Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and legend of the game, died on Sunday, May 14 at the age of 89. The news was announced in a statement by Doyle’s family. The cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Doyle, who is known as “The Godfather of Poker,” is survived by his wife Louise, daughter Pam, and son Todd. Todd Brunson has followed in his father’s footsteps and is also a professional poker player.
The sad news was revealed to the world by Brunson’s agent, Brian Balsbaugh, who posted it on Twitter Sunday evening:
This information was confirmed shortly thereafter by Todd Brunson:
Fellow Players Pay Their Respects
As word spread throughout the poker community, people who had known Doyle paid their respects to his memory:
Doyle’s Humor on Display
After the initial shock of hearing the news, many who knew him opted to share humorous anecdotes about Doyle Brunson, proving that he was not just a formidable opponent but also a man who was able to have a friendly laugh and not take life too seriously.
Doyle Brunson Biography
Now that Doyle is no longer with us, it’s perhaps appropriate to go over his life and his major accomplishments both on and away from the felt.
Doyle Brunson was born in Longworth, TX, on Aug. 10, 1933. Growing up, he became a high school athlete specializing in basketball. However, a leg injury ended his budding athletic career.
Needing some outlet for his competitive drive, Doyle began to play poker. Before too long, he became so adept at the game that he could earn more at the tables than he could at any normal job. This was when he decided to play poker as a profession.
Road Gambling Adventures
In the ’50s and most of the ’60s, the poker scene across the country was rather barren at least as far as officially approved, publicly open games went. Therefore, Doyle honed his craft in private games for big money: the kind of games where you had to know someone to get invited, and cheating was rampant. Doyle became a legendary Texas road gambler, traveling across the state in search of juicy poker games.
Besides avoiding crooked opponents and driving sometimes hundreds of miles to get into a game, Doyle had to put up with a lot of other inconveniences. It wasn’t exactly rare for these games to be held up by criminals who took all the cash, and raids by law enforcement happened occasionally too. Nevertheless, Doyle honed his strategy and became a very profitable player in these underground games.
Las Vegas Beckons
Doyle Brunson was a regular at the World Series of Poker since its inception in 1970. A few years later, there was sufficient poker action in Vegas to prompt Doyle to move there.
This proved to be a wise decision on Doyle’s part as he soon won two WSOP Main Event bracelets in back-to-back years: 1976 and 1977. In a coincidence that almost beggars belief, Doyle’s hole cards in the final hands of these two events were both T2o. Since then, T2o has been known as the “Doyle Brunson.”
Over the years, Doyle Brunson has accumulated an enviable $6.1 million in live tournament winnings. Besides his two Main Event titles, Brunson picked up another eight WSOP gold bracelets, for a total of 10. This puts him in a three-way tie, with Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey, for second-most WSOP bracelets won, behind Phil Hellmuth’s 16.
Doyle’s true poker winnings may never be known because tournaments were just a small part of his repertoire. In fact, during his road years, he played almost exclusively in cash games where the results were not tracked. Even after he became a fixture on the tourney circuit, he was frequently seen in “The Big Game” at the Bellagio where he would routinely play mixed games with limits of $800/$1,600 and sometimes as high as $4,000/$8,000. While we may never be certain about this, it appears clear that his non-tournament earnings were almost certainly higher than the sum of his tourney prizes.
In 1988, Doyle Brunson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Books and Other Ventures
After he had been playing poker for a couple of decades, Brunson in 1979 penned “Super/System: How I Made Over $1,000,000 Playing Poker,” for which he invited other top pros to write chapters on leading poker variants, but he wrote the NL Hold’em section himself. This book became a bestseller, and it was followed by 2004’s “Super System 2,” which delved into poker formats that had become more popular since the publishing of the original work.
Other books authored by Doyle include “According to Doyle” (1984), “Online Poker: Your Guide to Playing Online Poker Safely & Winning Money” (2005), “My 50 Most Memorable Hands” (2007), and “The Godfather of Poker: The Doyle Brunson Story” (2009).
In 2004, the Doyle’s Room online poker site opened for business. Brunson was the face of the room, and although the exact corporate structure of the entity is not known, it appears that he had a significant ownership stake as well.
Doyle has stated that right before Black Fridayhe was offered $235 million by Paradise Poker to sell Doyle’s Room, but he declined because he felt the site was worth more. However, once the Federal government began its 2011 crackdown on online poker, Doyle severed all his ties with Doyle’s Room, which was then acquired by Americas Cardroom.
Doyle continued to perform competitively against tough opponents well into his latter years. In 2018, at the age of 84, he cashed in the $10,000 NL 2-7 Lowball event at the WSOP for $43,963. Doyle then “retired” from poker although it appears that his retirement was only from WSOP tournaments, and he continued to play in other games. Indeed, some of his peers recall playing with him as recently as 2022.
Brunson evidently lived his life until the end by a mantra that he often repeated:
“We don’t stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing.”
Rest In Peace, Doyle.