Edmond Hoyle - Legend of Card Games


Who was Edmond Hoyle?

Edmond Hoyle was the writer of rules and play of card games. He lived between 1672 – 1769. The phrase “according to Hoyle” came into the language as a reflection of this perceived authority on the subject of the rules of card games, and is even used now in reference to online poker. But was he as much of an authority as many people believed him to be?

Hoyle wrote a short book on five different card games. They were bound together into one volume in 1746. This was the first edition of “Hoyle’s Games”. Within a year, plagiarists were putting Hoyle’s name on other books that gave rules and advice on other games. By the end of the nineteenth century, dozens of such books had appeared. They were different books by different authors, but all of them had Edmond Hoyle’s name as the author. Into the twentieth century, it has continued. Every few years, there is another published book “by Hoyle” on the market.

So yes, plagiarism, making a profit off of somebody else’s work (name), and distortion of facts have existed since before the US has existed, but back to Hoyle and his role in the world of gambling and specifically the game of poker.

In a recent book on Poker, the author criticized “Hoyle’s laws”. His publisher, fearful that Mr. Hoyle would sue, softened the tone of the attack. Hoyle himself died 50 years before Poker was even invented. But this publisher was not the only person who still believed that Hoyle is still alive today.

The managing editor of a Reno newspaper, when asked what rules were being followed in the Nevada gambling houses, replied, “Hoyle was out here and put the rules in his book”. So not only was Hoyle dead before Thomas Jefferson signed the famous Louisiana Purchase with France, but he also died 50 years before Poker was even invented.

So even the “experts” in the world of Poker and Gambling, who write books and articles about the rules and the industry, are not immune to believing that Hoyle was “more than a man”. Yet they might be quoting from any of hundreds of “Hoyle” books, of which at least ten different ones are still on sale. Yet, Edmond Hoyle himself never wrote a word of any of them.

Among writers on games who know all about the Hoyle history, the prestige of the immortal Hoyle is immense. The worthiest successor to Edmond Hoyle, over a period that stretched from 1880 into the 1920s, was the old Scotsman R.F. Foster. Foster tried to sell his book under the name “Encyclopedia of Games”. When the book was a flop, he changed the name of the book to “Hoyle” and the book was a success.

So the next time that you are playing Poker, don’t forget to thank your dealer and of course thank Hoyle. The fact that he actually has no connection to Poker is irrelevant. Just have fun, and enjoy your game.

What Hoyle DID Publish?

The first book that Hoyle published was on the rules of whist. Whist is a classic English trick-taking card game. Although the rules are simple, it is played on scientific principles.

If you are interested in the rules of whist, you can look them up on the Whist Wikipedia article or the Guttenberg.org website, “Hoyle’s Games Modernized” by Professor Hoffmann and Edmond Hoyle.

Full list of Hoyle’s actual publications

The following is a list of everything that actually was published by Hoyle.

  • A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist, 1742

  • A Short Treatise on the Game of Backgammon, 1743

  • An Artificial Memory for Whist, 1744

  • A Short Treatise on the Game of Piquet, 1744

  • An Essay Towards Making the Game of Chess Easily Learned, 1744

  • A Short Treatise on the Game of Quadrille, 1745

  • Mr. Hoyle’s Treatises of Whist, Quadrille, Piquet, Chess and Back-Gammon, 1748

  • A Short Treatise on the Game of Brag, 1751

  • An Essay Towards Making the Doctrine of Chances Easy to Those Who Understand Vulgar Arithmetick Only, 1754

Prashray Rai