Doyle Brunson was born on August 10th, 1933 in Fisher County, Longworth, Texas. A legend in the industry, he was a professional poker player for over 50 years.
Poker historians credit Brunson with bringing a new level of respectability to the game of poker. Because of that, he was one of the greatest poker players to have ever lived.
He is in fact referred to as a poker icon.
Doyle Brunson – The Early Years
Doyle Brunson had a modest and challenging childhood. He grew up during the Great Depression, which significantly impacted his early years.
Brunson’s family faced financial hardships, and his father struggled to find stable employment. As a result, the family often moved from place to place in search of work. This nomadic lifestyle meant that Brunson had to adapt to different environments and make new friends frequently.
Despite the family’s financial struggles, Brunson developed a strong work ethic and a determination to improve his circumstances. He took on odd jobs from a young age to help support his family.
These experiences instilled in him the value of hard work and resilience, qualities that would later contribute to his success in poker.
Brunson’s interest in card games began during his childhood. He often played various games with his family and friends, developing a passion for competition and strategy.
As he grew older, his talent for basketball became apparent. He excelled in the sport and earned a scholarship to attend Texas Tech University.
While pursuing his education, Brunson continued to play poker, often participating in underground games to supplement his income.
It was during this time that Brunson’s love for poker deepened, and he honed his skills at the card table. He quickly realised that he had a natural talent for the game, and his success in local games sparked his ambition to pursue poker professionally.
He eventually made the difficult decision to leave college before completing his degree. Choosing to focus entirely on poker, he believed that he had the potential to make a living from the game.
This decision marked a turning point in his life and set him on the path to becoming one of the most influential figures in the history of poker.
Brunson’s breakthrough came in the 1970s when he achieved tremendous success in the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
He won the WSOP Main Event in back-to-back years, 1976 and 1977, cementing his status as one of the game’s elite players.
Only four people have won the event more than once and only two, Brunson and Stu Ungar (1980 and 1981) have won it in consecutive years. Ungar went on to win it again in 1997.
What makes Brunson’s consecutive wins even more incredible is the fact that he won with the same hand both times.
The hand – ‘10-2’ – is now known as a ‘Doyle Brunson’. Even Doyle himself still had a fondness for playing the hand as much as possible.
These victories, combined with his charismatic personality and unique playing style, helped propel poker into mainstream popularity.
How Much Did Doyle Brunson Win In His Poker Career?
Doyle Brunson also became an inspiration to many when he became the first poker player to win more than $1 million from playing poker tournaments.
Since then his total live tournament winnings have exceeded $6,100,000. His WSOP cash outs alone are worth over $3,000,000.
This is an incredible achievement when you put into context. When Brunson started out there wouldn’t even have been such a thing as a poker tournament. Games would have been played behind closed doors and gambling would have been considered a fairly taboo.
When Brunson won the WSOP title in 1976 the prize was $80,250. That is still a huge amount of money but really only equates to about $360K in today’s money.
To put that into perspective, Espen Jorstad beat out more than 8,000 other competitors to win the $10 million first-place prize in the 2022 World Series of Poker’s main event.
Other Notable Achievements
In addition to his WSOP victories, Brunson accumulated numerous other notable poker achievements throughout his career.
He won a total of ten WSOP bracelets, from seven different categories. They are No Limit Hold ‘em, Seven-Card Stud Split, Seven Card Stud, Mixed Doubles, Deuce to Seven Draw, Seven Card Stud, and H.O.R.S.E. He is one of only two people to hold so many bracelets.
Doyle also placed first among the largest ever WPT field in the 2004 Legends of Poker WPT event, at the age of 71.
Brunson was widely respected for his strategic approach to the game. He is still considered a pioneer of Texas Hold’em poker and is credited with popularising and refining certain strategies and techniques.
His influential book, Super/System, published in 1978, revolutionised the way poker was played by providing insights into advanced strategies and tactics.
It is often referred to as the “Bible” of poker and remains highly regarded by both professionals and aspiring players.
When Did Doyle Brunson Die?
At the age of 89, Doyle Brunson died in Las Vegas on May 14th 2023.
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One of the most influential poker players of all time, the death of the ‘Texas Dolly’ was announced when Brian Balsbaugh, Brunson’s agent, posted a statement on Twitter from the family.
“It is with a heavy heart we announce the passing of our father, Doyle Brunson.
“He was a beloved Christian man, husband, father and grandfather. We’ll have more to say over the coming days as we honor his legacy.
“Please keep Doyle and our family in your prayers. May he rest in peace.”
Over the course of his career, Doyle Brunson went from playing behind closed to doors to a superstar of poker.
He was and forever will remain, the Godfather of Poker.