He is a legend of the game. He literally wrote the book. “Super/System: How I Made Over $1 Million Playing Poker” by Doyle Brunson has been a best seller since it debuted in 1978. He was the World Series of Poker champion in 1976 and 1977. Brunson is widely regarded by many as the best poker player of all time. He ties the all time WSOP bracelet list with 9 bracelets. Fortunately due to poker’s popularity, Brunson’s skills may be seen on the Travel Channel’s red hot World Poker Tour broadcasts. He won the Legends of Poker at Bicycle Casino on the WPT’s season three wining over $1 million dollars. If you have the means, you can probably play with him in a big money cash game on the strip or you can visit him at his new Internet poker room www.doylesroom.com. He has all the poker savvy in the world but his best characteristic may be that he was born a Texan. On The Links goes all in with Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson.
On The Links: Are you a poker player that gambles or a gambler who plays poker?
Doyle Brunson: I’m a poker player who gambles.
OTL: Outside of all the poker championships you’ve won, what other things have you gambled on that require high stakes?
DB: Golf. I’ve played more high stakes golf than anybody. For 20 years I played every summer. We used to have the Professional Gambler’s Invitational. Professional gamblers all over the country would come out and play. It was a big event for 10 or 15 years. I used to have a golf tournament called “The Dolly.” It was a winner take all event intended that included gamblers and golfers. Deane Beman former PGA Tour Commissioner shot it down. He didn’t want the association with the professional gamblers. So we made the event for the club pros and the mini-tour players. We held that tournament for about 7 or 8 years. It was pretty popular. A lot of guys who played with us went on to the regular tour.
DB –We played for prize money near $100,000, not that big by today’s standards.
OTL – Where did you have these events?
DB- We played on the old Dunes golf course. The Bellagio sits on that property today. We had big turnouts and a lot of fun. Didn’t make any money, but we weren’t trying to make money.
OTL – Speaking of high stakes golf matches, did you ever play with Ray Floyd or Lee Trevino?
DB – I’ve played with Lee. There is the old story about how they took Floyd out to El Paso to make a match. They told Floyd to play this Mexican kid that drove a tractor and all he had to do was give the kid a shot a side. Of course the kid on the tractor was Lee Trevino. The rest is history. I have a lot of respect to Ray Floyd. He can play for his money, of course Lee could too.
OTL- Poker is everywhere. It’s on TV all the time. The media has turned you guys into celebrities. You were already poker royalty in poker circles. How do you deal with the new found fame
DB – It’s different. It’s flattering in a way. But at my age, it doesn’t make that much difference. People ask me how it feels to get my picture taken so much. I tell them they used to take my picture a lot back in the old days but they would also fingerprint me right after.
OTL – How has the game changed over the past 30 years?
DB – The game has changed a lot. The players are much better and there are a lot more of them. The Internet has been a big draw for players. I even have a place for players to play, www.doylesroom.com. The Internet is a great way for new players to play. For one thing, there is less intimidation as you learn how to play. They can do it from the privacy of their home.
OTL – What the best way to learn the game?
DB – Books are a great way to learn the game. I have 3 out there in the market. They can become proficient players in a very short period of time. They may not be world class level, but they are pretty darn goo
OTL – For someone just starting out, which of your books would you recommend?
DB – I have a new Internet poker book that will be out by the time the story runs, “Internet Poker.” If they are going to play on the Internet, they should get the Internet Poker. I wrote Super System twenty years ago and it’s been a best seller for twenty years. I have replaced that with Super System II which is about more modern games today. It’s the number one best selling poker book now.
OTL – We hear the announcers on the World Poker Tour make reference to your “High Stakes” poker games in the different casinos that are not part of a telecast. What is a typical day like for you when you plan to play poker?
DB – I’ll wake up and take care of personal business. I am currently working on a few books and some extra stuff for the Internet, doylesroom.com. I’m a little older now, so I don’t play more than 9 or 10 hours. I’ll start playing around 5 p.m. There’s a big game tonight at the Bellagio. We play $4,000 and $8,000 limit. We play the no-limit games with a $100,000 cap. Win or lose the game is anywhere from $200,000 – $1,000,000 each game. I play more this time of year with the World Series of Poker in town.
OTL – What personality trait has enabled you to become one of the best players in the world?
DB – I have the ability to shrug-off the bad times and just add my money up at the end of the year. That’s what pros do. You have to stay on an even keel. If you get distraught every time you lose, you better find another racket. Discipline is important. Poker players need to have a great sense of recall. You need to have a disregard for money when you are at the table and realize the value of it once you leave the table.
OTL – A long time ago older golfers say that when they showed up for a tournament there were only a handful of golfers that could win an event. Now the fields are so good and so deep you have to beat 150 players to win the event. Is that the case in poker? Are the fields deep with good players?
DB – There are six thousand entries in this year’s World Series of Poker main event. You have to play extremely lucky. You can’t play unlucky. It’s like hitting the lottery; some of us just have more tickets.
OTL – We’ve seen players win millions of dollars in some of these tournaments. Does the money last?
DB – Those guys are amateurs. They’ve become professionals due to their new found fame of winning the Series. They could not compete in the real world of poker, if that is what you are asking. They’re good amateurs but there not pros. That’s what makes poker such a great game. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody and win a lot of money. That is why these tournaments are so volatile. If they had to come out and play for their money every day, they would get destroyed. We’d wipe them out. Occasionally someone will come along that’s good enough to beat a real pro and will become a top pro, but not very often.
OTL – You are the legend in poker. Is there a player that we should watch?
DB – There are a lot of good players out there. I think my son Todd Brunson is the best young player out there under 40. He is a cash game player. He’s won a few tournaments.
OTL – Poker may be as popular as ever. What is the state of the game?
DB – It’s progressed to a point that I didn’t think it was possible. Poker is so popular. America is just finding out what I’ve known for 50 years. Poker is a great game that will keep expanding. Of course it will peak at a certain point but we are nowhere near that point.
OTL – Someone is going to read this article and think since they can beat their friends in their weekly game they could move to Vegas and play professional poker. What advice would you have for them?
DB – Have a good time. Don’t play beyond your means and don’t quit your day job.
OTL – Does a poker player retire or do they just keep betting?
DB – Poker players start going downhill around the age of 50. I’ve noticed that. I am very fortunate to have good genes. I still am very sharp and have maintained my mental acuity. Maybe not as sharp as I once was, but overall still pretty sharp. You’ve probably seen it. Some 70 year old guys are sitting around waiting to die others are vibrant and looking forward to doing things 10 – 15 years ahead. I hope that is what I’m doing.
By Tony Dean
On The Links