Doyle Brunson, the last of the original World Series of Poker players, died on Sunday 14th of May 2023, aged 89.
Known for his cowboy hat and his slow Texas drawl, Brunson is as old as the game itself, and actually invented the Texas Hold’em variant.
In a statement from his family, his agent said:
“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.”
He was often referred to as the Godfather of Poker, but there will be many reading this who have no idea who he was.
An absolute legend of the game, he had his time in the spotlight in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, although he was still winning bracelets as late as 2005.
Indeed, Doyle Brunson was still playing poker at the top level right up until shortly before he died, often quipping: “We don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.”
The World Series of Poker has changed a lot since Doyle sat at the tables in the early days, and has even changed hands in terms of ownership, but the organisation paid tribute, tweeting:
Rest in Peace to the Biggest Legend of Them All. Thank you for being the consummate player and gentleman. No one will ever fill your seat. pic.twitter.com/riE35PCrQh
— WSOP – World Series of Poker (@WSOP) May 15, 2023
Professional poker stars also flooded the internet with their condolences and messages of respect and admiration for the man who did so much for the game.
He is arguably the last of his generation, so let’s look back at his life and career in his honour.
Who Was Doyle Brunson?
Fondly known as Texas Dolly due to his place of birth, Doyle Brunson was one of the World Series of Poker originals, playing in the very first competition that was ever held, and winning six World Series of Poker bracelets in the 1970s when the competition was first becoming well known.
This made him an instant legend in poker circles; someone that was respected by his contemporaries and idolised by those still learning the game.
As a youngster he had ambitions for a career in basketball, and likely would have made it too if it were not for a knee injury that forced him to quit. He found poker instead.
He saw poker develop from a game that the average Joe didn’t even know existed, into the dominating force that it is today, appearing in films and TV shows and being played for millions and millions of dollars.
Back when Doyle first started playing in Fort Worth in Texas, however, it wasn’t even legal, and twice he saw men killed at poker games.
In an interview with Guardian in 2005 he said:
“It was like the old west. Violence was rampant. It was kind of a hangout for the hoodlums and gangsters of Texas and it was very, very volatile.”
It was here though, that Brunson is credited with inventing Texas Hold’em, the most popular and most widely player poker variant in the world.
This wasn’t the only impact Brunson would have on poker.
He wrote a book called Super System in 1979, that outlined solid game strategies and was hailed by professionals and enthusiasts alike. It was the first of its kind and did much to teach the game to others in great depth.
He even has a hand named after him. The Doyle Brunson hand is a 10, 2, because his winning hand in both main events he won was a 10 and a 2, and he ended up winning with full houses.
Due to his love for gambling, and poker in particular, he became a Las Vegas resident and settled there with his wife and two children, one of which, his son Todd, followed him into the game.
Doyle Brunson Achievements in Poker
Doyle Brunson was a familiar face on the Las Vegas scene for decades.
He achieved much during his time as a professional gambler and poker player, becoming most famous for his performances in the World Series of Poker where his highlights include:
- Winning 10 World Series of Poker Bracelets
- 26 Final Table Finishes
- 37 Money Finishes
- Winning the Main Event Twice Back to Back in 1976 and 1977
- Inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988
The back to back wins are especially notable, because he is one of just 4 people to have managed back to back wins, and one of just 5 who have won it more than once.
Doyle Brunson won over $6 million in his poker career, which doesn’t sound like much these days, but remember, he won the majority of his bracelets back in the 70s when the prize money wasn’t even $1 million.
In fact, he was the very first player to win $1 million in the competition, and the WSOP wasn’t his only source of income, so the real total is likely much higher.
He leaves quite a legacy regardless of the money, and will be greatly missed by the poker world and beyond.