Few players have had a bigger impact on the game of poker than the legend that is Doyle Brunson. Born on August 10 1933 in Fisher County Texas Doyle was an athlete from a very young age. He had dreams of playing in the NBA and was being scouted by the Minneapolis Lakers. Unfortunately a severe leg injury destroyed that dream. However, During his time recovering from the injury he played poker more often and ended up paying for his expenses with his winnings. Although Brunson had obtained his Masters degree and held several professional jobs, he soon realized that playing poker could earn him more than a traditional salary.
Brunson met his future wife Louise in 1959 and health issues would continue to follow him. Louise became pregnant, but later that year, a tumor was discovered in Doyle’s neck. When it was operated on, the surgeons found that the cancer had spread. They felt that an operation would prolong his life long enough for him to see the birth of the baby, so they went ahead with it. After the operation, no trace of the cancer could be found.
Brunson has attributed his cure to the prayers of friends of his wife and their correspondence with a self-proclaimed Christian faith healer. And it is interesting to not that, Louise developed a tumor shortly afterwards and, when she went for surgery, her tumor was also found to have disappeared.
Unlike players who can start their careers today in the air-conditioned safety of a casino, Brunson started off by playing in illegal games around Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, playing in bigger games with the likes of Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts. The games Brunson played in during this time were usually run by criminals who were often members of organized crime, so rules were not always enforced. Brunson admitted to having a gun pulled on him several times among a few robberies and beatings.
In the 1970s Doyle decided to follow the money to Las Vegas. He was a regular at the WSOP since its very inception. Throughout his career, Doyle claimed as many as 10 WSOP bracelets. While some of these were won during the early years of poker and in events with a small number of entries, Texas Dolly won several events in the 90s and 2000s as well. He won a WPT title for more than a million dollars in 2004. His live tournament winnings exceed six million dollars, but most of Doyle’s time and energy went into cash games.
In 1978 Doyle self-published Super System which many consider to be the “poker bible.” In Super System Doyle revealed some of the strategies and mathematical elements of poker that were known mostly only to the pros at that point. In fact, Doyle gave away so much information he believes it cost him a lot of money. He later released Super System 2 in 2004 which had contributions from many of the other “greats” of the poker game.
during the 2018 World Series of Poker, Doyle announced his retirement, explaining that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and family and focus more on his personal life.
He does still play poker occasionally and if so it is usually in Bobby’s Room, but he has stayed pretty true to his world and dedicates most of his time now to spending with his wife. Although he does maintain a pretty active Twitter feed should you be interested in checking in on him. And if you are ever interested in playing the hand named after the Godfather of poker, it is the ten-deuce which was the hand he won the World Series of Poker with two years in a row.
Doyle is one of the greatest and longest lasting professional poker players or all time.
Images from 1976 WSOP: By UNLV – This image is part of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Special Collections on the World Series of Poker, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45430
Special thanks to: https://gaming.unlv.edu/WSOP/
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