The poker world was stunned late on Sunday night when word came down that one of the genuine legends of the world of poker, the man who basically taught the world how to play the game of Texas Hold’em, and whose very name was synonymous with the sport of poker had passed away. On Sunday night, ten-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and back-to-back World Champion Doyle Brunson quietly passed away. “Texas Dolly” was 89 years old, and no immediate cause of death was reported.
The news came from the longtime manager for the Texas poker professional, Brian Balsbaugh, and the announcement was as low-key as the gentleman himself was. “It is with a heavy heart we announce the passing of our father, Doyle Brunson,” Balsbaugh said in a statement from the Brunson family. “He was a beloved Christian man, husband, father, and grandfather. We’ll have more to say over the coming days as we honor his legacy. Please keep Doyle and our family in your prayers – may he Rest in Peace.”
The Godfather of Poker
Born on August 10, 1933, in Longworth, Texas, there was not much that suggested that Brunson would become one of the iconic figures of the gaming world. An outstanding athlete, Brunson would be a Texas state track champion and an all-Texas basketball player. Despite receiving many scholarship offers, Brunson chose to stay close to home by attending Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX.
While there, Brunson led the school’s basketball team to several championships and was reportedly being courted by none other than the National Basketball Association champion Minneapolis (now Los Angeles) Lakers. An accident while working in a sheetrock plant, where he suffered a compound fracture of his leg that left him with a lifelong limp, ended his professional basketball dreams.
After receiving his teaching degree from Hardin-Simmons, Brunson instead moved into office equipment sales to try to provide for his family. During his salesman days, he would often get involved with poker games that would be going on inside the businesses. Although these games were against the law, eventually Brunson would become so skilled at the game he was making more money than his salary as a salesman. He would soon quit the salesman gig and ply his trade as a professional card player.
What would the game of poker have been if Brunson were a good salesman? After years of traveling with Amarillo Slim Preston and Sailor Roberts, Brunson eventually would end up in Las Vegas. He participated in the very first World Series of Poker and would eventually go on to win ten bracelets in the event, including two World Championships. He would also pen the seminal work on poker, Super/System, and its sequel (Super/System 2), and other books, including his autobiography.
Adding in a World Poker Tour championship in 2004 (the WPT Legends of Poker, naturally), Brunson earned approximately $6 million during his tournament poker career. His cash game skills, however, probably earned him several times that amount throughout his life.
Daniel Negreanu perhaps had one of the first reactions to the news of the passing of arguably the greatest poker player of all time:
Poker News Daily extends our condolences to the Brunson family, including Doyle’s wife Louise, his son Todd, and his daughter Pamela, and their respective families.