The poker world lost the legendary “Godfather of Poker” when Doyle Brunson passed away on May 14 at 89-years-old.
Brunson is known for winning the World Series of Poker Main Event in consecutive years in 1976 and 1977, which established him as one of the premier poker players and professional gamblers in the world.
“Legend,” tweeted Daniel Negreanu. “There will never be another Doyle Brunson.”
For nearly 50 years, Brunson excelled in high-stakes cash games but he was no slouch in tournaments either. He won 10 bracelets at the WSOP, and became the first pro to reach $1 million in earnings. During his Hall of Fame career, he banked more than $6 million in tournaments. It’s unknown how much money he won in cash games, and hustling on the golf course, but a conservative estimate suggests he won twice as much.
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Sports Injury Pushes Brunson To Poker
Brunson grew up in a small town in Texas, where he was recognized for his excellence in basketball and track and field. He always wanted to play in the NBA, but injuries derailed his collegiate career. He earned a master’s degree in education at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, Texas, where he got his first taste of five-card draw poker.
After holding brief jobs in education and sales, Brunson was determined to play poker for a living. He followed his heart and quit his sales job during a time when gambling was considered an outlaw pursuit in American society.
Brunson cut his teeth playing cards in illegal gambling rooms around Fort Worth. He was willing to hit the road and travel all over Texas to seek out juicy card games. He earned his nickname “Texas Dolly” when another gambler incorrectly pronounced his first name. The moniker stuck.
During his gambling sojourns, he spent endless hours on the road with Amarillo Slim hitting up every card game in the Lone Star state from El Paso to Galveston, from Amarillo to Nacogdoches, from Corpus Christi to Lubbock. He’d even drive to adjoining states for a shot at “whale” hunting in Louisiana and Oklahoma, before he made his first gambling trip to Las Vegas.
Amidst the bright lights of Sin City, Brunson found what he had searched for most of his adult life. Las Vegas was a legalized gambling hub. That offered him the freedom to pursue his passion. He could earn a living as a professional gambler without morality-toting neighbors judging his lifestyle. And most importantly, he could play high stakes poker without having to worry about getting robbed by thieves, or the game getting raided by the police.
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Brunson Captures WSOP Main Event Twice
Brunson stood out as one of the top players in the world during the earliest days of the World Series of Poker in downtown Las Vegas. He won multiple WSOP bracelets in 1976 and 1977, and won the $10,000 buy-in Main Event Championship in consecutive years. He secured both Main Event victories while holding 10-2, which had become known as Texas Dolly’s infamous hand.
Brunson became a supreme mixed-game cash specialist, but he won bracelets in six different formats including no-limit hold’em, seven-card stud, deuce to seven draw, seven-card stud split, Razz, and H.O.R.S.E.
Brunson was also a noted author. He penned two best-selling books that you’ll find on the bookshelf of nearly every serious poker player in the world. “Super/System” was published in 1979, and the tome is referred to as the poker player’s bible and treated like a sacred screed for pros. Brunson released the sequel, “Super System 2,” during the height of the online poker boom in 2005.
In later years, Brunson established his iconic brand which was a Stetson hat and a wide smile. Good ole Texas Dolly was always easy to spot in a massive tournament room like the Rio Casino. His large Stetson rose above the young guns who were clad in hoodies and flat-brim baseball caps.
Brunson was no stranger to the virtual felt with the introduction of Doyles Room online poker site in the mid-2000s. He always preferred to play poker the “old school way” in a live brick and mortar setting like Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio.
Over the years, multiple entities attempted to bring Doyle Brunson’s life story to the big screen. He was most recently linked to a documentary film involving the director of Michael Jordan’s “Last Dance” series.
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