David Sklansky Profile

They call him “The Mathematician,” and with good reason. David Sklansky quite literally wrote the book on “Hold’em Poker,” a ground-breaking publication heralded in 1976 as the first widely available study of the game that would later take the world of poker by storm.

Sklansky was born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1947. His father was a math professor at Columbia University, which explains where the poker pro’s capacity with numbers came from. In his late teens, Sklansky attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business for a year, but he dropped out to take a job as an actuary—a profession that seemed to suit his calculating mind just perfectly.

As it turned out, Sklansky’s math talents were equally well suited to poker, a game he began playing while in college. Friends recall how he would often cut classes to play, but even more than winning a little cash, Sklansky enjoyed analyzing hands and discussing how they could be better played.

When his boss failed to give due recognition to a faster way of doing calculations that the young math whiz had devised, Sklansky knew there was no future for him in the actuarial business. He ditched the 9-to-5 and moved to Las Vegas, putting his burgeoning card skills to the test as a gambler. He relished being his own boss and getting rewarded in direct proportion to his abilities.

The publication of “Hold’em Poker” in 1976 was the result of Sklansky’s hard-earned experience and theories tested in action at the tables. That same year, he had finished third in the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event of the 7th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP). Three years later, he would prove just how accomplished a card player he had become by winning the $1,000 Razz event at Amarillo Slim’s 1979 Superbowl of Poker.

That success was followed by a trio of WSOP bracelets. Sklansky won the $1,000 Limit Draw High and $800 Mixed Doubles Limit 7-Card Stud events in 1982 and then the $1,000 Limit Omaha event in 1983—wins worth $49,800 in total. He celebrated by co-authoring “Winning Poker” with Roger Dionne and then published his highly acclaimed and influential masterwork, “The Theory of Poker” in 1983.

Through 1991, The Mathematician was a regular at WSOP events, frequently reaching the final tables and gaining a reputation as an all-round threat, from Pot Limit Omaha to Limit Razz and No Limit Hold’em. The biggest WSOP payday of his career came in 1989 with a 2nd place finish at the $5,000 Limit 7-Card Stud event worth a nifty $96,250.

Then, David Sklansky quietly removed himself from tournament play. For a decade he disappeared from the annual WSOP gatherings. Instead, he concentrated on cash games and writing, bringing out half a dozen new books, including “Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players” in 1999.

The Mathematician returned briefly to WSOP play in 2001, posting a 5th place finish at the $1,500 Limit Omaha event, followed by a respectable 42nd spot in the 2002 World Championship event worth $20,000. He continued to write, having teamed up with another poker player-writer, Mason Malmuth of Two Plus Two Publishing, since 1988.

Sklansky’s biggest haul at the tables came in 2006. That’s when he won $419,000 for finishing 3rd in the World Poker Tour’s Borgata Poker Open. All together, the former actuary has amassed more than $1 million in live poker earnings, including $440,643 in WSOP winnings through 2011. His latest book is “No Limit Hold’em: Theory and Practice,” released in May 2006 and co-written with Ed Miller.

When David Sklansky isn’t writing or at the tables, he can often be found conducting poker seminars as far afield as the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He does consulting work for casinos, Internet gaming sites and gaming device companies and has reportedly invented several new games, soon to appear in casinos.

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