Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson is known as the ‘Godfather of Poker’ and this living legend may very well be the biggest icon of the poker world. Through an entire lifetime of playing professional poker, Brunson has seen it all and his life is the stuff of Hollywood movies. This is the story of Doyle Brunson.

We’ve also made this blog post as a video, if you’d rather watch than read.

Early Life

Doyle F. Brunson was born on August 10, 1933 in Longworth, Fisher County of Texas –  a dirt poor, rural town smack in the middle of The Lone Star State.  The town had a population of less than 100, and almost all were farmers. His family lived on a cotton farm with no electricity or plumbing. Brunson was the youngest of 3 children and had a textbook Texas childhood, although often feeling like a bit of an outsider. 

Doyle Brunson

He was an active kid, and shaped into a natural athlete who received a spot on the All-State basketball team and also dominated in the statewide track community. This is especially impressive considering that Brunson never actually had a track coach or knew anything about running track. According to a 2018 podcast interview he did with ‘Poker Stories’, after baseball practice, Brunson would just go to the track, start running and never let anyone get past him. These performances led to him being offered college scholarships for both basketball and track.

Doyle Brunson was well on his way to realizing his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA. The then-Minneapolis Lakers wanted to sign him, but his basketball career would end before it really began. One faithful day, while working at a local gypsum factory, Brunson was in an accident that shattered his leg. His leg never fully healed, putting an abrupt end to his athletic dreams. To this day, he’s easily spotted around the poker table by the crutch standing nearby. 

But, as Doyle Brunson would prove again and again, no matter what you’re dealt in life, anything can be turned into a winning hand.

Doyle Brunson

Picking up poker

Doyle Brunson had always been an observer of people. Perhaps because he grew up feeling like an outsider looking in. Barely able to move around after shattering his leg, he would often just sit and watch people – which would only advance his skills of reading faces. Something that would become his ace in the hole later in life. 

Doyle Brunson got his bachelor’s degree in 1954 and a master’s degree split between administrative education and business administration the next year, with a new plan of perhaps becoming a school principal
But he found the pay scale to be too low, so straight out of college he went and got a job as a business machine salesman. Not a dream job to Brunson, but a place to start and a way to make a living. He wouldn’t stick around long though.

The young Brunson had always enjoyed poker, but played a lot more after his injury. So when his co-workers invited him to play with them after his first day, he went along. 
They played a game of seven-card stud, and Brunson absolutely cleaned up, winning more than a month’s salary that night.
Always eager to chase a goal, Brunson soon quit the job and started playing poker professionally. 

Calling Death’s bluff

In 1959 Brunson met his future wife, Louise. The two got married in August of 1962 and soon thereafter Louise became pregnant with a baby girl. Things were looking great, but then life took a turn for the worse when doctors found a tumor in Doyle’s neck.
When they tried to operate it, doctors found that the cancer had spread and Brunson was given just three months to live. 

Doyle Brunson

Doctors felt that a second operation might prolong his life enough for him to witness the birth of his daughter and so they went ahead. After the operation, doctors were stunned to see that the tumor had completely vanished. They found absolutely no trace of the cancer and so Doyle was healthy for the birth of his daughter and back on the road soon after. Like the true gambler he is. 
This wouldn’t be the last time death came looking for Doyle, but he would always call the bluff and see death fold his cards. 

Adventures with the Texas Rounders

After the birth of his daughter, Doyle Brunson  went to Fort Worth, Texas, where he and his friend Dwayne Hamilton would play in illegal games. But even Fort Worth soon proved too small for their appetite, and so they took to the road. They met fellow poker players  Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts and formed what became known as the legendary ‘Texas Rounders’. A team of truely elite poker players who completely cleaned Texas dry playing high-stakes poker in the 1950’s and 60’s. Probably poker’s closest thing to a team like ‘The Avengers’. 

These illegal games were often run by criminals and so things could get heated. Brunson remembers literally staring down the barrel of a gun more than a few times – and he has seen 2 players get shot in the head at the table.

Dwayne Hamilton headed back to Fort Worth while the rest of the gang expanded to Oklahoma and Louisiana, playing bigger and bigger games. They would pool their funds for gambling, participating in the biggest games around.

After six years of dominating the southern poker rooms like this, and outrunning the law and the hijackers who preyed on winners of illegal big-money card games, the Texas Rounders had amassed a massive pool of funds.
And now they arrived in Las Vegas.

Doyle Brunson

Las Vegas

The Texas Rounders arrived in Sin City as legends, but were about to get a harsh reality check.
In fact, they quickly lost everything they had – a six-figure amount. Which was a hell of a lot back in those days.

Vegas had chewed them up and spat them back out. They decided to stop playing as partners, but remained friends, always watching each other’s back. 

Doyle however, did just fine on his own and was quickly becoming one of the major attractions in Vegas, as audiences would literally gather to see him play

Brunson would settle down in Las Vegas, and has been a solid component at the World Series of Poker since it first started back in 1970. He would mostly play at the Bellagio, which to this day remains his favorite spot.  

Doyle Brunson

Why is Doyle Brunson called “the Texas Dolly”?

The poker scene is full of nicknames – and players love to name fellow players – probably because it is easier to remember than real names and because it adds an element of fun.
And, honestly, why call a guy Tomas Austin Preston, when “Amarillo Slim” sounds so much cooler? 
There are some legendary nicknames out there, but the most famous nickname in poker of course belongs to the game’s biggest icon. But exactly why is Doyle Brunson called “the Texas Dolly”? It’s actually a funny story. 

Back in 1973, Doyle Brunson had a well-established relationship with a guy called Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. Jimmy would later become famous for his part in CBSs “The NFL Today” throughout the 1980s, but in 1973 he was still just a gambling columnist for the Las Vegas Sun. Jimmy was covering the WSOP and therefore frequently mentioned Doyle Brunson’s accomplishments. But at the time, gambling was still frowned upon in Texas, and for that reason Brunson asked Snyder to use an alias – and so he would call him “Texas Doyle”. 

A member of the Associated Press picked up on an exchange between Brunson and Snyder, but misunderstood the nickname to be “Texas Dolly”, which then made the report and has since then gone down in history as a legendary poker nickname. 

Doyle Brunson’s Poker Winnings

Doyle “Texas Dolly” Bruson is often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Poker’. And this title makes sense, as he’s been around since the very beginning and very much made the game what it is today. After an entire lifetime of playing professional poker, it’s really not possible to summarize his winnings in one blogpost. But let’s have a look at some of his major wins. 

Brunson is believed to have won more than $6,100,000 playing at live tournaments. More than $3,000,000 of those comes from his impressive 37 cashes at the WSOP. He even won the WSOP main event 2 years in a row, and has won a total of 10 bracelets, which puts him in the top 3 of all players ever playing in the tournament.
His 10 WSOP bracelets are: 

1976: $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw

1976: $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship

1977: $5,000 Seven-Card Stud

1977: $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship

1978: $5,000 Seven-Card Stud

1979: $600 Mixed Doubles No Limit Hold’em

1991: $2,500 No Limit Hold’em

1998: $1,500 Seven-Card Razz

2003: $2,000 H.O.R.S.E

2005: $5,000 No Limit Shorthanded Texas Hold’em 

Doyle Brunson

Super System – The Poker Bible

Doyle Brunson has given poker so much, but perhaps his biggest contribution came back in 1978 when he changed the game forever by writing and publishing the book ‘Super System – How I made over $1,000,000 playing poker”.

This was right after his back to back WSOP win and the book was the first comprehensive book on strategies for various poker games. The book became a huge success and is largely considered the “Bible of Poker”.
Even today it sells about 14,000 copies a month
In October of 2004, a second version was published called “Super System 2 – A Course in Power Poker”. This version featured updated lingo, new games & strategies as well as insights from, not only Doyle Brunson, but also other players like Daniel Negreanu. 

Doyle Brunson also has an autobiography called “The Godfather of Poker”. Surely a life like the one Brunson has lived needed to be told in a book and one could easily imagine this becoming a movie at some point as well. 

Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson’s Recent years

Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson really is a living legend and perhaps the biggest icon of poker. At the age of 87 he’s still going strong, although he has scaled back on the amount of games he plays. Doyle and his wife Louise still live in Las Vegas and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of this living legend in “Bobby’s Room” at the Bellagio. Although we wouldn’t recommend playing him. 

Doyle Brunson has no less than two hands in poker named after him.
One is the hand of a ten and a two, which was named after him because that’s the exact hand he had when winning both of his WSOP No Limit Hold’em Main Events in ‘76 and ‘77. In both cases giving him a full house.
The other one is when holding an ace and queen of any suit. This is because on page 519 of his book, Brunson famously wrote that he never plays this hand. 

Doyle Brunson

Brunson’s son, Todd Brunson, is also a professional poker player.
Doyle didn’t teach Todd to play, in fact Todd never knew how to play before going to Texas Tech University and learning on his own – perhaps from reading the Super System?
Todd left Texas Tech before his senior year and turned professional poker player.
In 2005, Todd won a WSOP bracelet in Omaha Hi-Lo, making Doyle and Todd the first father-son combination to win WSOP bracelets

The next Doyle Brunson?

Back in the day, Doyle Texas Dolly Brunson and the Texas Rounders had to pretty much risk their lives when playing poker in smoky back rooms against criminals and big time drug dealers.

Luckily though, things have changed today and if you and your friends want to play poker all you have to do is just download the free EasyPoker app. It’s by far the easiest way to play poker with friends, whether live or online. No chips or playing cards needed. 

It’s a digital version of a physical poker set. Create a private poker table with a single tap, and invite your friends to play by sharing the 4 digit game code. Poker with friends have never been easier. 

Doyle Brunson
Doyle Brunson

Want more poker player stories?

Here at Easypoker we really like talking to our users – and we really value your opinion.
If you have anything to add to this post, feel free to comment below. 

We also have a ton of other amazing poker stories, like the crazy story of Daniel Negeranu.
A highschool dropout that became what many believe to be the most successful and beloved poker players of all time.

Or perhaps the story of Mike Saxton,
“The Ambassador of Poker”. A professional poker player who became a commentator and was even inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. 

Doyle Brunson

If you have any specific story or topic you would like us to profile, please let us know in the comments or by reaching out to us