Doyle Brunson Interview

Doyle Brunson Interview

Monday, 12 May 2014

Continuing our 100th issue celebrations, we seek out another timeless poker legend for a quick chat: Doyle ‘Texas Dolly’ Brunson. So what’s really changed in poker over the years? The Godfather of Poker gives us his thoughts.

On... Poker, Then and Now
In 2014, we may have the luxury of being able to walk into any casino cash game and expect to get a seat. When we win money off someone, we can cash out with ease without worrying that things will turn ugly and they’ll refuse to cough up. We certainly don’t have to be concerned about the chance of attack; the casino security staff take care of that. But things were very different for poker players fifty years ago.

“It was very, very dangerous [back in the Sixties],” remembers Doyle. “There was a problem with getting robbed, being cheated, and being arrested. The risk of any of that happening these days are very minimal.”
Nowadays, however, public perception isn’t the same. “It has changed because of the media explosion. People watch it on TV and accept it as a true profession.

Today, there are many more good players because of the internet, the poker books, and the opportunities to play. Cash games are fewer than 10 years ago, even though I still feel that is where the really great players make their mark.”

Brunson Interview 3

On... Being an Older Player

We’ve all been there: playing a tournament, and unconsciously making a snap-judgement when sitting down with an older player. But dare to do it against Doyle, and it might be the last mistake you make. “I think people underestimate me a lot,” Doyle says with a wry smile. “Even though the players give me a lot of respect, they think I can't play up to their standards. Usually a poker player's skills diminish as he gets older. Most players start downhill somewhere in their 50's. I'm exceedingly fortunate because even though I have lost a step or two, I can still more than hold my own with the youngsters. I can still count, so I know I win a lot more than I lose! I don't play many tournaments, so people don't hear that much about me, but I still play in the biggest cash games I can find.”

On... Being Hollywood Inspiration

Today, many young players seem to follow the same path into poker: multi-table online while at university, calculatedly realise how much money can be made from playing cards for a living, then drop out to play full time. It’s hardly an inspiring narrative. Doyle, in comparison, has led a life almost made for film; to list a few, he has miraculously survived cancer, escaped armed robberies, and won and lost millions, and that’s just for starters. However, he is keen to avoid his character being warped on the big screen. “I have been approached by producers who wanted to make a film of my life, but they wanted complete control,” says Doyle dismissively. “I won't have my life portrayed as a gangster or a cheat as the characters in the film Rounders suggested. If it happens in my lifetime, I want to be able to edit it. There is enough truth about my adventures without making up untrue stories.”

Brunson Interview 2

On... Poker Etiquette

Trash talk has risen through the last decade in poker, some touting it as an art form, others as contemptible rudeness – and it’s pretty clear which side of the fence Doyle sits on. “I think it is an absolute disgrace the way some of today's players act,” Doyle utters strongly. “You should never try to be vocal towards another player. These things usually happen in television events and guys are trying to get ‘TV time’. In the old days if you violated your word or promise, you were taking a chance of being asked not to play or worse, unable to borrow money if you got broke.”

On... The Path to Success

In his youth, Doyle was an outstanding athlete. So good, in fact, that he was almost certainly on the road to a promising career in professional basketball. Unfortunately, a freak leg injury put paid to his sporting dreams, but arguably his athletic background set him up for success in poker. “Yes, I have always thought the characteristics for athletes and poker players are similar,” Doyle says thoughtfully.

“The discipline, dedication, concentration, etc are required for both. Mostly though, you have to adjust to whatever style your opponent plays. That is the key to poker.”

However, the biggest thing he’s learned over the years of being a gambler isn’t the secret strategy tip you might expect. “You have to be appreciative. You have to realize that the important things in life are not always at the poker table.”

Tags: Doyle Brunson, Interviews