It is daunting to attempt to write a short bio of Doyle Brunson, so as a bow to Tex Dolly’s long and epoch-making career this bio will be longer than most bios we offer.
A living legend, Brunson is one of the few men who started out playing poker with a gun in their pockets and turned it into the international, multi-million, televised celebrity sport it is nowadays. Over 74 years young, “Texas Dolly” is still one of the best players in the circuits and shows no intention of slowing down.
Doyle Brunson was born in Longworth, Texas in the middle of the Depression, a farm boy in a town of 100 souls. His athletic talent opened the door to universities across the country, and eventually he studied Education and was drafted by the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers. But Brunson’s life took the first of many turns when a serious knee injury ended his athletic career.
Brunson had begun playing poker before his injury, and took a keener interest when he realized he would not be able to keep playing basketball. He finished his studies all the way into a Master’s degree, but life was to take another turn: according to legend, he only ever took a day job as a business machines salesman, but on his first day in the job he was invited to play in a poker game and earned over a month’s salary in three hours. The decision to take up poker full-time was not far off.
Now comes the epic part: Brunson started playing seriously in Forth Worth, Texas, becoming a “rounder” in what he later claimed was “the toughest street in the world at the time”. Times were tough for a poker playing: cheating and hustling were the norm, the police was after illegal games, and robbers were out to snatch a player’s winners at gunpoint if need be. He travelled about looking for good games, trying to stay safe from both the police and the outlaws. During these years he met and became close friends with other legends such as Amarillo Slim, Sailor Roberts and Benny Binion. Eventually, he settled in Las Vegas, and the next part of the saga began.
Brunson was among the few professional players to suggest and take part in the first WSOP, and he won his first title in 1976. Winning again in 1977, he created poker history with the “Doyle Brunson” – the 10-2 hole cards which gave him the victory both years. The legend had been born.
With a career spanning over 4 decades, Brunson’s accomplishments are too many to mention. He became the first player to win a $1,000,000 tournament (and by now has made over $5,300,000 in tournament play.) He wrote and published what is now known as the “Poker Bible”, the best-selling book “Super System 1”, and followed it with other popular strategy books and memoirs. A consistent winner both in tournaments and the highest rolling tables, Brunson became a household name, and his online poker site DoylesRoom.com is well known and rather popular. Winner of 10 WSOP bracelets (a record only recently broken by Phil Hellmuth), he has been honored by naming the highest-staked table in Vegas and a WPT event after him.
And yet, for a player so deeply intertwined with poker history, he remains a simple, spiritual man whose deep convictions have carried him through all this way: “I now see what the really important things in life are and they don’t relate to what I do for a living.” That depth of wisdom, more than the bracelets and the high stakes, is what makes Doyle Brunson such a powerful icon for poker around the world.
Brunson’s game analysis (by Barry Greenstein):
Side games: 8
Steam control: 7
Against weak players: 6
Against strong players: 8