Doyle F. Brunson

Doyle F. Brunson[1]  (born August 10, 1933) is an American professional  poker player who has played professionally for over 50 years.[2]  He is the first two-time World Series of Poker main event champion to win consecutively,[3]  a Poker Hall of Fame inductee, and the author of several books on poker.

Brunson is the first player to earn $1 million in poker tournaments and has won ten World Series of Poker bracelets throughout his career, tied with Johnny Chan for second all-time, one behind Phil Hellmuth’s eleven. He is also one of only four players to have won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker multiple times, which he did in 1976 and 1977. He is also one of only two players, along with Bill Boyd, to have won bracelets at the WSOP in four consecutive years. In addition, he is the first of five players to win both the WSOP Main Event and a World Poker Tour title. In January 2006, Bluff Magazine voted Brunson the #1 most influential force in the world of poker.[4]

Early life

Brunson was born in Longworth, Fisher County, Texas, a town with a population of approximately 100, the eldest of three children. Because of Longworth’s small size, Brunson frequently ran long distances to other towns, and became a promising athlete. He was part of the All-State Texas basketball team, and practiced the one-mile run to keep in shape in the off-season. Although he was more interested in basketball than running, he entered the 1950 Texas Interscholastic Track Meet]] and won the one-mile event with a time of 4:43. Despite receiving offers from many colleges, he attended Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, because it was close to his home.

The Minneapolis Lakers were interested in Brunson, but a knee injury ended his playing days. He had taken a summer job and was unloading some sheetrock; when the ton of weight shifted, Brunson instinctively tried to stop it, but it 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 requires a crutch to get around because of the injury. Brunson changed his focus from athletics to education, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 1954 and a master’s degree in administrative education the following year.

Brunson had begun playing poker before his injury, playing five-card draw and finding it “easy.” He played more often after being injured and his winnings paid for his expenses. After graduating, he took a job as a business machines salesman but, on his first day, he was invited to play in a seven-card stud game and earned over a month’s salary in under three hours. He soon left the company and became a professional poker player.

Poker career

Brunson started off by playing in illegal games on Exchange Street, Fort Worth, Texas with a friend named Dwayne Hamilton. Eventually, they began traveling around Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, playing in bigger games, and met fellow professionals Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts. The illegal games Brunson played in during this time were usually run by criminals who were often members of organized crime, so rules were not always enforced. Brunson has admitted to having a gun pulled on him several times and that he was robbed and beaten. Poker was not a socially accepted career path during this time and, given the reputation of those running the games he was playing in, he had little legal recourse.

Hamilton moved back to Fort Worth while the others teamed up and travelled around together, gambling on poker, golf and, in Doyle’s words, “just about everything.”[5] They pooled their money together for gambling and after six years, they made their first serious trip to Las Vegas and lost all of it, a six-figure amount. They decided to stop playing as partners yet remain friends.

Brunson finally settled in Las Vegas. He has been a regular player at the World Series of Poker, since its creation in 1970, playing in the Main Event nearly every year since then in addition to playing in many of the preliminary bracelet events. He made some WSOP championship event final table before his back to back wins, but since this was when the event was winner take all, are not counted as cashes. Besides his two championship wins in 1976 and 1977, Brunson’s 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).

Other than his poker success, his greatest achievement is probably his book, Super/System, which is widely considered to be one of the most authoritative books on poker. Originally self-published in 1978, Super/System was the book that transformed poker by giving ordinary players an insight into the way that professionals such as Brunson played and won, so much so that Brunson believes that it cost him a lot of money. An updated revision, Super/System 2 was published in 2004. Besides Brunson, several top poker players contributed chapters to Super/System including Bobby Baldwin, Mike Caro, David Sklansky, Chip Reese and Joey Hawthorne. The book is subtitled “How I made one million dollars playing poker,” by Doyle Brunson. Brunson is also the author of Poker Wisdom of a Champion, originally published as According to Doyle by Lyle Stuart in 1984.

Brunson continues to play in the biggest poker games in the world, including a $4000/$8000 limit mixed poker game in “Bobby’s Room” at the Bellagio. He also plays in many of the biggest poker tournaments around the world. He won his ninth gold bracelet in a mixed games event in 2003, and in 2004 he finished 53rd (in a field of 2,576) in the No Limit Texas hold ’em Championship event. He won the Legends of Poker World Poker Tour event in 2004 (garnering him a $1.1 million prize) and finished fourth in the WPT’s first championship event. Early in the morning on July 1, 2005, less than a week after Chan had won his 10th gold bracelet – setting a new record – Brunson tied the record at the 2005 WSOP. He is currently one bracelet behind Phil Hellmuth, who earned his 11th bracelet at the WSOP on June 11, 2007.

Brunson’s nickname, “Texas Dolly,” came from a mistake by Jimmy Snyder. Snyder was supposed to announce Brunson as “Texas Doyle,” but incorrectly pronounced the first name as Dolly. It stuck and many of Brunson’s fellow top pros now simply refer to Brunson as “Dolly.”

Brunson has the honor of having two Texas hold’em hands named after him. One hand, a ten and a two of any suit, bears his name as he won the No Limit Hold ‘Em event at the World Series of Poker two years in a row with them (1976 and 1977), in both cases completing a full house. In both 1976 and 1977, he was an underdog in the final hand, requiring Brunson to come from behind both times. Another hand known as a “Doyle Brunson,” especially in Texas, is the ace and queen of any suit because, as he says on page 519 of the Super/System, he “never plays this hand.” He changes his wording in SuperSystem2, however, noting that he “tries to never play this hand.” However, it has been seen on episodes of High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark, the Professional Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour that he does play it.

Brunson endorses the online poker room Doyles Room.

Interestingly, Brunson mentions in his book My Fifty Most Memorable Hands that he has seen three people die at the poker table. One man was shot in the head at point blank range in a domestic dispute, sat directly next to Brunson. Two others died of heart attacks, one seemingly from a mixture of drugs and alcohol; the other appears to have died from the shock of losing a massive pot to him.

As of 2009, his total live tournament winnings exceeded $5,800,000.[6] He has totaled $2,892,536 in earnings at the WSOP.[7]

Family life

Brunson met his future wife, Louise, in 1960 and married her in August 1962. Louise became pregnant, but later that year, a tumor was discovered in Doyle’s neck. When it was operated on, the surgeons found that the cancer had spread and declared it incurable. They felt that an operation would prolong his life long enough for him to see the birth of the baby, so they went ahead with it. After the operation, no trace of the cancer could be found.[9] The doctors said that his recovery must have been a miracle, and Brunson has attributed his cure to the prayers of friends of his wife and their correspondence with Kathryn Kuhlman, a self-proclaimed Christian faith healer.[10] Louise developed a tumor shortly afterwards and, when she went for surgery, her tumor was also found to have disappeared. In 1975, their daughter Doyla was diagnosed with scoliosis, yet her spine straightened completely within three months.

Doyla died at 18 when she took too much potassium for a heart-valve condition. Over the following year, Brunson read Christian literature and converted to Christianity.

His son, Todd, also plays poker professionally. Todd has won a bracelet in Omaha Hi-Lo at the 2005 WSOP, making the Brunsons the first father-son combination to win World Series bracelets. His daughter Pamela played in the 2007 World Series of Poker and 2009 World Series of Poker main events, outlasting both Doyle and Todd both times.

SEC investigation

On December 14, 2005, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an action[11] to enforce subpoenas issued to the attorneys of Doyle Brunson regarding his unsolicited offer in July 2005 to buy WPT Enterprises, Inc., the publicly traded owner of the World Poker Tour, at a high premium over its then-market value. Shortly thereafter, the Commission contends, a public relations firm Brunson hired, and a website he endorses, publicly announced the offer. The Commission asserts that publication of this offer, widely covered in the media, triggered a steep rise in WPT’s stock price on record trading volume.

When pressed for details, Brunson and his lawyers immediately stopped responding to the WPT and the media. Instead, after delivering the offer, Brunson withdrew from the engagement. When the WPT publicly disclosed Brunson and his law firm’s unresponsiveness, its stock price sharply declined, costing investors tens of millions of dollars in lost market value. The offer eventually expired by its terms.

The SEC is formally investigating 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. However, Brunson, who has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify in the investigation, directed his lawyers to withhold certain documents and not to testify on critical aspects of the offer, under the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine. The subpoena enforcement action seeks to set aside these privileges on various legal grounds, including the crime-fraud exception, and to compel Brunson’s firm to provide the requested documents and testimony. The court has not yet set the Commission’s action for hearing.[12]



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