Poker News Daily: You have an autobiography coming out later this year. Can you talk about why you’re writing the book now and what readers can expect?
Brunson: The book is supposed to be out in November. It’s been in the works for four or five years and I’ve vetoed it twice because I didn’t want it out there. They pressured me around until I finally released it. It’s a story about my life and the things I’ve been through. It’s hard to talk about some things, but I’ve tried to get most of it in there.
PND: Can you give us a glimpse of some of the things that are difficult to talk about in the book?
Brunson: Just think about your own life. Is there anything in your own life that you wouldn’t want to put on public display? There are some personal things. At my age, I’m trying not to be any more famous than I already am.
PND: What would casual poker fans be surprised to learn about Doyle Brunson?
Brunson: I don’t know what the perception of me is. I’ve been married for 50 years and that’s pretty unusual in the poker world. I’ve tried to keep my personal life isolated from the gambling world. That’s the only way you can keep your family together, at least with my wife. She couldn’t handle that pressure, so I try not to talk about gambling around my house. My son has turned out to be a professional poker player, but I didn’t teach him anything; he taught himself in college. I never discuss gambling in my house simply because my wife is what you would call a “square.” She’s not accustomed to the ups and downs of the poker world.
PND: What’s the difference between poker in 2009 and when you won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 1976 and 1977?
Brunson: The popularity of poker is much more now than it was. The fact people accept that you’re a poker player now is a big thing. In those days, you were a second-class citizen. They thought you were a gangster if you played poker for a living. I think the media has softened that a bit and the public can accept you now as a poker player.
PND: Talk about November Nine member Jeff Shulman’s comments that he would trash the WSOP Main Event bracelet if he won.
Brunson: That’s a little bit strong. I understand his concerns and I agree with most of them. The WSOP is a pretty big tradition. It’s the biggest event in the poker world. I think it’s a little bit strong to say that you’re going to throw the bracelet away. If he felt that way, he probably shouldn’t have entered. Jeff is a sensible young man and he’ll come off that statement a little bit. He thinks that Harrah’s has prostituted the poker world. I agree with him to some extent. I think there could be changes made.
All of us who came from the original WSOP at Binion’s have seen a big difference. At Binion’s, they bent over backwards for us and made the poker player come first. They paid all of our expenses, set up big buffets for us, and paid for our rooms just to come out and play. Naturally, Harrah’s doesn’t do that and I can see their point of view. It’s a big business. Harrah’s makes a lot of money off the WSOP. It’s a two-edged sword and you have to compromise on some things.
PND: You seemed to tighten up a bit on the most recent season of GSN’s “High Stakes Poker.” Was this a strategy coming in or just how the table played out?
Brunson: I get that a lot. The way others at the table play dictates the way you play. These young kids are so aggressive that it’s hard to be more aggressive than they are. That would just make a total crapshoot out of it. I have slowed my play down a little bit, but I’ve never lost on one of those shows. I’ve played 15 in a row and won every time. The object is to win. Some of the younger guys try to put on a show and demonstrate how smart they are instead of just trying to play poker. One of these days, I might just break loose and show them what aggression really is.
It’s so simple just to sit back and win that it’s hard not to do it. The reason I’ve been so successful is that other people try to build their image up. Instead of trying to play good poker, they try to make “flashy” plays.
PND: If you hadn’t become a professional poker player, where would you likely be right now?
Brunson: My life was heading towards playing in the NBA. That’s what I worked my whole life for. I was lucky enough to be a good athlete. I was an All-State basketball player. I was State Champion in the mile. In college, I was the Most Valuable Player in my conference. The NBA scouts had already come down and talked to my coach and I was going to be drafted the next year. I feel like I could have played in the NBA. Then, I would have probably gone back and been a teacher or a coach.
PND: Talk about the explosion of poker on television. Is it surprising to you?
Brunson: It is. It’s hard for me to accept the fact that people perceive poker players as celebrities. I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a poker player. It seems like some of these “wannabees” spend more time trying to be entertainers and performers than they do playing poker. It doesn’t sit too well with me. I guess I’m a poker purist. I like poker for what it is: a great game. America is just finding out about it and I found out about it 50 years ago. I hate to see people who play poker do things besides playing poker to benefit themselves.