Sklansky was born and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, where he graduated from Teaneck High School in 1966. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, but left before graduation. He returned to Teaneck and passed multiple Society of Actuaries exams by the time he was 20, and worked for an actuarial firm.
Sklansky is generally considered a top authority on gambling. He has written many books on poker, blackjack, and general gambling.
Sklansky has won three World Series of Poker bracelets, two in 1982 ($800 Mixed Doubles, and $1000 Draw Hi) and one in 1983 ($1000 Limit Omaha Hi). He also won the Poker By The Book invitational event on the 2004 World Poker Tour, outlasting Phil Hellmuth Jr, Mike Caro, T. J. Cloutier, and Mike Sexton, and then finally overcoming Doyle Brunson.
Sklansky attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania for a year before leaving to become a professional gambler. He briefly took on a job as an actuary before embarking into poker. While on the job he discovered a faster way to do some of the calculations and took that discovery to his boss. The boss told him he could go ahead and do it that way if he wanted but wouldn’t pass on the information to the other workers. "In other words, I knew something no one else knew, but I got no recognition for it," Sklansky is quoted as saying in Al Alvarez's "The Biggest Game in Town." "In poker, if you're better than anyone else, you make immediate money. If there's something I know about the game that the other person doesn't, and if he's not willing to learn or can't understand, then I take his money."
In a posting on the Two Plus Two poker discussion forums, he admitted to twice cheating at poker.
Sklansky resides in Henderson, Nevada.
Sklansky has authored or co-authored 13 books on gambling theory and poker. His books are published by Two Plus Two Publishing. His book cover art often features hand guns. His 1976 book Hold'em Poker was the first book widely available on the subject.
In 2010 he wrote with Alan N. Schoonmaker, Ph.D., DUCY? The title is an acronym his fans at twoplustwo.com had coined because he often ended his posts by asking, "Do you see why?" The book tells readers how to combine mathematics, logic, probability theory, psychology, and "out of the box" thinking to come up with creative solutions to their problems.
Book TitleISBNGambling for a Living by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth(ISBN 1-880685-16-7)Getting the Best of It by David Sklansky(ISBN 1-880685-04-3)Hold'em Poker by David Sklansky(ISBN 1-880685-08-6)Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players, 21st Century Edition by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth(ISBN 1-880685-22-1)Poker, Gaming, & Life by David Sklansky(ISBN 1-880685-17-5)Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players by David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth, and Ray Zee(ISBN 1-880685-23-X)Sklansky on Poker by David Sklansky(ISBN 1-880685-06-X)Sklansky on Razz by David Sklansky(ISBN 0-87019-050-4)Sklansky Talks Blackjack by David Sklansky(ISBN 1-880685-21-3)Small Stakes Hold 'em: Winning Big with Expert Play by Ed Miller, David Sklansky, and Mason Malmuth(ISBN 1-880685-32-9)Theory of Poker by David Sklansky(ISBN 1-880685-00-0)Tournament Poker for Advanced Players by David Sklansky(ISBN 1-880685-28-0)No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller(ISBN 1-880685-37-X)
World Series of Poker Bracelets
Late in 2006, Sklansky offered a wager to Christian fundamentalists. Contestants would first have to pass a lie detector test affirming their absolute certainty that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that everyone who didn't believe this would go to hell. Anyone who passed the polygraph would be eligible to wager $50,000 on an attempt to outscore Sklansky on the math SAT, taken in half the usual time. The idea was to prove, in Sklansky's words, that "Fundamentalists are at least 10 times less likely than Asians, Jews, or atheists to be scientifically brilliant."
The challenge was criticized on several grounds. Some Two Plus Two forum posters predicted a perfect score for Sklansky, leading to minimal upside for any challenger. (In response, Sklansky declined to substitute a more difficult test.) Others felt that the polygraph condition was restrictive and not representative of most American Christians. No one accepted the challenge for several days afterward, and Sklansky withdrew it, later saying that it was a "publicity stunt."