Poker icon Doyle Brunson dies at 89 years old


Doyle Brunson was a legend of the game of poker. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta, File)

Doyle Brunson, legendary poker player and author, died on Sunday in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.

Brunson’s agent Brian Balsbaugh shared the news with a statement from Brunson’s family.

“It is with a heavy heart we announce the passing of our father, Doyle Brunson,” the statement reads. “He was a beloved Christian man, husband, father and grandfather. We’ll have more to say over the coming days as we honor his legacy. Please keep Doyle and our family in your prayers. May he rest in peace.”

Brunson, aka Texas Dolly, was a giant on the poker scene who helped popularize the game to the mainstream. He won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets from 1976-2005 including back-to-back wins in the $10,000 no-limit hold ’em main event in 1976 and 1977.

Brunson’s first WSOP main event prize in 1976 was $220,000 from a winner-take-all field of 22 players. He won $340,000 in 1977. By 2022, the main event field had swollen to 8,663 global entrants competing for an $80.7 million prize pool. First place awarded $10 million.

Doyle Brunson, seen here with his $340,000 cash prize after winning the 1977 World Series of Poker main event. (Tony Korody/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

Doyle Brunson, seen here with his $340,000 cash prize after winning the 1977 World Series of Poker main event. (Tony Korody/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

Brunson’s ‘Super System’ changed the game

Brunson’s influence on poker played a major influence on the game’s meteoric growth from his rise as a world-class player in the 1970s through the 2003 TV boom and beyond. He parlayed his early WSOP wins into success an author with the 1978 strategy guide “Super System.” The 600-plus page book was groundbreaking as one of the first to share in-depth poker insights from a professional to anyone willing to read it. Brunson published a followup titled “Super System 2” in 2005.

Countless recreational and aspiring professional poker players used the knowledge from “Super System” as a foundation for their games. Poker has since evolved to the realm of advanced analytics with top pros using high-powered computer solvers to advance their games. While the information in “Super System” is outdated, its place in poker history never will be.

A face of the TV boom

Poker exploded in popular culture in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP main event. An accountant from Tennessee, the amateur defeated seasoned pro Sammy Farha in a heads up battle for the $2.5 million top prize. The victory broadcast on ESPN inspired amateurs around to world to pursue the game in an effort to repeat his success. It also led to a proliferation of poker on TV, where Brunson became a star.

Brunson was a regular on broadcasts of WSOP events and high-stakes cash games, where his reputation, aggressive play and gregarious personality made him a fan favorite. The legend of Brunson’s rise as a player grew.

Brunson won each of his WSOP main events while holding 10-2, a poor starting hand that became his signature. He completed full houses with the holding in each win. The hand inspired players to try to win — largely unsuccessfully — while holding it. Pro Scott Seiver told a story upon the news of Brunson’s death of trying and failing to bluff him with his iconic hand.

Brunson continued to play in high-stakes games into his 80s as televised poker shifted to online streaming.

“We don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing,” Brunson often repeated.

Brunson was remembered fondly by members of the poker community upon the news of his death.

Brunson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988. He is survived by his wife Louise and children Todd and Pamela.