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The Education of a Poker Player (Read 2738 times)
Five Fingers
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The Education of a Poker Player
May 3rd, 2006, 8:15pm
By Herbert O. Yardley, Herbert O. Yardley (Introduction), Jesse May  

Read this book? What did you think?
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The Lawman
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The Education of a Poker Player
Reply #1 - Sep 30th, 2006, 6:15pm
The Education of a Poker Player - Herbert O Yardley
As a ‘poker book’ in todays growing market in that genre Herbert O Yardley’s ‘Education...’ may seem an unlikely choice, it being penned in 1957 and concerning numerous versions of the great game but not once mentioning today’s staple form, Texas Hold ‘Em. Surely this slim tome is nothing more than an irrelevant and outdated account you may say to yourself? If you do so, think again...
In ‘Education...’ Yardley tells his own tale of how he learned the basics of the game from a charismatic mentor in the dark and dingy poker club scene of pre war America. Instead of a simple storytelling narrative however he weaves his own development around the comings and goings of ‘Monty’s Place’ and the straight forward lessons of Monty himself, these at times being presented as charts of hand strenghts and suggested plays in various situations. Despite these lessons being for games most modern players will have never heard of, let alone played, the raw basics of the game in whatever form it is played are shown to the reader. The importance of judging your opponents skill and character for example and the art of making a ‘read’ and picking up tells is stressed. Such sage wisdom is clearly dispensed and illustrated as the book reveals the characters and personas of Monty’s regulars, the book presenting a fascinating old time image of the poker den and it’s clientelle reminiscent of the film and characters within ‘The Cincinnati Kid’.
By part two of the book Yardley moves away from Monty’s place and focuses on another facet of his life which he soon relates back to poker, that being his work as a spy and head of a deciphering bureau in the lead up to WWII. How apt that the original introduction was written by Ian Flemming, the creator of James Bond, a keen card player himself by all accounts. Yardley’s adventures in the Orient are soon shown to be reliant on his poker skills and he states, ‘I choose China as the locale for the remainder of my story of how I win at poker because poker was instrumental in catching a secret agent whose mission was either to assainate or to capture the Generalissimo’, and so it turns out to be in the tense crescendo of this portion of the book. It is a testament to Yardley’s writing that he manages to effortlessly mix his main subject of poker with a tale of crucial events regarding the war, the two subjects though obviously of massive disparity in their gravitas, nonetheless blending seamlessly. It is as if all spies undertook their business based on tricks they learned playing cards for money and that the skills of poker player and secret agent were interchangable!
As a whole this book is a little gem. It is well written and so much more than just a collection of anecdotes and tips. It’s been in print now for nearly fifty years and is, in the truest sense, a classic. It may not be an obvious choice to the modern reader but it is well worth a look and I wouldn’t hesitate to reccomend it.
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