You can easily spot Doyle Brunson, the godfather of poker, in a sea of players because of his signature cowboy hat. After an excellent 50-year career, he retired after the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament. But three years later, he recently announced his intention to return and enter a few tournaments.
So while waiting for Brunson’s comeback, we’ve compiled a list of must-know facts about one of the biggest names in poker!
He wanted to play in the NBA
Doyle’s first love was not poker, but hoops! In his youth, he wanted to pursue a career in professional basketball, and his talent led him to the then-Minneapolis Lakers, which offered him a basketball scholarship. Unfortunately, his career ended before it even began, as a leg injury shattered his dream of playing in the NBA.
He planned to become a school principal
Following his injury, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1954. As he was planning to be a school principal, he took a master’s degree in administrative education the following year. But since the job paid low, he then became a business machine salesman. Just on his first day, he was invited to play in a seven-card stud game, where he won more than a month’s salary. Not long after, he left the company to become a professional poker player.
His would-be wife thought he was a bookmaker
In 1959, Doyle met his future wife Louise at a dance. At the time, he was afraid of telling her his job, so instead, he claimed to be a bookmaker. Even though Louise did not understand what that meant, they still fell in love, got married, and built their own family.
He cheated death twice
Shortly after Louise became pregnant, Doyle was diagnosed with melanoma cancer. When his tumour was operated on, the doctors found that the cancer had already spread. But they decided to go ahead with the operation, only to extend Doyle’s life long enough to see his wife give birth. Miraculously, after the operation, the cancer was completely gone.
He was part of the legendary “Texas Rounders”
Doyle met fellow players and legends Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts in a series of poker games. Together, they formed the elite group Texas Rounders, and they attended every high-stakes poker game in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
He suffered a six-figure loss on his first Vegas trip
After several years of playing, the Texas Rounders pooled their money and went to Las Vegas for their first serious tournament. Unfortunately, they quickly lost their six-figure savings. They then stopped playing as a team and just remained friends.
He played at the very first WSOP
Brunson has been a regular WSOP player since 1970. Throughout his career, he’s won ten WSOP bracelets, two WSOP Main Events, and a World Poker Tour title — earning him a place in the Poker Hall of Fame. He has also faced off notable high-stakes poker players, like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey.
His nickname was an accident
Back in the ‘70s, Doyle became friends with Jimmy Snyder, a Las Vegas Sun columnist who frequently mentioned his accomplishments. But because poker was still frowned upon in Texas — where he was originally from — he asked Jimmy if he could just use the alias “Texas Doyle.” A member of the press overheard this conversation and mistakenly reported the alias as “Texas Dolly,” which stuck.
He wrote the Bible of Poker
After winning the 1976 and 1977 WSOP, Doyle published Super/System, which is considered by many to be the Bible of Poker. Largely credited as the first comprehensive written work on poker strategy, it covers crucial topics like controlling emotion and observing competitors. It also includes a run-down on how to calculate poker odds, helping beginner players understand the right time and place to make a call in order to succeed, even in a game of incomplete information.
In 2004, an updated version of the book, which included contributions from other poker players like Daniel Negreanu and Johnny Chan, was released to accommodate newer variants of poker.
His son is a WSOP champion, too
His son Todd Brunson is also a professional poker player. In fact, Todd won an Omaha Hi-Lo bracelet at the 2005 WSOP, making them the first father-and-son tandem to win World Series bracelets. His daughter Pamela also played in the 2007 and 2009 WSOP Main Events, where she outlasted her father and brother both times.
Indeed, apart from being one of the greatest poker players in history, Doyle Brunson has lived a colorful life. We cannot wait for his return this year!