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The Education of a Poker Player by Herbert O. Yardley

Release date: 01st August, 2005
Publisher: High Stakes Publishing

List Price: £29.78
Our Price: £9.99
You Save: £19.79 (66%)
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"I drink and smoke and enjoy the game too much. You shouldn't do any of these things if you want to win at poker. Poker is a cold-hearted, deadly gameÖ" Advice we are all familiar with, but these words were written by Ian Fleming in 1957 for his wildly enthusiastic introduction to The Education of a Poker Player -half a century before we would see James Bond playing hold 'em on the big screen.

We should not be surprised at Fleming reading Herbert Yardley's writings, for the latter was a famous spy. He was the leading code breaker of World War I, but his bureau was killed off between the wars, while working on Japanese ciphers. Its epitaph was the priggish statement of President Hoover's secretary of state that: "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail". Cue Pearl HarbourÖ

Fleming did not overtly make the espionage connection, though. What interested him about this set of stories was that "the book had zest, blood, sex, and a tough, wry humour reminiscent of Raymond Chandler."

The volume's instructional pages (for stud and draw) are few, and fairly basic. Its real value lies in the tautly written anecdotes of rural poker in turn-of-the-century America, with players who literally 'bet the farm', and sophisticated, cosmopolitan games in the Far East during World War II, where spies of opposing nations crossed swords at the poker table.

This granddaddy of poker memoirs shows its age in some of the games discussed ('Betty Hutton' anybody?) and the absence of TV and computers in the narrative. But its writing is as sharp as if it had been penned yesterday, and the plots are gripping - or as Fleming put it: "some of the finest gambling stories I ever read".


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