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 was awarded $10 million.
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 as 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 While the information in "Super System" is outdated, its place in poker history never will be.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.
One of the first times playing with him I bluffed $40,000 in a hopeless spot because I had T2o and wanted to show him I could beat him with it. As he raked the pot he just looked at me and smiled and said “do you know how many people have given me their $ trying to do that”
— Scott Seiver (@scott_seiver) May 15, 2023
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.
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) May 15, 2023
Yes, Doyle Brunson was the Legend of Poker. But to me, he was more of a father. I will miss him dearly. My prayers go out to Louise, Pam and Todd.
I Love You Doyle. Rest in Peace to the Greatest!!
— Jennifer Harman (@REALJenHarman) May 15, 2023
Rest in Peace to the Biggest Legend of Them All. Thank you for being the consummate player and gentleman. No one will ever fill your seat. pic.twitter.com/riE35PCrQh
— WSOP - World Series of Poker (@WSOP) May 15, 2023
I’m so lucky I had the opportunity to truly understand Doyle’s greatness by sitting across the table from him.
“Legend” feels inadequate.
We don’t have a word for what Doyle Brunson is to poker.
Rest in Peace ♥️ pic.twitter.com/IjCDrNG96c
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) May 15, 2023
Poker lost its biggest Legend today: @TexDolly. He inspired 3 generations of poker players w his play, his award winning book “Super System,” and his fabulous style and grit. Doyle always played hard: the man absolutely hated losing!! Doyle ruled the high stakes cash games in Las… pic.twitter.com/L4CKzvzbIF
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) May 15, 2023
can’t believe this day has come - you will always be held high in our hearts, the man, the myth, the legend & THE GODFATHER of poker baby! Mr Brunson, you made poker what it is baby! thank you for what you give to all of us baby! RIP Mr Doyle Brunson THE GODFATHER OF POKER pic.twitter.com/TiwzjQfhCi
— Scotty Nguyen (@TheScottyNguyen) May 15, 2023
I never had the pleasure of meeting @texdolly, but he/Super System was far & away the biggest influence in shaping my game. The poker world lost an absolute legend today.
We're going to host a tribute tomorrow on the @OnlyFriends_Pod. Let us know who you'd like to have call in pic.twitter.com/zyzpF81kaN
— Matt Berkey (@berkey11) May 15, 2023
Sad day. We’ve lost @TexDolly the most iconic player in poker’s history, his legacy will live on forever. I’ve been so inspired by his passion & his ability to play at such a high level well into his 80’s. It’s the end of an era
— Erik Seidel (@Erik_Seidel) May 15, 2023
Brunson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988. He is survived by his wife Louise and children Todd and Pamela.