the game, he’s loved poker since the moment he started playing it with co-workers regularly in 2000. Back then it was a ‘just for fun’ $0.25/0.50 game. But now he plays with a regular group of guys splashing around at $2/5. But Holmes is quick to clarify that “it plays a lot larger than a normal $2/5 game.”
It’s the same group of guys who were on the rail rooting Holmes on in the Main Event, the same who are likely looking to see if some of that $4 million end up on the table in their own game, even if it is one small buy-in at a time. But Holmes insists that his newfound poker fame hasn’t changed the game in the least, “It’s a tough crew, man. I get razz no matter what.”
One might think that there would be other opportunities for Holmes to flex his popular final table persona, but according to him he hasn’t received any invitations yet for shows like Poker After Dark or live-streamed games like Hustler Casino Live or Live At The Bike, at least not yet.
“My phone hasn’t really been blowing up,” he said. Noting that he’s had a couple of promotional opportunities which he’s politely declined. “I get friends that ask me all the time ‘Have you had any sponsors reach out to you?’ and the answer’s been no. It’s been quiet.”
But Holmes seems at peace with that quiet. He’s not the type to hit a big score, rearrange his life, and take to the circuit. But when pressed about whether a stint on a PokerGO cash game could entice him to make a trip back to Las Vegas sooner than later, a small smile appears. “That’d be interesting.”
People would likely watch as Holmes understands he has fans well beyond the dozen of guys who were on his rail. His “Home Game Hero” storyline not only played well on the broadcast, but it’s the dream for a lot of recreational players who are just like Holmes. Those who were pulling hard for him to take it to the high roller pro, even as likable as Aldemir is.
“I had been hearing the whole week, ‘You’re blowing up on Twitter.’ And, at the time I didn’t have a Twitter account. But what I did feel, just in the Amazon room, was the love from the folks there…and it was amazing. It was absolutely amazing. Even the [media] that was there, when I busted out one of the camera guys stopped me and said ‘This might sound weird but we know your face. After a week of watching you we know your face better than you do and we just wanted to tell you from all the crew that we loved your game, we were rooting hard for you here in the room and in the trucks.’ And I thought that was pretty amazing.
“I ran into a couple of folks at the airport the next morning. And when I tell you I had no regrets after that final hand, I honestly did not. But one regret would be just for the folks who were rooting for me,” he said. “There were so many folks saying ‘We were hoping you win the whole thing. We wanted you to take it down.’ And there was this story of like USA versus Germany and the UK…and that’s the only real regret I have, it’s not winning it for the folks that I didn’t know that had just jumped on and were rooting for me so hard.”
In 2019 Holmes entered the Main Event and finished in 213th for over $50,000. His goal in 2021 was simply to beat his 2019 finish, which he clearly did. But where does that leave him moving forward? There’s not a lot of Main Event places he can improve to.
“That’s a great question. Naturally, I will continue to play the Main Event and see how I can do. I hadn’t thought about it beyond knowing that I’m going to continue to play the Main and there are a bunch of circuit events that I will probably play one or two but I hadn’t thought much past that. I really haven’t.”
“The odds tell me I should quit while I’m ahead…but I love playing the game too much.”