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Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson was one of poker’s all-time legends and most popular players. Well into his 80’s, Brunson continued to play high-stakes cash games in Las Vegas against much younger players, and he made it clear that he wasn't going to stop playing until the day he died. As he famously said on the “Poker After Dark” show intro, “we don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.”

Sadly, Brunson died aged 89 in May, 2023. He left a legacy unrivalled in the poker world and will always be missed. 

The Doyle Brunson story

Doyle Brunson was born August 10, 1933 in Longworth, Texas, a small town about three hours west of Dallas. Early in his life, poker wasn’t even a thought on his mind. In fact, it’s a bit surprising where he ended up. Growing up, the man who would later become known as “Texas Dolly,” or the “Godfather of Poker,” had other aspirations.

Brunson was a standout basketball star who played college ball at Hardin-Simmons College in the 1950s, where he was one of the best players on the team. During the 1952-1953 season, he averaged 12.5 points per game. He was such a talented basketball player that he was considered an NBA prospect. But he tore out his knee and those dreams were shattered. Following the knee injury, he became more interested in the game of poker, and the rest is history. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was considered by many the top player in the game. Brunson continued to be a successful cash game player even into his 80’s.

Doyle Brunson biography

“Texas Dolly” was a 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, which ties him for second place all-time with Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey, two other Poker Hall of Famers. Only Phil Hellmuth, who has 17, has more. Brunson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame back in 1988.

As a poker player, he did it all, from crushing the highest stakes cash in Las Vegas to winning WSOP bracelets. Doyle was the father of Todd Brunson, who was also inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2016. Poker skills clearly run in the family, although the younger Brunson claims he mostly learned the game on his own.

Doyle Brunson was more than just a former athlete who went on to poker stardom. He launched his own poker site, Doyle’s Room, in 2004. But in 2011, one month following the Black Friday scandal, his site was seized by the U.S. Department of Justice and went belly up. Brunson later said he once had an offer to sell the poker site for over $100 million but passed it up because he thought the company’s value would rise even further.

Doyle was a family man first, and a poker player second. He met his future wife, Louise, in 1959. They were married in 1962. Todd and Doyle became the first father-son combo to win WSOP bracelets when Todd took down a 2005 Omaha Hi-Lo event.

Magical WSOP run in 2018

Heading into the 2018 World Series of Poker, the 10-time bracelet winner was long retired from tournament poker. His days of grinding WSOP events, or really any tournaments, were gone. But his son, Todd, talked him into registering on Day 2 for the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Championship, his favorite poker game.

Doyle tweeted out that he was heading to the Rio to play, and said it would likely be his last event ever. Fans flocked to the Rio in Las Vegas, home of the WSOP, to catch a glimpse of the poker legend, perhaps for the last time.

Brunson and his fans didn’t have any expectations for him in that event. It was more nostalgic just to see the poker legend compete at the WSOP, where he used to reign supreme, for one final curtain call. But something magical happened during that event. The old “Texas Dolly” showed up like it was 1980 and piled up chips on Day 2.

On Day 3, he reached the final table and had more than just the poker world buzzing. ESPN even picked up the story and reported on it during a SportsCenter episode. Brunson didn’t quite win his 11th bracelet, but he put on quite a performance and finished 6th for $43,963.

Doyle Brunson poker accomplishments

There aren’t many who have accomplished more on the felt than Doyle Brunson. The Texan ranks 2nd all-time in World Series of Poker bracelets (10), which includes Main Event titles in 1976 and 1977. During the 1970s, along with the great Johnny Moss, “Texas Dolly” completely dominated the poker scene, and that dominance carried over to the following two decades.

Brunson won over $6 million in live tournaments throughout his life, which might not seem like much to some younger high rollers. But back when he played tournaments, the buy-ins were cheaper and the fields were smaller. Although he had great success for many years in tournaments, Brunson was actually most known for his prowess in high stakes cash games. He crushed in no-limit hold’em and mixed games for many years, and remained a regular in the famous Legends Room (formerly Bobby’s Room) at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, where most of the top high roller cash games in town take place.