Doyle Brunson is an American poker player, often referred to as 'The Godfather of Poker'. He is arguably one of, if not the greatest poker player of all time and a true legend of the game.
Brunson is best known for winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 1976 and 1977. He is 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 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.
Traveling throughout poker 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.
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 Doyle and his family.
Brunson 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.
Doyle Brunson's WSOP Bracelets
|1976||$10,000 World Championship||1st||$220,000|
|1976||$5,000 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw||1st||$80,250|
|1977||$10,000 World Championship||1st||$340,000|
|1977||$1,000 Seven-Card Stud Split||1st||$62,500|
|1978||$5,000 Seven-Card Stud||1st||$68,000|
|1979||$600 Mixed Doubles||1st||$4,500|
|1991||$2,500 No-Limit Hold'em||1st||$208,000|
|1998||$1,500 Seven-Card Razz||1st||$93,000|
|2005||$5,000 Short Handed No-Limit Hold'em||1st||$367,800|
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.
European Poker Tour
Brunson is not know for visiting the old continent very often, but when he does, London is 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.
Other Poker Achievements
Brunson and 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 tumours on his head, with another successful surgery following the next year.
WSOP Main Event Winners 1970-77
|1977||34||Doyle Brunson||United States||$340,000|
|1976||22||Doyle Brunson||United States||$220,000|
|1975||21||Brian Roberts||United States||$210,000|
|1974||16||Johnny Moss||United States||$160,000|
|1973||13||Walter Pearson||United States||$130,000|
|1972||8||Thomas Preston||United States||$80,000|
|1971||6||Johnny Moss||United States||$30,000|
|1970||7||Johnny Moss||United States||N/A|