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Edmond Hoyle – He Made the Rules

Posted on June 16th, 2008

Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769), also known as Edmund Hoyle, One of the more famous portraits of Edmond Hoyle.was a gentleman and writer best known as an expert on the rules and playing strategies of card games. The well-known phrase “according to Hoyle” became part of the language as a reflection of Hoyle being considered the ultimate authority on the subject of card and board games.

The phrase “according to Hoyle” is most often used in situations when a speaker wants to indicate that his comment is based on some acknowledged level of authority, especially when a direct written reference is not available. In other words, a speaker is asserting that what he is saying or proposing is based on the highest authority and in accord with a strict set of rules.

Little is known about most of Edmond Hoyle’s life. Hoyle is believed to have been trained to become a barrister (lawyer, attorney). In 1741, Hoyle began working as a whist tutor to members of the English Royal Family and other members of the upper classes. In addition to providing personal instruction, he sold a short booklet on the game of whist to his clients, describing his strategies for playing the game. After hIs booklet became quite popular, unauthorized copies of it began to circulate throughout London. Hoyle later published and copyrighted his A Short Treatise On The Game Of Whist: Containing The Laws Of The Game And Also Some Rules (1743) in an attempt to prevent the unauthorized publication of his works.

Editor’s Notes: Evidence would indicate that Sir Edmond (Edmund) Hoyle would be considered a member of the British branch of families that carry the Hoyle surname.

Because of his success, Hoyle followed with similar treatises on backgammon, chess, quadrille, piquet, and brag. In 1750, a compendium of these essays was published, as Mr. Hoyle’s Games Complete, and over time it pushed off the market Charles Cotton’s aging The Compleat Gamester, long considered to be the “standard” English-language reference work on the subject of playing of games – especially gambling games – since its publication in 1674.

Hoyle’s A Short Treatise On The Game Of Whist was regarded as authoritative until 1864, after which time it was superseded by the new rules written by John Loraine Baldwin and adopted by the Arlington and Portland clubs.

Examples of decks of Hoyle playing cardsMany modern game rule books still contain the word “Hoyle” in the title, but that doesn’t mean that they are works that are directly derivative of those written by Hoyle.

Sir Edmond Hoyle was a charter inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979 thanks to his many contributions to not only poker, but all types of card and board games.

Sir Edmond’s surname can still be seen printed on hundreds of books such as Hoyle’s Rules of Games: Third Revised and Updated Edition about card and board games and on the backs of playing cards.

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