Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1902, Oswald Jacoby has been described as one of the greatest
card players of the twentieth century but, while he learned to play whist and poker at any early age, was best known as a contract bridge player. Jacoby attended Columbia College in New York City, but dropped out in his junior year to become a licensed actuary. He subsequently worked for two insurance companies but, in 1925, started to play regularly at the Cavendish Club, a prestigious contract bridge club in New York City, where he gambled for high stakes.
Despite winning the leading pairs event of the bridge season, the Goldman Cup, in 1929, Jacoby lost much of his accumulated wealth in the Wall Street Crash the same year and never again worked as an actuary. Nevertheless, he became internationally renowned as member of the ‘Four Horsemen’ team, captained by Philip Hal Sims, formed in 1931, and the ‘Four Aces’ team, captained by David Burnstine – later known as David Bruce – which dominated tournament bridge play in the latter part of the Thirties. In 1936, Jacoby became just the second Life Master of the American Contract Bridge League, after Burnstine.
Later in his career, Jacoby won the now defunct McKenney Trophy, awarded to the individual player who accumulated the most master points in the calendar year three times, in 1959, 1961 and 1962. He instituted bidding manoeuvres, such as the widely used ‘Jacoby transfer’, and was a prolific author, writing books on bridge, canasta, gin rummy, poker and other games and over 10,000 newspaper articles.