Doyle Brunson is a professional poker player who has played professionally for over 50 years, member of the Poker Hall of Fame, and author of "Super/System", one of the most influential gambling books of all-time.
Brunson was born in 1933 in Longworth, Texas, a tiny farming village in West Texas with a population of approximately 100 people, most of who worked as farmers. During his teens he became a promising athlete in both basketball and running. He was part of the All-State Texas basketball team, and won the one-mile event at the 1950 Texas Interscholastic Track Meet. Despite receiving offers from many colleges, he chose to attend Hardin-Simmons University, a Baptist college, in Abilene, Texas on both track and basketball scholarships. He chose the college because it was close to his home and many of his closest friends went there.
Brunson was selected as one of the top basketball players in the country and was going to be drafted by the the Minneapolis Lakers. While working at a summer job, he was unloading some sheetrock that landed on his leg, breaking it in two places. He was in a cast for two years, and the injury ended his hopes of becoming a professional basketball player. He still occasionally needs a crutch to get around because of the injury. After his sports injury he decided to concentrate more on his education, obtaining a bachelor's degree in 1954 and a master's degree in administrative education the next year.
Brunson had played poker before his injury, but played more often after the injury, including games in college. After graduating, his goal was to eventually become a principal county school, but the only job that he was offered was as a high school basketball coach. He was already making more money than that at the college poker games, so he took a job as a business machine salesman. But after he earned more than a month's salary during one session of playing poker, he left the company to play poker professionally.
Brunson started off by playing in illegal games in Texas with a partner, Dwayne Hamilton. These illegal games were usually run by criminals, and sometimes organized crime. The rules were not always enforced and the games were dangerous. Brunson had a gun pulled on him several times and was robbed and beaten. Brunson mentions in his book that he has seen three people die at the poker table. One man, sitting right next to Brunson, was shot in the head at point blank range in a dispute. Two others died of heart attacks: one from a possible mixture of drugs and alcohol, and the other may have died from the shock of losing a massive pot.
Eventually, Brunson and Hamilton began traveling around Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, playing in bigger games. They met fellow professionals Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts. Brunson became partners with those two to travel around together and play poker, while Hamilton left to go back to Texas. The three men were known as the "Texas Rounders". Brunson and Amarillo Slim spent long nights in their hotels replaying hands hundreds of times, trying to find the optimal moves and strategies for every situation. The three men pooled their money together into one big bankroll. After six years, they made their first serious trip to Las Vegas to the Dunes Casino. They played in a competitive game against talented players such as Puggy Pearson and casino boss Syd Wyman. They lost all of their money - about $160,000. They were underfunded and had a bad streak of luck, but were not cheated. The three men decided to stop playing as partners but remained friends. Brunson moved his family to Las Vegas where poker was profitable, and legal.
Bruson has been a regular player at the WSOP since its creation in 1970, playing in the Main Event nearly every year since then. He has won 10 total WSOP bracelets, tied with Johnny Chan for second all-time. Phil Hellmuth is the only player who has won more than ten. He won his first two bracelets in 1976, one of which was the $10,000 Main Event. The following year, Brunson won the Main Event again, becoming the first player to win them in back-to-back years. His first 6 bracelets were in his first 6 cashes, and his next 2 cashes were 2nd place finishes. He made some Main Event final tables before his back-to-back wins, but since the event was winner-take-all at the time, these are not counted as cashes. His other main event cashes are: 1980 (2nd place, runner-up to three-time champion Stu Ungar, 1982 (4th), 1983 (3rd), 1997 (16th), and 2004 (53rd). Here are some other career highlights:
As of 2009, his total live tournament winnings exceeded $5,800,000.
|1976||$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship||$230,000|
|1976||$5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw||$80,250|
|1977||$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship||$340,000|
|1977||$1,000 Seven-Card Stud Split||$62,500|
|1978||$5,000 Seven-Card Stud||$68,000|
|1979||$600 Mixed Doubles (with Starla Brodie)||$4,500|
|1991||$2,500 No Limit Hold'em||$208,000|
|1998||$1,500 Seven-Card Razz||$93,000|
|2005||$5,000 No Limit Shorthanded Texas Hold'em (6 players per table)||$367,800|
Brunson still plays in the World Series but he makes his real money in ultra-high stakes cash games, including a $4,000/$8,000 limit mixed poker game in "Bobby's Room" at the Bellagio. One of the things that qualifies him as one of the greatest poker players in history is how he has successful been in both cash games and tournaments, which require different skill sets.
In 1978, Brunson wrote "Super System", referred to by some as the Bible of poker. Besides Brunson, several top poker players contributed chapters to Super/System including Bobby Baldwin, Mike Caro, David Sklansky, Chip Reese and Joey Hawthorne. "Super System" was a groundbreaking book that helped further the understanding of poker and allowed everyday players to learn the strategies that professional poker players employed (although some people believe that the book is somewhat outdated and that Sklansky has rewritten the Bible for poker). Brunson has said that so many of the book's readers adopted his techniques that he actually had to change his game because so many people knew his tricks. Brunson has stated that he believes that the book cost him a lot of money.
Before the book's publication, there were a few publishing companies that were asking Brunson to write a book and let them publish it, but he was worried that he would never get paid the royalties he would be due, so he went out and spent tons of money just to get the book published by purchasing almost an entire publishing company, renting a building, and hiring a staff. When they started selling the book at $100 by running ads in newspapers they found out the market was pretty limited. Although he planned on publishing more books, he wasn't making enough money to keep the business going, so he closed it down. He broke even on the book only after its 8th or 9th edition. It is the bestselling poker book of all time.
A highly-anticipated follow-up to the book, "Super System II", was published in 2005 to lukewarm reviews. Brunson is also the author of Poker Wisdom of a Champion, originally published as According to Doyle by Lyle Stuart in 1984.
In July 2005, Brunson made an unsolicited offer to buy WPT Enterprises, Inc., the publicly traded owner of the World Poker Tour, at a high premium over its market value. His widely-publicized offer triggered a sharp rise in WPT's stock price on record trading volume. In December 2005, the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) formally investigated whether Brunson's offer, and its publication, violated federal securities laws, including the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. As part of its investigation, the SEC subpoenaed documents and testimony from Brunson's lawyers. Brunson invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify in the investigation. The WPT stock price declined sharply, costing investors tens of millions of dollars in lost market value. The offer eventually expired.
Brunson also endorsed the online poker room "Doyle's Room", a medium traffic site that was shut down with a lot of other poker sites on Black Friday in 2011.
In the 1980s, Brunson became known for the huge amounts of money that he wagered on the golf course, up to $400,000. "The guys out on the pro golf tour don't compete for the amount of money we bet on a single round", Brunson once said. People have joked that Brunson made more money at golf than any other person before Tiger Woods came along, and that he once bet one million dollars on a single hole. He also bets large sums of money on sports, and was rumored to have been the largest sports bettor in the world at one point.
In the early 1960s, Brunson married his sweetheart, Louise. Together, they had four children. Doyle's son, Todd Bruson, also plays poker professionally. Todd has won a bracelet at the 2005 WSOP, making the Brunson's the first father-son combination to win WSOP bracelets. His daughter Pamela played in the 2007 and 2009 WSOP main events, outlasting both Doyle and Todd both times.
Brunson's nickname, "Texas Dolly," was a result of a mistake by Jimmy Snyder. Snyder was supposed to announce Brunson as "Texas Doyle," but incorrectly pronounced the first name as Dolly. The nickname stuck and many of Brunson's professional friends now refer to Brunson as "Dolly."
Even though most of his dangerous days were in his past, he was robbed during the World Series of Poker. He went home after a tournament and drove into his driveway; two guys wearing ski masks and carrying guns dragged him inside. The robbers left after he was able to call his security company but he never felt comfortable at the house afterward, so they moved to a new home with better security.
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