Poker Legend Doyle Brunson Leaves Behind Massive Legacy in Game

Poker Legend Doyle Brunson Leaves Behind Massive Legacy in Game
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Poker legend Doyle Brunson, who died Sunday (May 14) in Las Vegas at age 89, is being mourned by the card-playing world.

His wisdom could be instructive about poker over several hundred pages, or in a single sentence.

His poker tome, the ground-breaking Super/System, is perhaps the best-known and most-read book on the game and is considered a poker bible. And there was a sequel.

Those Michigan online poker players aiming for a spot in this year’s World Series of Poker would do well to heed Brunson’s tips.

Yet, his pithy response to a question about the key to winning a huge tournament like the World Series of Poker Main Event, which he accomplished twice, carried as much wisdom as his lengthy best-sellers.

“The key to winning a tournament like the Main Event isn’t so much that you need to get lucky, it’s that you need to avoid getting unlucky,” he said.

In other words, playing skillfully was under a player’s control but not so the vagaries of the cards. And a player had to come to terms with that reality.

This Year’s WSOP Details

Brunson’s passing comes just a few weeks before the 2023 WSOP opens in Las Vegas at the rebranded Horseshoe Las Vegas, formerly Bally’s Las Vegas. Michigan, along with Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is one of the few states where legal internet poker allows players to both win online WSOP events and to qualify for WSOP tournaments in Vegas through online play.

Players in the Great Lakes State can use the WSOP Michigan promo code to enter and get their shot.

In a game where players are starkly adversarial in their primary goal – to take each other’s money – Brunson was always respected for his skill and gentlemanly demeanor. In the past few decades he was revered by the poker community.

Nicknamed “Texas Dolly” in his younger days and “The Godfather of Poker” as the game’s elder statesman, Brunson was the most celebrated member of a group of players known as the Texas Rounders in the 1950s and ‘60. Those were players in so-called outlaw games where the perils extended beyond bad fortune and included police raids, hold-ups and trying to collect from ornery deadbeat losers.

Eventually, Brunson left Texas and headed to Las Vegas where he could minimize his risks to getting beat by one-outers on the river.

However, he never forgot how difficult it was to make a living in his early card-playing days, when it wasn’t quite so glamorous as it was when ESPN made him a star.

Asked for his observation on the poker boom of the 2000s, Brunson once said without humor: “That the very same thing they want to put me on TV for now is what they wanted to put me in jail for 25 years ago.”

Brunson Won Consecutive WSOP Main Events

Brunson won the Main Event in back-to-back years, in 1976 and in 1977. In a curious twist, on both occasions he won with the starting hand of 10-2, and on both occasions, he ran down his opponent on the turn and river cards. The 10-2 starter is now known as “a Brunson.”

Born in Longworth in the heart of Texas, Brunson went to college at Hardin-Simmons University. He earned his degree in administrative education – for a while, he thought that would be his career. As a youthful athlete, he starred in track and basketball, but a leg injury ended his dreams of playing in the NBA. 

Though poker became his calling, he never put aside the ethos of acquiring knowledge. 

“The education of a poker player never ends until he dies,” Brunson said. “I’ve learned something new every day that I’ve played.” 

During his long poker career, Brunson won more than $6 million in live tournament play, not to mention his winnings in cash games. He also earned additional millions “away from the felt” with his books, on TV, and from celebrity appearances.

Brunson’s WSOP resume includes 10 championship bracelets, tying him for second with Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey. Phil Hellmuth leads with 16.

Overall, the Poker Hall of Famer has 37 cashes in WSOP play. Remarkably, his most recent WSOP final table was as recent as 2018 when he finished sixth in a $10,000 deuce-to-seven lowball draw event, winning almost $44,000.

Brunson had talked retirement in recent times but occasionally he and his trademark cowboy hat would still show up at the WSOP, including in 2021. Last year, he said on Twitter that he was not attending the 2022 WSOP on doctor’s advice.

By then the landscape of gaming had changed so much that several states offered online poker, including players here who can use Michigan casino apps to play.

Those attending the WSOP when it was held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, from 2005 through 2021, know of the long hallways that led from the main casino to the tournament ballrooms. It was a treat for folks wandering the area to catch a glimpse of Brunson, who was coping with mobility issues, whiz by on a motorized scooter. 

Then, whenever Brunson busted out of a tournament, especially the Main Event, a general announcement would be made that he had been eliminated.

And always, Brunson's exit from the cavernous tournament room would be accompanied by a standing ovation.

Texas Dolly won his first Main Event in the old Binion’s Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas almost five decades ago. Now, as the 54th WSOP is about to be played at the newly named Horseshoe on the Las Vegas Strip – perhaps hosting players who got started on the best Michigan online casinos – the poker world’s gratitude for Brunson’s contribution to the game is certain to continue to reverberate in the tournament’s latest home.



A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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