Doyle Brunson is a true poker legend

Doyle Brunson: Biography

Personal life

At 17, Brunson was the most promising young athlete in Texas. However, although he excelled at running and other sports, his favorite sport was basketball. But fate had other plans for young Brunson.

Doyle Brunson was born on August 10, 1933 in the village of Longworth. His father worked on a cotton farm, as did his mother and neighbors. Typically, everyone in Longworth was picking cotton.

Until the age of six, Brunson lived in a house without electricity, running water or sewerage, but he still has the most pleasant memories of his childhood. It was all in the town itself, where everyone lived like one big family – everyone celebrated holidays together, and if one of the farmers got sick and could not go to work, the neighbors helped.

Brunson attended Hardin-Simmons, a private Baptist university, where he became increasingly successful in running and even became a candidate for the US Olympic team. He also played basketball and even received a contract offer from the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers (who later moved to Los Angeles and changed their name to the Los Angeles Lakers).

The real reason for the failure was completely different. During the holidays before his senior year of high school, Brunson worked part-time at a building materials factory. During one of his shifts, he stacked bags of alabaster using a forklift. A load that weighed almost a ton fell on him and crushed his right leg from the knee down. The fracture was so serious that it took two years to completely heal. Professional sports were impossible.

Brunson graduated from college and qualified as a school principal. He hoped to become a school principal in the future, but at the time there were no administrative positions at the school, only minimum-wage basketball coaches. After recovering from his injury, Branson began playing poker with his classmates to earn money.

After college, Brunson moved to the big city of Fort Worth, Texas to work as an office equipment salesman for Burroughs. Brunson recalled that his first attempt to sell a cash register to the owner of a certain office opened his eyes to the delights of the life of a traveling salesman. Instead of greeting Brunson, the owner of the company simply showed him the door and turned away without saying a word.

Three hours later, Brunson emerged from the back room with a prize equal to a month’s salary. He realized that for a genius like him, there were plenty of opportunities in Fort Worth to make money without humiliating himself in front of the owners of local pharmacies and bakeries.


In the 1950s, playing poker was illegal in Texas, so poker games were played behind closed doors in the smoky back rooms and basements of crime-ridden Fort Worth neighborhoods. Brunson plunged headlong into this strange and frightening world, honing his skills in extreme conditions. Brunson plays the game all night and sleeps during the day. Players are armed and do not hesitate to use weapons. Many of them regularly use drugs, and sometimes the scenes are simply wild.

Playing style

It was in this atmosphere that he developed his own unique style, which has since been revered by thousands of professionals. Brunson never wore black-framed glasses or earplugs. He had friendly conversations with his opponents on abstract topics and often smiled.

Brunson studied the psychology of his opponents, closely observing how many times and how they bluffed in a game, and claimed that he could recognize a bluff by the contraction of his neck muscles. As many of his colleagues later claimed, Brunson had honed this skill for years and didn’t even need to look at his cards to beat amateurs.

He admitted that since his underground work in Fort Worth, he had kept to himself. He’s more interested in the game itself. Finding the key to his opponent’s tactics and pushing him to the brink is what Brunson truly enjoys.

Official poker

Over time, poker gradually lost its criminal connotation: in 1970, the first official World Poker Championship was held in Las Vegas; in 1972, Doyle Brunson took part in it and was close to victory. But suddenly he began to lose money, and the tournament organizers realized that the player, who had become a legend, was apparently leaking games. They stopped the tournament, called Brunson in for a chat and asked him what the hell he was doing.

An unexpected situation arises here. This was the first time the media covered the World Series. The hall was filled with journalists, cameras and television cameras. Although the race was not televised, the press was tasked with giving extensive coverage of the results, including interviews with the winners.

In fact, Brunson was raised as an orthodox Baptist and was very shy about his profession. His relatives and neighbors, the Longworths, were practically members of his family, earning their living by honest and hard work. In their eyes, Brunson believed that he would soon become a demon from hell. His family’s reputation was more important than anything else.

First World Series win

Brunson made his World Series debut in 1976 and immediately won the Main Event. The following year he was successful again. Brunson also became the first professional player to officially win a million dollars in prize money. However, money was never his focus.

Even having become rich, he did not become a miser, and sometimes even a wasteful spender. This trait played an interesting role in one world event: in the 1970s, Branson met poker player Jack Grimm. Grimm, an incorrigible risk taker, got Branson involved in several oil-related projects that quickly failed.

Further career

Having won the World Series of Poker Main Event twice, Brunson continued to play every day until COVID-19 hit, and in 1988 he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame as the first player to win the World Series of Poker Main Event. Today, many professional players believe that it was Brunson’s charisma that brought the game of poker out from under the bright lights of the world’s largest casinos and the musty basements caught on TV cameras. Many professional players claim that they fell in love with poker watching Brunson’s calm, cool and psychological play.

He won ten more World Series gold bracelets. He didn’t seem to care. For him, it was more important to play in a closed room, without cameras or spectators.

That same year, Damon and his friend Leonardo DiCaprio decided to prank Brunson in the World Series. It’s probably not worth talking about which of them won in the end. After the end of the tournament, spectators asked for autographs from the participants. For poker fans, Hollywood actors haven’t even attracted attention.

Attitude towards online

Brunson experimented with online poker in the 2000s and at one point had his own online poker room, but admits he didn’t always take poker seriously. He prefers to interact with opponents on a personal level and observe their reactions rather than construct mathematical scenarios. However, he was also good at the latter and even wrote several books on poker tactics.

last years of life

For 87-year-old Brunson, the COVID-19 pandemic has become perhaps the most difficult test of his life. The legendary player was already seriously ill and in a wheelchair.

He returned in the summer of 2022 to spend his final year in his favorite atmosphere. On May 14, 2023, Brunson completed an amazing life journey that began on a cotton farm in Texas. This journey led him to the most terrible and dark place, from which many of Brunson’s colleagues never escaped. There are many different views on gambling, but Brunson was one of the few who made poker a real profession and art.

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