Doyle Brunson was an American poker player, often referred to as 'The Godfather of Poker'. He was arguably one of, if not the greatest poker player of all time and a true legend of the game. Brunson passed away in May 2023 at the age of 89.
Brunson was best known for winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 1976 and 1977. He was one of only four players to have won the Main Event on more than one occasion. He achieved the feat in back-to-back years, something that only three others have achieved.
He is a ten-time WSOP bracelet winner, and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988. He also won a World Poker Tour title in August 2004.
Brunson authored one of the earliest poker strategy books, Super/System, which is regarded as one of the most important poker books of all time and is credited for influencing several generations of poker players.
Doyle Brunson Background and Upbringing
Brunson was born in Longworth, Texas on August 10, 1933. A gifted athlete, Brunson was a star on the track as well as on the basketball court, narrowly missing out on a career in the NBA due to a career-ending knee injury.
He first started playing poker in the years following his injury, and eventually took a job as a salesperson. Legend has it, that on his first day in the job he was invited to a card game and won a month's salary in a single night. Soon thereafter he embarked on a career as a professional poker player.
Brunson's talent as a track and basketball star earned him a spot in the Hardin-Simmons Athletics Hall of Fame, though he was left out for years before the Baptist college's president, Eric Bruntmyer, convinced the school to let the poker legend in.
Brunson carried his Christian upbringing with him throughout his career and was a deeply religious and family-oriented man.
After growing tired of the mafia-linked poker games on Exchange Avenue and Jacksboro Highway in Forth Worth, Brunson headed to the Midland and Odessa area in West Texas and began a career as a road gambler.
Traveling throughout the Southern circuit was a dangerous career, with games being composed of criminals, outlaws and other dangerous situations. He didn’t do it alone though. Doyle was part of a group of Texas Rounders, which included Brian "Sailor" Roberts and Thomas Preston aka "Amarillo Slim". Together, the players would frequent the illegal poker games around Texas, sometimes even sharing a bankroll.
Much of what is known about Brunson's road gambling days is documented in his autobiography The Godfather of Poker. In one passage, Brunson describes a poker game at a farmhouse in Austin that was robbed at gunpoint.
“Seven guys with ski masks and shotguns rushed in. Nobody had a chance to escape," wrote Brunson. "The robbers herded us up against a wall and ordered us to drop our lower garments — all of them.”
Later, Brunson moved to Vegas with his wife and four children. Poker in Vegas was legal and much less dangerous, which made things a little easier for Brunson and his family.
Wealth - What is Doyle Brunson’s Net Worth?
While it is notoriously hard to estimate any poker player's net worth, Brunson was estimated to have a net worth of $75 million at the time of his death, which included money from poker, sponsorships and book sales.
How Did Doyle Brunson Make His Money?
After making millions as a hustler on the Texas road gambling circuit and in the early days of Las Vegas poker, Brunson wrote Super/System, one of the best-selling poker books of all time. Brunson went on to write several other poker strategy books, including Super System Deluxe, Poker Wisdom of a Champion and Superstar Poker Strategy.
Brunson later founded the online poker room Doyle's Room, which he sold in 2011.
Most notably, Brunson made millions playing poker. In addition to nosebleed cash games in Bobby's Room, Brunson racked up nearly $6.2 million in live tournament earnings from 1972 onward.
Doyle Brunson Complete History at the WSOP
A regular at the WSOP since its inception in 1970, Brunson finished third in the Main Event in 1973 and won his first WSOP bracelet in 1976. The same year he won his first Main Event title for $230,000.
The following year he repeated the feat — not just winning two more bracelets, but winning another Main Event title for $340,000. Both times, he won with ten-deuce off, making a full house, with the hand forever known as the 'Doyle Brunson'.
By the end of the 70s, Brunson had won six bracelets in four years and in 1980 he narrowly missed out on a third title, as Stu Ungar won the first of what would eventually be three Main Event titles. Two more Main Event final tables followed in 1982 (4th) and 1983 (3rd) but he would have to wait until 1991 for his next bracelet.
Another followed in 1998 and then a ninth in 2003. His tenth and final bracelet came in 2005 in Event #31: $5,000 NLHE 6-Max for $367,800. This field of 301 was the biggest field he had ever topped to win a bracelet.
During the 2010s, Brunson stated that the hours required to play tournaments during the WSOP were too long, and would focus on cash games instead.
WSOP Main Event Winners 1970-77
Doyle Brunson’s WSOP Bracelet Wins
|$10,000 World Championship
|$5,000 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw
|$10,000 World Championship
|$1,000 Seven-Card Stud Split
|$5,000 Seven-Card Stud
|$600 Mixed Doubles
|$2,500 No-Limit Hold'em
|$1,500 Seven-Card Razz
|$5,000 Short Handed No-Limit Hold'em
Doyle Brunson on the World Poker Tour
Brunson has over $2 million in cashes on the World Poker Tour including three final tables. In 2004, Doyle beat the critics that claimed he was too old when he won the Legends of Poker WPT event for just shy of $1.2 million.
Brunson signed on as a WPT ambassador in 2022 and played a pivotal role in promoting the record-breaking WPT World Championship at the Wynn, where he played in a meet-up game with the likes of Phil Ivey, Steve Aoki and Patrik Antonius.
Doyle Brunson on the European Poker Tour
Brunson was not known for visiting the old continent very often, but when he does, London was his primary destination. The English capital was also the place where Doyle scored his only European Poker Tour money finish. He placed 77th on the 2011 EPT London £5,000 Main Event taking home £9,000 in prize money.
Poker streamer Lex Veldhuis shared memories of playing with Brunson during trips to Europe, including a memorable interaction involving Ivey.
Doyle Brunson Television Appearances
Doyle Brunson on Poker After Dark
Poker After Dark was a televised cash game show that first aired on NBC in 2007. Brunson appeared on the show nearly every season since its inception and played with other poker legends like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Jennifer Harman, Erik Seidel, Antonio Esfendiari and Johnny Chan.
Doyle Brunson on High Stakes Poker
Brunson became a household name for many young poker players from his appearances on High Stakes Poker beginning in 2011.
On the iconic high-stakes cash game show, Brunson played several memorable hands against Jamie Gold, Tom Dwan and his good friend Eli Elezra.
Doyle Brunson on The Big Game
Yet another memorable televised cash game program that Brunson played on was The Big Game, which premiered in 2010 and had a unique and entertaining format that saw one "loose cannon" recreational playing against a table of pros.
It was on The Big Game that Brunson played against players like Jennifer Tilly, Scott Seiver and Jason Mercier. Former Big Game host Amanda Negreanu called Brunson her favorite poker player of all time.
"I remember being so giddy and nervous to meet him for the first time in 2006,"she said after Brunson's death. "We had such a fun and playful banter right away."
Doyle Brunson Film and TV Cameos
Brunson made a handful of cameos in large-budget films, including The Grand and Lucky You, both of which were released in 2007.
Doyle Brunson Battle with Cancer
During his life, Brunson has battled cancer on a number of occasions. His first scare came in 1963, when he was just 30 years old. Brunson discovered a knot on his neck, which was soon diagnosed as cancer. Doctors had removed a black mole a year prior to this discover, but the cancer had spread, and when it did not respond to radiotherapy or chemotherapy, Brunson was informed that there was no case history of anyone with this affliction living longer than three months.
Louise Brunson, Doyle's wife, was three months pregnant at the time of this grim prognoses, and was told that her husband probably wouldn't live long enough to see the birth of their child. However, after seeking a second opinion, doctors at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston attempted to perform surgery only to discover the cancer had vanished.
"He called it spontaneous remission, and said he and his colleagues had seen such an occurrence only a few times," Brunson wrote in his autobiography The Godfather of Poker.
In 2015, he required surgery to remove four tumors on his head, with another successful surgery following the next year.
Doyle Brunson Family, Wife and Children
In addition to being a legendary poker player, Brunson was an avid family man and maintained a strong marriage for the better half of a century.
Doyle Brunson Wife - Was Doyle Brunson Married?
Brunson had a long-lasting marriage to Louise Brunson that spanned more than 60 years.
The two met in San Angelo in 1959 when Louise was working as a pharmacist. They married in 1962 and led a happy life until Doyle's passing in 2023.
When asked how the couple stayed together for so long, Louise said that the answer was "love."
"I loved him,” she said. “True love. We’ve had a really happy marriage. That’s why you really need to be in love. Because the love will bring you through.”
Does Doyle Brunson Have Children?
Doyle and Louise had two children, Pamela Brunson and Todd Brunson, the latter of whom followed in his father's poker footsteps.
Todd Brunson had $4.5 million in tournament earnings as of 2023 and won a WSOP bracelet by winning the 2005 Event #21: $2,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better for $255,945.
Doyle and Todd often played together and both made deep runs in the 2018 $10,000 No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw Championship, with Todd finishing in tenth place for $18,955 and Doyle finishing sixth for $43,963.
Doyle Brunson FAQs
How much has Doyle Brunson made in poker?
Brunson had nearly $6.2 million in live tournament earnings and is estimated to have won several more million in Las Vegas cash games and as a Texas road gambler.
Is Todd Brunson Doyle Brunson's son?
Yes, Todd Brunson is Doyle Brunson's son. The two played together often and both made deep runs at the 2018 WSOP.
What hand did Doyle Brunson win with?
Brunson memorably won the 1976 and 1977 WSOP Main Events with ten-deuce, forever making the hand known as "the Doyle Brunson" to poker fans around the world.
How old is Doyle Brunson?
Brunson passed away in May 2023 at the age of 89.
What is Doyle Brunson’s height?
Brunson was a college basketball star and stood around 6 feet 3 inches.
What is Doyle Brunson’s hand?
Brunson is famous for popularizing the hand ten-deuce.
Why is 10-2 Doyle Brunson’s hand?
Ten-deuce became known as "the Doyle Brunson" after Brunson won consecutive WSOP Main Events with the holding.