Doyle Bronson, Godfather of Poker, Las Vegas legend dies at 89

Doyle Brunson, widely considered the “godfather of poker,” died Sunday in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.

Nicknamed “Texas Dolly,” Brunson has won 10 World Poker Championships, including the Main Event in 1976 and 1977. His “Super System” has influenced a generation of poker players, and he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988.

Bronson’s agent, Brian Balspaugh, posted a statement on Twitter from the Bronson family. The cause of death has not been announced.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our father, Doyle Bronson. He was a beloved Christian man, husband, father and grandfather. We will 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.”

As he explains in his memoir, “The Godfather of Poker,” Brunson saw poker grow from illegal games in Texas backrooms, where players were often shunned by society, to national television broadcasts that made players, including Brunson, into celebrities.

Born August 10, 1933, he was raised on a farm without indoor plumbing in Longworth, Texas, where he was a standout athlete. He won the Texas Class 2A state championship in the mile in 1950 and was named to the 2A basketball all-state team.

Bronson attended Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and helped the basketball team reach the NCAA tournament in 1953 as a junior. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.

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Bronson was scouted by the Minneapolis Lakers, but fractured his leg while working a summer job, which ended his basketball career. Instead, Brunson went to graduate school and traveled to college towns across Texas on weekends to play poker.

After earning his master’s degree in business and education, Bronson took a job selling Burroughs machinery. While on his way, Brunson sat down at a game of poker in a back room of a pool hall.

“I cleared a month’s salary in less than three hours,” he wrote. “I didn’t need a Burroughs machine to tell me those numbers were useless. So I quit.”

Brunson played illegal poker games in Fort Worth, and teamed up with Texas road gamblers “Amarillo Slim” Preston and Bryan “Sailor” Roberts, as they traveled the state looking for the biggest poker games. After his cancer scare in 1963, Brunson used his poker winnings to pay his medical bills.

In 1972, Bronson ceded the WSOP Main Event title to Johnny Moss, as he believed the publicity would ruin his chances of playing in high-stakes cash games.

Bronson moved to Las Vegas in 1973 and earned his first WSOP 10 bracelet in 1976 when he won a $5,000 2-7 Lowball draw.

That same year, Bronson won the main event and repeated in 1977. He is one of four players to win the main event in consecutive years.

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Each time, Bronson’s winning hand is 10-2, and the holding combination is known as Doyle Bronson.

Bronson’s last WSOP win came in 2005 in the $5,000 No-Limit Six-Text Hold’em event. His ten bracelets were tied together in the second place in history.

“I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to truly understand the greatness of Doyle by sitting across the table from him,” professional poker player Phil Galfond wrote on Twitter. “Myth” seems insufficient. We have no word on what Doyle Bronson means in poker.”

Brunson announced his retirement from tournament poker in 2018 after finishing sixth in the WSOP No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw at $10,000.

He continued to play high-stakes cash games in Las Vegas, and in 2021, Bronson competed in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em Super Seniors and Main Event.

Bronson had planned to play in the 2022 $10K No Limit Hold’em World Main Event Championship, but opted to sit out after several players tested positive for COVID-19 during the series.

During his career, Bronson cashed in 37 WSOP tournaments for $3,038,079. He also won a World Poker Tour title in 2004 and has earned more than $6.1 million in live tournament winnings, according to the Hendon Mob Poker Database.

There will never be another Doyle Bronson,” six-time WSOP winner Daniel Negreanu said on Twitter. “…Saif is missed by many.”

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Bronson is survived by his wife, Louise, son Todd, and daughter, Pamela. Daughter Duela died in 1982.

Contact David Schoen at [email protected] or 702-387-5203. He follows @tweet on Twitter.

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