Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, Guru of Poker Revival, Dies at 89

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tags: cultural history, gambling, Poker

Doyle Brunson, a champion poker player who, in a long, lucrative and colorful career with a deck of cards, won 10 World Series of Poker events, including two back-to-back titles, and influenced countless players with his definitive guide to Texas hold ’em and other games, died on Sunday in Las Vegas. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by his daughter-in-law, Anjela Brunson.

On his website, Mr. Brunson was once immodestly described as “the Babe Ruth, the Michael Jordan, and the Arnold Palmer of poker.”

The comparisons were apt. The first person to win $1 million in tournament play, Mr. Brunson — nicknamed Texas Dolly — became a star to a new generation when poker became a fixture on television in the 1990s, his cowboy hat and no-nonsense drawl a gentlemanly foil to brash, talkative younger players.

“The testosterone that floods most of today’s games owes its existence to Brunson’s philosophy of attack, the outlaw whiff of his style, the cowboy jingle-jangle of his prose,” Sports Illustrated wrote in 2005.

Mr. Brunson, whose career in poker began in illegal games in the back rooms of Texas bars, won the World Series of Poker main event, the sport’s most coveted prize, in 1976 and 1977. His total tournament winnings exceeded $6 million.

Since the 1960s, he had presided over a high-stakes private cash game in Las Vegas known as “The Big Game,” reserved for the most fearless and well-financed poker players as well as wealthy amateurs.

Mr. Brunson “bridges the span between the dangerous road games of the 1950s and the safely legitimate mountains of money in the 21st century,” the poker journalist James McManus wrote in “Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker” (2009).

When Mr. Brunson won the World Series of Poker main event, he wrote that people thought of him more as a professional gambler than a poker player. He acknowledged that he had made millions and lost much of it early on betting on other sports, especially golf.

But he became famous for winning at poker and then teaching it, especially no-limit Texas hold ’em, a variation of the game that he first played in 1958, when it was becoming popular in his home state.

Read entire article at New York Times