Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Usain Bolt. What do these athletes have in common? They are all widely considered the greatest athletes in their sports, the GOAT as many would call them (Greatest of All Time). It’s a solemn day in the poker world, as the man who is widely considered the GOAT of poker, Doyle Brunson, has passed away at age 89 after battling a number of health issues. The news was announced on Twitter by Brian Balsburgh.

Brunson has been a poker legend since the 1970s when he won the WSOP Main Event in back-to-back years in 1976 and 1977. In fact, Brunson’s first six cashes were all at the WSOP and were all first-place finishes, with the exception of a 3rd place showing at the 1972 Main Event. Overall, Brunson had 10 WSOP bracelets to his name, still good for second of all time with Phil Ivey and Johnny Chan, only behind the 16 bracelets of Phil Hellmuth. His 10 bracelets can be seen below.

Brunson is so famous that he has a hand named after him, and it’s a rather inconspicuous 10-2 offsuit. This is named “The Doyle Brunson” because it is the hand that he won both of his WSOP Main Event titles with. Brunson has said before that this hand made him so much money over the years because high-stakes pros and amateurs alike love to try to bluff him when they are holding that hand. He’s also famous for writing the books Super System 1 and 2, often considered “the poker bibles” by many.

Brunson was still a massive star when poker started to boom in 2003 after Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event. Brunson was a key fixture on the show High Stakes Poker, and was still competing with the best in the world on the tournament circuit, winning his only WPT title in 2004 at the Legends of Poker for nearly $1,200,000. Overall, Brunson won nearly $6,200,000 in live tournaments and likely won multiples of that in cash games throughout his storied career.

Tributes immediately came pouring in from poker’s biggest names, honoring the fallen legend in a way that he very much deserved.

Daniel Negreanu

Phil Galfond

Liv Boeree

Jen Harman

Matt Savage

While Doyle Brunson still occasionally played at Bobby’s Room and other cash games in recent years, he had not played at the WSOP in a few years. His last live tournament score came in 2018 when he finished 6th in the $10,000 2-7 Lowball Event for $44,000. As PokerGO commentator Jeff Platt pointed out, he did not retire from the WSOP because he wasn’t good enough at poker anymore. It was because family was always the most important thing in Brunson’s life.

The poker legend was born in 1933 in Longworth, Texas, and he was survived by his wife Louise, and his children Todd Brunson, a poker Hall of Famer in his own right, and Pamela Brunson. Brunson was an elite athlete in high school, but he blew out his knee and was forced to fuel his competitive fire in another way. That is how he found poker, and the rest of the poker world is grateful for that because Brunson left a legacy unlike anyone else can in the poker world.


Photo Credit: Drew Amato