Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, a 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and legend of the game, died on Sunday, May 14 at the age of 89. The news was announced in a statement by Doyle’s family. The cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Doyle, who is known as the “Godfather of Poker”, is survived by his wife Louise, daughter Pam and son Todd. Todd Brunson has followed in his father’s footsteps and is also a professional poker player.
News first shared on Twitter
The sad news was revealed to the world by Brunson’s agent, Brian Balsbaugh, who posted it on Twitter on Sunday night:
This information was confirmed shortly after by Todd Brunson:
The other players pay their respects
As the news spread throughout the poker community, people who knew Doyle paid their respects to his memory:
Doyle’s humor on display
After the initial shock of the news, many who knew him chose to share humorous anecdotes about Doyle Brunson, proving that he is not just a formidable opponent, but also someone who knows how to have a friendly laugh and doesn’t take life too seriously.
Biography of Doyle Brunson
Now that Doyle is no longer with us, it is perhaps appropriate to review his life and his major achievements, both inside and outside of it.
The early years
Doyle Brunson was born in Longworth, Texas on August 10, 1933. Growing up, he became a high school athlete specializing in basketball. However, a leg injury ended his budding sports career.
Needing an outlet for his competitive drive, Doyle began playing poker. Before long he became so skilled at the game that he could earn more at the tables than at any normal job. Then he decided to play poker as a profession.
Gambling adventures along the way
During the 1950s and most of the 1960s, the poker scene across the country was fairly barren, at least as far as officially sanctioned, publicly open games were concerned. That’s why Doyle honed his craft in big-money private games: games where you had to know someone to get invited, and cheating was rampant. Doyle became a legendary road gambler in Texas, traveling the state in search of spicy poker games.
Besides dodging rogue opponents and driving sometimes hundreds of miles to get into the game, Doyle had to put up with many other inconveniences. It was not uncommon for these games to be seized by criminals who took all the money, and there were occasional law enforcement raids. However, Doyle perfected his strategy and became a very profitable player in these underground games.
Las Vegas beckons
Doyle Brunson has been a regular at the World Series of Poker since its inception in 1970. A few years later, there were enough poker events in Vegas to prompt Doyle to move there.
This proved to be a wise decision on Doyle’s part, as he soon won two WSOP Main Event bracelets in consecutive years: 1976 and 1977. In a coincidence that is almost unbelievable, Doyle’s hidden cards in the final hands of these two events and both were T2o. Since then, T2o has been known as “Doyle Brunson”.
Over the years, Doyle Brunson has amassed an enviable $6.1 million in live tournament winnings. In addition to his two Main Event titles, Brunson has won eight more WSOP gold bracelets, for a total of 10. That puts him in a three-way tie with Jonny Chan and Phil Ivey for the second most WSOP bracelets won, behind Phil Hellmuth’s 16.
Doyle’s actual poker winnings may never be known because tournaments were only a small part of his repertoire. In fact, during his journey, he played almost exclusively in cash games where scores were not tracked. Even after becoming a fixture on the tournament circuit, he was often seen in the “Big Game” at the Bellagio, where he routinely played mixed games with limits as low as $800/$1,600 and sometimes as high as $4,000/$8,000. While we may never know for sure, it seems clear that his non-tournament winnings were almost certainly higher than the sum of his tournament prize money.
In 1988, Doyle Brunson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Books and other ventures
After playing poker for several decades, Brunson wrote “Super/System: How I Made Over $1,000,000 Playing Poker” in 1979, for which he invited other top pros to write chapters on the leading poker variants, but he wrote NL Hold’em divide yourself. This book became a bestseller and was followed by 2004’s “Super System 2,” which delved into the poker formats that had become more popular since the original work was published.
Other books written by Doyle include According to Doyle (1984), Online Poker: Your Guide to Playing Poker Safely and Winning Money (2005), My 50 Most Memorable Hands (2007) and “The Godfather of Poker: The Doyle Brunson Story” (2009).
In 2004, the online poker site Doyle’s Room opened for business. Brunson was the face of the room, and although the exact corporate structure of the enterprise is unknown, it appears that he also had a significant ownership stake.
Doyle said that just before Black Friday, he was offered $235 million by Paradise Poker to sell Doyle’s room, but he declined because he thought the site was worth more. However, after the federal government began its crackdown on online poker in 2011, Doyle severed all ties with Doyle’s Room, which was then acquired by Americas Cardroom.
Doyle continued to perform competitively against tough opponents well into his later years. In 2018, at the age of 84, he cashed in a $10,000 NL 2-7 Lowball event at the WSOP for $43,963. Doyle then “retired” from poker, although it appears his retirement was only from the WSOP tournaments and he continued to play in other games. In fact, some of his peers remember playing with him in 2022.
Brunson apparently lived his life to the end with a mantra he often repeated:
“We don’t stop playing because we get old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Rest in peace, Doyle.