Birthday: August 10, 1933
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Online Screen Names: DoyleBrunson
Endorsed: Doyle’s Room
Websites: Doylebrunson.com, @texdolly, blog.doylesroom.com
Despite poker’s extensive history, there aren’t truly many individuals worth proclaiming as the “Godfather of Poker.” Nonetheless, there is a poker ambassador who does deserve its inheritance, and that is none other than the “Texas Dolly” himself, Doyle Brunson. Given the nickname by Jimmy Synder after an incorrect pronounciation, not only has his Dolly nickname stood the test of time, but the Texas-born poker player has been an everlasting statue in the game of poker for over 50 years.
“Big Papa” Brunson’s enduring career is certainly a testament to the potential longevity that the career of poker can provide. Laced with several World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker bracelets, Brunson is unquestionably one of the most notable and historic professionals poker has ever come across.
Born in Longworth, Texas, which is a tiny suburb of Fisher County, Brunson lived a rather comfortable and customary existence amongst his closest friends, family and acquaintences. While in high school, Brunson was a tremendous scholar and athlete and excelled specifically within the genres of basketball and education. Brunson was a member of the Texas All-State basketball team, and although his focus was certainly in that sport, he also fared tremendously within track & field. His one-mile time of 4 minutes and 43 seconds was even good enough to win the event at the 1950 Texas Interscholastic Track Meet. But despite many of Brunson’s collegiate athletic successes, he eventually decided to earn both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in administrative education from Hardin-Simmons University. Unfortunately, it was a tragic sheetrock accident to Brunson’s knee during a part-time summer job, that cost him his hopes of becoming an elite professional superstar.
Between Brunson’s school and extracirricular demands, he found time to learn the game of poker. Playing several of the now more “traditional” poker varieties such as 5-card Draw and 7-card Stud, Brunson began earning an easy living playing cards. In fact, his results were stellar enough that he quickly decided to ditch a position he recently acquired as a business machine salesman, and after graduating stuck with poker as his primary vocation.
With the potential of winning extensive amounts of moulah in very short time periods, came the increasing need to find more lucractive locations. Although neighboring areas often provided immediate gratification, it wasn’t until Brunson teamed up with fellow friends and poker icons Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts that his profits truly soared. The group of players traveled across Texas, playing in many illegal poker games and earning thousands of dollars in the process. But despite their propensity for winning, it often came at the steep expense of violence. Since games were illegal, many of the most profitable poker sessions were run by mobsters who often robbed, beat, and held players at gunpoint after devasting losses. Brunson admits he was a victim of these crimes, but considered it a small price to pay for big rewards.
After traveling feverishly for several months with fellow gamblers, Brunson soon settled down in one of the closest and most promising gambling locations in all of the country, Las Vegas, Nevada. The mecca of wagers and tests of poker aptitude was now at Brunson’s doorstep, and he was ready to take on the challenge.
Brunson has been a staple at the World Series of Poker since its induction in 1970, and has achievements in the tournament that most players can only dream of duplicating. In both 1976 and 1977, Doyle Brunson was the first player ever to win back-to-back Main Event titles. The two wins earned him over $570,000. Brunson also has cashed in the event five times, which were spread between the years of 1980 and 2004. As of January 2011, he currently posesses the second-largest number of bracelets in the history of the WSOP, with ten. He’s only surpassed by Phil Hellmuth, who currently owns 11. He’s currently tied with Johnny Chan for the second place spot.
Brunson owns World Series of Poker bracelets in Duece to Seven Single-Draw, Seven-card Stud, Razz, H.O.R.S.E., Mixed Doubles and No-Limit Hold’em. He’s also cashed in six World Poker Tour events, attended three final tables, and took home the $1.1 million first place prize at the 2004 WPT Legends of Poker invitational. Because of his resume, he’s managed to even amass his own poker hand; the 10-2 Doyle Brunson. This hand originates from Brunson’s familiarity with the pair in both his 1976 and 1977 Main Event runs. He ended both of his tournaments with the hand, in dramatic fashion.
Regardless of Brunson’s deep understanding of tournament strategy, much of his poker base originated from his cash game play. Truly a ring game player at heart, he still regularly attends cash games in “Bobby’s Room” (named after Mirage CEO and Las Vegas property owner Bobby Baldwin) in which the wagers can often soar into the millions. He plays with some of the biggest names in poker, including Jennifer Harman, Barry Greenstein, and Phil Ivey.
In what is still regarded as one of the most unbelievable cash games ever assembled, Doyle Brunson, along with fellow players Howard Lederer, Gus Hansen, Chau Giang, Todd Brunson, Chip Reese, Ted Forrest, Greenstein, Ivey and Harman led the assembled poker dream-team labeled as “The Corporation.” This collection of poker superstars went on to play against banking and real estate billionaire Andrew Beal, in what still may be the largest poker cash game ever played. The Corporation went on to pool millions of dollars to play against Beal, to participate at a variety of stakes between $10,000/$20,000 and $100,000/$200,000 at Limit Hold’em. Spanning between the years of 2001-2006, Beal both won and lost multi-millions in a session against the group of players, until he eventually took a unrequited hiatus in 2006. In one of The Corporation’s final sessions, historic cash game player Phil Ivey took an estimated $16.6 million from Beal at $50,000/$100,000 Limit Hold’em in February of 2006. This was preceeded by Beal taking nearly $12 million from The Corporation in May of 2004.
In the midst of pursuing a full-time poker career, Brunson also met and married his current wife Louise Brunson in 1962. The pair has three children together, Doyla, Todd and Pamela. Doyla, the first of the three, passed away at the age of 18 because of a heart-valve condition. Todd Brunson, also a very good poker player, has a 2008 World Series of Poker bracelet to his name in an Omaha 8 or better event, along with several televised poker appearances. Pamela Brunson, who’s also an avid card player, is most easily noticed for her cashes in several memorable WSOP Main Events.
Doyle Brunson and his family have also dealt with an incredible amount of adversity when it’s come to health concerns. Both Doyle and Louise were diagnosted with cancerous tumors in their necks, both of which were deemed incurable. Miraculously enough, both had surgeries which completely removed all signs of cancer. Later in 1975, Doyle also was diagnosed with scoliosis, but suddenly had a straightened spine after 3 months of treatment.
The Texas Dolly is also the creator of several self-published books including Doyle Brunson’s Super System I & II (1979 & 2005), Poker Wisdom of a Champion (2003), 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). Several of his books are widely regarded as poker-changing novels, that provide theories and insights into the world of poker unseen like any before its time.
Doyle’s Room, an online poker web site which proudly displays his characature, is also endorsed by Brunson.
As of January 2011, Brunson’s total tournament earnings approach $6 million.