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Poker Legends: Doyle Brunson

Photo Taken From: Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to our Poker Legends series, where we dive into the lives and careers of some of the biggest stars who have ever played the game. In this first installation, we’re starting with the Godfather of Poker himself: Doyle Brunson, otherwise known as Texas Dolly.

With over six decades in the game, Brunson has played high stakes poker for longer than anyone else, and at 87 years old, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Brunson has a long list of accolades. He’s won 10 bracelets at the World Series of Poker, he’s a two-time world champion (1976 and 1977), and he has over six million in tournament winnings to his name.

Not only was Brunson also the first player to ever win $1 million in poker tournaments, but he’s also played a pivotal role in popularizing the game and raising the bar for poker players around the world. His best-selling poker strategy book, Super System, is widely considered the Bible of poker because it was the first ever serious poker book and, despite some aspects being date, still remains relevant to this day.

Super System was published at a time when little was known about poker theory, and this edge gave Brunson and a handful of other pros a massive edge over the rest of the field. By sharing this knowledge with the public in his book, Brunson changed the game forever.doy

Pioneering Poker

Brunson cut his teeth at card tables in poker’s early days throughout the American South. Despite being cheated, robbed, and even witnessed multiple men get shot dead at the table, Brunson continued to play with a group of dedicated poker pros. During this time, he was also one of the few educated players. While he has a masters degrees, many of his opponents were high school dropouts.

This clearly came out in his strategy and helped him dominate the scene at the time. For instance, he figured out the odds of common spots, like drawing to a flush or facing a higher pair with a lower pair, way before other people. And he did it by just dealing out thousands of hands and talking about it, not with a computer.

Despite his appreciation for the mathematical underpinnings of the game, Brunson also warns against an over-obsession he sees among young players for game theory optimal (GTO) play. “I’ve always said a poker player should be a psychologist,” he said in an interview. “If you can tune into your opponent, a lot of that other stuff goes away.”

Never Stop Playing

Brunson is a true gamer. He’s even gone so far as to say that he feels physical withdrawl if he can't play poker, and this passion has led him to play nearly every day for the past six decades, sometimes up to four days at a time without sleep.

That’s why one of his most memorable quotes is about how he’s sustained this driving energy. “You don’t stop playing because you get older,” he explained. “You get older because you stop playing the game.”


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