David Sklansky Profile

By Robert Jones | July 27, 2009

The players we have chosen to represent the Pokerology.com have all been great contributors to the game in some capacity. They have made it better, brought something to the game, or in some cases, changed the way poker was played. Despite all of their great contributions to the game of poker, David Sklansky is arguably the greatest “nuts and bolts” contributor the game has ever seen, introducing odds and percentages to the world of poker, a concept that was vaguely, if ever, mentioned, before Sklansky came around. His tireless work has made him one of the most respected authorities in the game when it comes to the math side of poker. Without failing to mention, he is a great poker player as well.

David Sklansky was interested in the theory of poker before he probably even understood what the theory of poker was. He was born into a math world, with his father being a mathematics professor at Columbia University, one of the most prestigious colleges in America. The apple did not fall far from the tree, because even in his childhood he could see that having just a basic idea of math could put you at an advantage over your opponents. As you will see though, what Sklansky has contributed to poker has been far from basic math.

Although his favorite game is poker, and also the one to which he has made the most contributions, at one time or another Sklansky has made his living from a variety of games. Even his first job after college was a bit of a gambler, taking a job as an actuary for a business. In short, it was his job to provide a set of statistical data in an attempt to make the most money for the company he was working with. Sklansky has also made a living from blackjack, betting on horses, and sports betting, and is a recognized expert on all of these subjects.

But, David Sklansky’s bread and butter is poker. How about this for success – in the first three World Series of Poker Events in which he ever played, Sklansky won the bracelet. Those events were in Draw, Mixed Doubles, and Omaha, showing he has various forms of poker down pat. While he has never won another bracelet since those three, he has gone on to make 21 finishes in the money. He also took a long absence from poker to become a writer on the game, so both of these numbers could potentially and would most likely be higher. Between 1982 and 1991 he was always a favorite at any poker tournament, but he walked away from the game for almost a decade for his writing. Interestingly enough, during his sabbatical he contributed more to the game than when he was playing.

Not all his poker books were written during the near decade he took off from the game. In fact, his 1976 “Hold’em Poker” was the first book widely published on the subject. While “SuperSystem” is regarded as the end all and be all of poker books, Sklansky was writing about the secrets of the game three years before Doyle Brunson’s book hit the shelves. Brunson respected Sklansky’s abilities so much that when he wrote he started his book in 1979 he asked Sklansky to write the section on Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo, a great honor, as the book featured the true poker greats of the era.

While Sklansky has written or contributed to over a dozen poker books, his greatest work is usually considered “The Theory of Poker,” published in 1994. It may be assumed that because he is a “math guy” and a true genius that his style of writing may be hard for the general population to read and understand. That is not the case with Sklansky. One of the reasons his works have gained so much popularity is because he makes even the most difficult topics easy to read. Despite being over 15 years old now, this is one of the poker books you automatically think of when a person new to poker asks you what book they should read. It starts off with basic math, or “theory” of poker games, and goes into a number of other topics, including playing position, which up until that point had not been considered. Sklanky’s other well known books include “Tournament Poker for Advanced Players,” “No Limit Hold’em: Theory and Practice,” and “Gambling for a Living.”

When the poker boom occurred, Sklansky came back to the table and for the most part continued right where he left off. In his first WSOP after his break, in 2001, he made the final table in a Razz tournament, finishing ninth. The next year he did even better, finishing fifth in the Omaha Limit event. The years 2007 and 2008 were also successful ones for Sklansky on the biggest stage of poker, finishing in the money of five events, which included three final tables. Sklansky has once again decided to limit his tournament play, only playing select events, but in tournament he plays in, including any form of poker, he is a threat to win.

Sklansky has made it his life goal to understand and teach the game of poker. It is only obvious that Pokerology.com would have a person who has done so much for the game in its Pokerology.com Hall of Fame.

By Robert Jones

Robert lives in rural Virginia, and has been playing poker online since 2004. He enjoys writing about the history of poker, learning as much as he can about the legends of the game.


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