Maj. H. O. Yardley, poker book author

A week or so ago, a friend asked me a question and mentioned Herbert O. Yardley, author of “The Education of a Poker Player,” one of my favorite poker books. Packrat that I am, I dug the book out of my library and realized I hadn’t reread it in at least 30 years. So, I reread it today. I was struck by how little the basics have changed. Yardley wrote it in 1955-56. The first game Yardley mentions is 5-card Stud. His starting requirements (the first two cards) are almost exactly what you’d want as a starting hand at Hold’em, and what he recommends to continue on with the hand is also very similar. His advice for 7-stud High-Low split starting hands, is also similar enough to Omaha Hi-Lo to be recognizable.

I knew Major Herbert Osbourne Yardley had led a colorful life. Born in 1889, after graduating from High School–a rarity in those years–he worked as a dealer in an illegal card room, a telegraph operator, a code breaker for the State Department during World War I and after, wrote a few books and magazine articles, worked in radio, was a technical adviser on a movie or two, went to China between the World Wars to help set up a cryptographic section for Chiang Kai Shek’s Chinese Army where he caught a Nazi spy, set up another cryptographic service for Canada, owned and ran a small restaurant, wrote some more, and died in 1958. He apparently played a lot of poker throughout.

On a whim, I Googled his name. About the fourth or fifth listing was from the National Security Agency giving a pretty complete biography of Yardley. If you have a few minutes, it’s a fascinating read and a look at a “long and borderline evil life” (something I’ve always aspired to for myself, but I’ve been no where near his exploits). And, yes, this has been declassified.

(If the link isn’t live, copy it and paste it in your browser to read the article.) Enjoy!)