The first player to earn $1 million in poker tournaments, Brunson has won ten World Series of Poker bracelets throughout his career, tied with Johnny Chan for the record. He is also one of only four players to have won consecutive main events at the World Series of Poker, in 1976 and 1977.
Doyle Brunson was born in Longworth, Texas, a
town with a population of approximately 100, and was one
of three children in his family. Because of Longworth's
size, Brunson frequently ran long distances to other
towns, and became a promising athlete. He was part of
the All-State Texas basketball team, and practiced the
one-mile run to keep in shape in the off-season.
Although he was more interested in basketball than
running, he entered the 1950 Texas Interscholastic Track
Meet and won the one-mile event with a time of 4:38.
Despite receiving offers from many colleges, he decided
to attend Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas
because it was close to his home. The Minneapolis Lakers
were interested in Brunson, but a knee injury ended his
playing days. He had taken a summer job and was
unloading some sheetrock at work. When the ton of weight
shifted, Brunson attempted to stop the shift with his
leg out of instinct, but it landed on his leg, breaking
it in two places. His leg was in a cast for two years,
and the injury ended his hopes of becoming a
professional basketball player. He still occasionally
requires a crutch to get around because of the injury.
Brunson changed his focus from athletics to education
and obtained a master's degree in administrative
Brunson had begun playing poker before his injury, playing five card draw and finding it "easy", and he began to play more often after being injured. His poker winnings paid for his expenses, and he obtained a bachelor's degree in 1954 and a master's the following year. After graduating, he took a job as a business machines salesman, but on his first day in the job he was invited to play in a seven-card stud game and earned over a month's salary in under three hours. He soon left the company and began a career as a professional poker player.
Doyle Brunson started off by playing in illegal games in Exchange Street, Fort Worth, Texas with a friend named Dwayne Hamilton. Eventually they began traveling around Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, playing in bigger games, and met fellow-professionals Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts. Hamilton moved back to Fort Worth, while the others teamed up and travelled around together, gambling on poker, golf and, in Doyle's words, "just about everything". They pooled their money together for gambling, but after six years they made their first serious trip to Las Vegas and lost all of it, a six-figure amount. They decided to stop playing as partners but remain friends.
Doyle Brunson finally settled in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Other than his poker success, his greatest achievement is probably the book that is considered to be the bible of poker: Super/System. Originally self-published in 1978, Super/System was the book that transformed poker by giving ordinary players an insight into the way that the professionals like Brunson played and won, so much so that Brunson believes that having written the book cost him a lot of money. An up-to-date sequel to Super/System was published in 2004. Besides Brunson, several top poker players contributed chapters to Super/System including Bobby Baldwin, Mike Caro, David Sklansky, Chip Reese and Joey Hawthorne. The book is subtitled "How I made one million dollars playing poker", by Doyle Brunson. Brunson is also the author of Poker Wisdom of a Champion, originally published as According to Doyle by Lyle Stuart in 1984.
Brunson continues to play in the biggest poker games in the world, playing $4000/$8000 minimum bets and also at the World Series of Poker. He won his ninth gold bracelet in a mixed games event in 2003, and in 2004 he finished 53rd (in a field of 2576) in the No Limit Texas hold 'em Championship event. He won the Legends of Poker World Poker Tour event in 2004 (garnering him a $1.1 Million prize), and finished fourth in the WPT's first championship event. Early in the morning on July 1, 2005, less than a week after Chan had won his 10th gold bracelet - setting a new record - Brunson tied the record by earning his 10th at the 2005 WSOP.
Doyle Brunson's nickname, "Texas Dolly", came from the incorrect reading of his name by Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, and it stuck. Brunson has the honor of having two Texas hold'em hands named after him. One hand, a Ten and a Two of any suit, bears his name as he won the No Limit Hold 'Em event at the World Series of Poker two years in a row with them (1976 and 1977), in both cases completing a full house. Doyle has expressed his displeasure at being known for the hand because it is generally considered a weak starting hand in Texas Hold 'em; in fact, in both 1976 and 1977, his was not the best starting hand at the table, requiring Brunson to come from behind in both cases. Another hand known as a "Doyle Brunson," especially in Texas, is the Ace and Queen of any suit because, as he says on page 519 of the Super/System, he "never plays this hand."
Doyle Brunson endorses the online poker room Doyle's Room. He is currently appearing in the GSN series High Stakes Poker.
As of 2005, his total live tournament winnings exceeded $4,200,000
Doyle Brunson met his future wife Louise in 1960, and they married in August 1962. Louise became pregnant and later that year, he discovered a tumor in his neck. When it was operated on, the surgeons found that the cancer had spread and declared it incurable. They felt that an operation would prolong his life enough for him to see the birth of their baby, so they went ahead with it, but after the operation, no trace of the cancer could be found. The doctors said that his recovery must have been a miracle, and Brunson has attributed his recovery to the prayers of friends of his wife. Louise developed a tumor shortly afterwards, but when she went for surgery, her tumor was also found to have disappeared. In 1975, their daughter Doyla was diagnosed with scoliosis, but her spine straightened completely within three months.
Doyla Brunson died at 18 when she took too much potassium for a heart-valve condition. Over the following year, Brunson read Christian literature and converted to Christianity.
His son Todd also plays poker professionally. Todd has won a bracelet in Omaha High Low at the 2005 WSOP, making the Brunsons the first father-son combination to win bracelets at the World Series.
On December 14, 2005, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an action to enforce subpoenas issued to the attorneys of Doyle Brunson regarding his unsolicited offer in July of 2005 to buy WPT Enterprises, Inc., the publicly traded owner of the World Poker Tour, at a high premium over its then-market value. Shortly thereafter, the Commission contends, a public relations firm Brunson hired, and a website he endorses, publicly announced the offer. The Commission asserts that publication of this offer, widely covered in the media, triggered a steep rise in WPT's stock price on record trading volume.
When pressed for details, Doyle Brunson and his lawyers immediately stopped responding to the WPT and the media. Instead, after delivering the offer, Brunson' withdrew from the engagement. When the WPT publicly disclosed Brunson and his law firm's unresponsiveness, its stock price sharply declined, costing investors tens of millions of dollars in lost market value. The offer eventually expired by its terms.
The SEC is formally investigating whether Doyle Brunson's offer and its publication violated federal securities laws, including the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. As part of its investigation, the SEC subpoenaed documents and testimony from Brunson's lawyers. However, Brunson, who has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify in the investigation, directed his lawyers to withhold certain documents and not to testify on critical aspects of the offer, under the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine. The subpoena enforcement action seeks to set aside these privileges on various legal grounds, including the crime-fraud exception, and to compel Brunson's firm to provide the requested documents and testimony. The court has not yet set the Commission's action for hearing.