Herbert Yardley was a fascinating character. The author was best known as the United State’s premier cryptanalyst (code breaker) during and after World War I. He was the key member of the “Black Chamber”, America’s code breaking group of the time, which was a predecessor to today’s National Security Agency. Yardley was also an avid poker player, and was considered quite an expert in his day. In The Education of a Poker Player Yardley tells us how he learned to play, and he teaches us some of the most profound lessons he learned, many of them learned the hard way.
Yardley is a very capable story teller. He does a great job of putting us in the moment as he learns to play as a kid, becomes a winning player, plays in almost mystical games in exotic locations throughout his professional career and after, and finally, as he passes on this information to aspiring students. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Yardley’s life was both that of a spy and of a road gambler, and he paints a detailed picture of some of these remarkable pieces of his life. Frankly, I find many of his stories more than a bit hard to swallow in every detail, but ultimately, I don’t think it matters whether they’re entirely factual or not. They’re the entertaining product of a truly remarkable character, and I’m glad I got a chance to read them.
For its time, this was probably one of the better books on poker strategy, if, for no other reason, than the author rams the advice to “play tight” down the reader’s throat. However, Theory of Poker it’s not. These days there are a great number of ligaz11 poker books on the market that are better as strategy guides. Further, it’s hard to find a good five card stud or five card draw game these days, so strategies for these specific games probably won’t add a lot of notches in the “win” column for the reader. Much of the advice is good, but don’t read this book for practical advice. Read it for its entertainment value. The table of contents appears to list games, and one might assume that each chapter contains a new game and strategy. This is true, but largely the game in question is a backdrop to one of Yardley’s tales.
While I’d probably rate books like The Big Deal and The Biggest Game in Town to be more entertaining, this book is a good one. Although it’s short, I believe it belongs in every serious poker player’s library. Note, though, that this book tends to drift in and out of print. The version I have was published by Oldcastle Press in the U.K., which I got as an import several years ago. Better gambling book stores should have The Education of a Poker Player in stock, and I think it’s worth getting.
This entertaining yarn is interesting for its poker stories and for information about its colorful author, Herbert Yardley. For its time, it was not at all bad as a strategy guide to poker, although these days it should primarily be read for its entertainment value. I believe this book belongs in every serious poker player’s library.