Pro poker legend Doyle Brunson – Dallas Sports Nation


When you think of the great contenders from Texas – the legendary Cowboys football players, the basketball stars modern Mavericks, and so on – poker players don’t usually come to mind.
Of course, part of that is because poker isn’t exactly a sport.

But over time it has evolved into a spectator competition that is at least on the fringes of the world of sport. And when you look at it that way, it’s only fair to include Doyle Brunson’s name in the pantheon of top Texas competitors.

Not for nothing, Brunson has been an athlete in the traditional sense! In his early days, he was a track star in the now unincorporated territory of Longworth – by no means in the immediate Dallas area, although closer to Dallas than any other major metropolitan area. He ran a mile under five minutes competitively in 1950, but then turned his full attention to basketball, where he was a star. Brunson was a wanted rookie who ended up playing for Hardin-Simmons University (again a Division III athletic school in Abilene), and his college statistics are in fact still available online! Brunson made enough of an impression during the 1952-53 season to catch the attention of the Minneapolis Lakers.


Whether or not Brunson made a career in professional basketball, we’re never going to go. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious knee injury and ended his career after just two college seasons.

Lucky for him and the professional poker world, Brunson had already started dabbling in cards by then.


Photo: Robert Hanashiro / USA Today

Be careful, it was a very different time. Today people can download an app or play poker online when looking to get into gambling. There are options for both casual and real money gambling, and the only risk you should try is losing money in the games. When Doyle Brunson started to get more serious about his poker, he was essentially engaged in an illegal activity. There was crime surrounding the poker culture, and some of Brunson’s friends ended up on the wrong side. Nonetheless, he thrived at the tables when he played, and the game eventually took him on a trip to Las Vegas (perhaps to escape the Texas poker scene without giving up the game altogether).

Relocated to Vegas, Doyle Brunson quickly established himself as a force in professional poker, where he would become the ultimate player. Brunson competed in the first edition of the World Series Of Poker in 1970 and won the Main Event twice in a row in 1976 and 1977. Together they are considered to be among the biggest wins in poker history. They even took part in the game appointed for Brunson. Because both wins started with Brunson receiving a 10 and a 2, this card combination is known in poker circles as “The Brunson Hand”.


Those consecutive wins represent the peak of Brunson’s career, but he continued to play for decades – until he poker retiree at 85, just a few years ago.

He entered the WSOP alongside his son, won $ 43,963 in his last event, and left the Rio Convention Center in Las Vegas on an electric scooter.


Doyle Brunson may not be from the Dallas heart and he may not have ended up playing a major professional sport.
But the once promising athlete is a true poker legend and one of the greatest contenders to ever come out of the states of Texas.

Featured Image: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

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