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Doyle Brunson: Godfather of Poker

Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson has been playing poker for many decades now. Although the game has changed significantly over the years, one thing has not changed; Doyle Brunson’s dedication to it.

Doyle has gone from playing poker in the saloons of Texas during the 1950s, to playing poker in the prestigious casinos of Las Vegas today.

Doyle has won millions of dollars over the years and he’s considered to be one of the most well rounded players of his time. Many professional players have been inspired by his incredible talent.

For more details on the life and adventures of Doyle Brunson, please read through this comprehensive biography.

“I’m a gambler. I’ll always be one. I couldn’t be anything else. So, my life will always be full of wins and losses. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s exciting. There’s never been a dull moment in my life.”– Doyle Brunson

Early Experiences

Doyle F. Brunson was born on August 10th, 1933 in Longworth, Texas. He was an exceptional athlete when he was younger, excelling at both track & field and basketball. When it came to track & field, he would definitely be considered a long distance runner, setting the school record for the one mile at 4 minutes and 43 seconds in 1950.

Basketball was his true passion though; he was invited to be a part of the All-State Texas basketball team, which is a privilege only granted to the top athletes in the state.

His basketball skills earned him a scholarship to Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.

It was during his time there that the Minneapolis Lakers showed an interest in drafting Doyle, but a brutal knee injury would stand in his way of ever getting to live out his dream as a professional basketball player.

Even with his injuries, Doyle managed to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in 1954. He even finished his master’s degree just one year later in education administration. Unable to play basketball during that time, he started playing poker; his game of choice was five-card draw. He used the money he earned through playing poker to pay for his medical expenses.

After he was done with school, he became a salesman and started to make a decent living for himself. Around the same time, he played in a 7 card stud tournament and won over a month’s salary in just a matter of hours.

Needless to say, he didn’t stay with the company long and instead started to pursue a career as a professional poker player.

His Professional Gambling Career

His first experiences with poker were not in luxurious casinos, but instead were in illegal poker rooms scattered all around Texas. Those who chose to exclusively play poker at this time were often associated with thieves or crooks; basically they were the people that most people tried to avoid.

There were multiple times early on in Doyle’s career where his life was threatened because he won against a thief with a shot gun.

Despite the crazy, life threatening experiences that Doyle endured during this time, he will still reminisce about how that was the best time of his life. His partner on the road with him was Dwayne Hamilton; together they travelled to various parts of Texas, Louisianna, and Oklahoma to compete in countless poker tournaments.

Somewhere along the way, he met Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts, who he’d get to know very well over the course of his career.

As Las Vegas turned into the booming multi-billion dollar empire it is today, Doyle Brunson was there every step along the way. As poker adapted, so did Doyle. He was always willing to take chances and try new things.

He never let the fear of striking out keep him from playing the game. Over the course of his career, Doyle has performed well in a plethora of different competitions.

There’s no arguing that Doyle’s greatest career accomplishments have taken place at the World Series of Poker. Having won over ten WSOP gold bracelets in total and having cashed out at the WSOP an additional thirty-six times makes Doyle one of the competition’s top performers.

To see exactly what events he has won and how much money he has been awarded for each event, please refer to the list below:

  • Deuce to Seven Draw Event: $80,250 (1976)
  • No Limit Hold’em Championship: $230,000 (1976)
  • Seven Card Stud Split Event: $62, 500 (1977)
  • No Limit Hold’em Championship: $340,000 (1977)
  • Seven Card Stud Event: $68,000 (1978)
  • Mixed Doubles Event: $4,500 (1979)
  • No Limit Hold’em Event: $208,000 (1991)
  • Seven Card Razz Event: $93,000 (1998)
  • O.R.S.E. Event: $84,080 (2003)
  • No Limit Short Handed Texas Hold’em: $367,800 (2005)

As the list above indicates, Doyle Brunson won the WSOP main event two years in a row. In the 1976 WSOP main event, Doyle was head to head against Jesse Alto for the title when he received a 10 and 2 of spades, the cards that would cause him to get a full house to end the game.

The following year, Doyle would find himself against Bones Berland at the final table. He again received a 10 and 2 of the same suit, which he would later use to complete a full house and take home the championship.

The 10-2 hand is often referred to as “Ten Deuce” or “The Mystic Hand,” and it’s said to bring good fortune to whoever is lucky enough to come a crossed it.

Doyle’s success isn’t limited to the World Series of Poker, as he has actually won millions of dollars at the World Poker Tour too, with his most memorable win being the time he took first place in the 2004 No Limit Hold’em Championship.

He was able to take away almost $2 million from that event alone. Winning this allowed him to join an exclusive group of only five people who have won both the WSOP main event and a WPT title.

Doyle has also participated in NBC’S Poker After Dark series, which started back in 2007. The show was one hour long, and it went on for fourteen weeks per season. Doyle was one of the inaugural winners of the competition, walking away with $120,000 when everything was said and done.

Some of the other tournaments he has won events in are Amarillo Slim’s Superbowl of Poker, America’s Cup of Poker, the Hall of Fame Poker Classic, and Queens Poker Classic Summer Edition.

When he isn’t competing in tournaments, he can often be found playing for high stakes at Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. The blinds for these games sometimes soar past $100,000/ $200,000.

Doyle often played here with one of his good friends, Amarillo Slim, who passed away in 2012. Now he plays with some of the younger professionals, such as Phil Ivey, and enjoys watching this new generation of poker players in action.

We weren’t surprised to see Doyle’s name on the Poker Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 1988, alongside Jack “Treetop” Strauss. When Doyle was inducted, there were only sixteen members, but today the Poker Hall of Fame consists of over fifty members.

Making this list of highly qualified poker players is what every player strives for.

Author of Super System & Other Gambling Endeavors

Doyle wrote a book entitled, Doyle Brunson’s Super System: A Course in Power Poker, which made its way to publication in 1979. This book was the first of its kind, as it’s a complete Poker strategy book that covers almost any variation of poker one could think of.

Many professionals were upset about how much information was leaked in these books, as they believed it gave the amateurs the necessary tools they needed to give the professionals a run for their money.

Doyle wanted his book to be as accurate as possible, so he asked for the help of other professional poker players to write specific sections of his book if he felt they were more knowledgeable when it came to that subject.

The Draw Poker section was written by Mike Caro, the Hi/Lo section was written by David Sklanski, the 7 Card Stud section was written by Chip Reese, the Lowball section was written by Joey Hawthorne, and the Limit Texas Hold’em section was written by Bobby Baldwin.

Goodreads gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and said,

“This treatise on professional-level poker is the result of over 10,000 hours of labor by the world’s greatest players and theorists and has never been equaled in scope or value. This is the must-have book for serious poker players.”

We weren’t surprised to discover that over 300,000 copies of this book have been sold worldwide.

The sequel of this book was published in October, 2004; it was simply titled Super System 2.  Even more variations of poker are covered in this book, and even more professional poker players contributed their advice. This book goes into more detail than the first book, and includes new sections on the psychology behind poker and applying advanced strategy.

Also in 2004, Doyle launched an online poker room, which he named, Doyle’s Room. It has been associated with several different networks over the years including Playtech, Microgaming, and Cake Poker.

Doyle eventually cut his connections with the poker room, after an investigation revealed that it had violated several gambling laws.

This wasn’t the only time that Doyle Brunson would be under investigation, as the Securities and Exchange Commission filed one on December 14th, 2005. They were claiming that Doyle had tried to manipulate the stock price of WPT Enterprise by making a fake tender offer.

The SEC was never able to find enough evidence to support their claims, so the charges were eventually dropped.

Personal Life

In 1962, Doyle met the woman he would eventually spend the rest of his life with: Louise. Less than two years later, the two of them would be married and ready to start a family together. Louise was pregnant with their son, Todd, when Doyle discovered a cancerous tumor on his neck.

The Doctors predicted that he wouldn’t make it to see the birth of his son, but not only was he there for his son’s birth but his tumor went away almost immediately. Doyle thanks his miraculous recovery to a faith healer he contacted via mail just a few months prior.

Doyle never pressured his son into becoming a professional poker player, but he did give him the tools and resources he needed to get on the right path. Early on in Todd’s career, he won a WSOP gold bracelet in the Omaha Hi-Lo event.

It was the first time in the competition’s history that two generations had gone on to win WSOP bracelets.

Doyle is very proud of his son and all that he has accomplished so far; Todd will certainly be carrying on his father’s legacy.

Although Todd seems to get the most attention from the media, Doyle and Louise actually had two daughters as well: Doyla and Pamela. Their first daughter, Doyla, passed away when she was eighteen due to a heart valve condition.

It was a very difficult time for the whole family; Doyle took quite a bit of time off from his gambling career to be with his wife and kids after her death. Pamela enjoys playing poker and although she doesn’t hold any WSOP bracelets, she has competed in the WSOP main event several times.

Doyle has made a couple appearances in the filming industry, having starred in the 2006 documentary, No Limit: A Search for the American Dream on the Poker Tournament Trail and having played a small role in Lucky You in 2007.

Many directors have asked him to be in his productions, but he usually refuses as he has a fear of being portrayed in a negative light.

Despite his love of poker, Doyle has realized that it’s his family and friends that truly have made his life worth it over the years. In an interview with Bluff Magazine, he left them with this final statement,

“You have to be appreciative. You have to realize that the important things in life are not always at the poker table.”

Bluff Magazine declared Doyle the number one most influential force in the world of poker and it’s not hard to understand why.

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