There aren’t many bigger names in the poker world than Doyle Brunson. Now in his 80s, Brunson was a pioneer of the game well before the internet poker era or even computers had been invented. Back in those days there wasn’t much information around on playing poker. So Brunson literally wrote the book on the game.
Doyle Brunson: humble beginnings
Doyle Brunson was born in 1933 in Longworth Texas. He grew up in your average middle-American family and was always strong at school.
In his early years he was a particularly good athlete with a focus on basketball and track and field. He was so good at the former, in fact, that he earned a scholarship to to play at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas. Brunson even flirted with the idea of turning professional and had been scouted by some pro teams.
As luck or fate would have it, while working a part-time construction job Brunson badly injured his knee, ruining any chance of a basketball career.
Bruson had already started playing poker, and with his newfound spare time he refined his game greatly.
Much of the money he was making playing poker on the side was used to pay his medical bills. After graduating from college with an education degree, Brunson failed to get a job in the field of his choice. Instead, he began working at a machinery company as a salesman and continued playing poker on the side.
He earned decent money in his day job. But after winning a poker tournament and taking home a month’s salary in a matter of hours, Brunson’s plans were swayed in the direction of gambling.
Gambling with gangsters
In the 1950s in Texas, poker wasn’t a big business or particularly legitimate. If you wanted to play cards you had to go and seek out a game. And those games were generally run by gangsters and other organised crime figures.
That didn’t seem to worry Doyle Brunson. He started building up his bank by playing in saloons all across Texas. He would travel on the road with some other poker buddies and enter tournaments, enjoying plenty of success.
Too much success, in fact.
It’s a testament to the characters that Brunson was coming up against that on more than one occasion, he had a gun pulled on him after a big hand. Being so good at the game, he was regularly accused of cheating and had his life threatened. Brunson’s winning ways were becoming dangerous.
Luckily for Brunson, Las Vegas had began to transform into the corporate-run gambling haven that it is today. He headed there and has barely looked back since.
Since the inception of the World Series of Poker, Brunson has played in nearly all the main events. He was WSOP champion in both 1976 and 1977.
In 1976 he was heads-up against Jesse Alto, and had a 10-2 hand. He went on to make a full house and win the title. The following year in 1977, he again had a 10-2 hand at the final table, where he went on to hit another full house and build a decent stack that helped him go on to win.
Over the years Brunson has taken out 10 WSOP bracelets, and was the first player to win $1 million. He also authored the bible of poker, Super System, in 1979, and has sold over 300,000 copies.
Doyle Brunson might be the grandfather of poker these days, but he had to work his way up from the very bottom. He took on all comers and, for the most part, came out on top.
In 2018, at the age of 84, Brunson announced his retirement from tournament poker with over $6 million in tournament earnings to his name..
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