Doyle Brunson Profile

By Robert Jones | June 8, 2009

There was a time in Doyle Brunson’s life when he thought that if he would be making any Hall of Fame it would be for playing basketball, not a card game. That’s right, the most recognizable poker player on the planet originally had plans for suiting up for the Lakers, but a knee injury and fate changed Brunson’s course in life, and he has instead become perhaps the biggest contributor to the game of poker that has ever existed.

The fact that Brunson is still around today is a small miracle considering the poker games he played in during the 1950’s. Brunson earned his poker stripes playing outlaws, thieves, and other equally as shady people riding up and down what he has called “Bloodthirsty Highway.” The games today are hard enough, but imagine being Doyle Brunson, where he not only had to worry about winning some money to support his family but also had to be worried about being robbed, hijacked, or even worse. Luckily he met up with some guys and they all agreed to watch each other’s back. Oh, and not to mention they were pretty good at poker themselves. They were Sailor Roberts and “Amarillo” Slim Preston. Between the three, they went on to win a combined 16 World Series of Poker bracelets, with Brunson claiming 10 of them.

Two of the 10 bracelets Doyle won came at the most prestigious of the WSOP events, the World Championship. Not to be outdone by his friends Preston and Roberts, who won the Main Event in 1972 and 1975, respectively, Brunson won back-to-back titles in 1976 and 1977, the first repeat winner of the event in its modern day form. Johnny Moss did indeed win the first two WSOP Main Events, but in the first year, 1970, he was voted by his peers as the best player.

The year following his second WSOP World Championship victory Doyle Brunson, published the most influential poker book of all time, “Super System: A Course in Power Poker”. It also originally had the subtitle “How I Won a Million Dollars Playing Poker.” At first the book was self-published, but over time it became the most sought after poker strategy guide in the world. Super System was the first book ever written by a well-known professional player, giving insights into how Doyle Brunson became the best poker player of his era. The book was also co-authored by such well known pros as the late Chip Reese, Mike Caro, David Sklansky, and Bobby Baldwin. The book was not well received by most professional poker pros, with many wondering how a poker champion could even think of giving away his secrets. In many interviews since Super System’s publication, Brunson has seemed to agree with his pros, saying if he had the chance he may not have published the book because he believes it cost him money and it forced him to make changes to his game. However, overtime Brunson’s fellow pros saw that it brought more poker players into the game, and in turn created more money to be made. Super System has become so widely regarded that to many professionals it is simply known as “The Bible of Poker.”

In 1984, Brunson published, “According to Doyle,” which has since had the title changed to “Poker Wisdom of a Champion.” This book was more anecdotal than advice giving, but it gave a glimpse into Brunson’s easy going personality, which has also contributed to his worldwide fame. Then in 2004, the long awaited and anticipated Super System II was published, and while it has not been quite as well regarded as the original, it is still a must read for aspiring poker players everywhere. Also, like the first book, it had co-authors writing about the games in which they have achieved the most success. Players gracing the pages of Super System 2 are modern day poker greats; Daniel Negreanu, Lyle Berman, Johnny Chan, and Jennifer Harman.

Brunson could have been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame the moment Super System was published, but instead had to wait until 1988 to be inducted. Brunson was not only inducted into the Hall of Fame because of his poker books or his successes at the poker table (including being the first player to ever win a million dollars in poker tournaments), he was enshrined for helping make poker a respectable game. Sure, the small Texas games he participated in during his early days were not exactly on the up and up, but with time Brunson showed that poker could be a game for everyone.

In truth, the poker gods could not have created a better ambassador for their game. Brunson is easily one of the most genuine poker players to ever sit down at the table, and when you combine that with the fact that he is also easily one of the best players to sit at the table, you can realize why he has been good for the game. There are many great poker players in the history of this great game, but very few have the ability to promote the game away from the table. If Chris Moneymaker and online poker were responsible for the modern day “Poker Boom,” then it was Brunson himself that was largely responsible for poker’s first “boom.”

It is simple to see why Doyle Brunson, “The Godfather of Poker,” was an easy choice as our first inductee into the Hall of Fame.

By Robert Jones

Robert lives in rural Virginia, and has been playing poker online since 2004. He enjoys writing about the history of poker, learning as much as he can about the legends of the game.


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