Brunson was the first player to earn $1 million in poker tournaments and has won ten WSOP bracelets throughout his career, tied with Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey for second all-time, behind Phil Hellmuth's fourteen bracelets. He is also one of only four players to have won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker multiple times, which he did in 1976 and 1977. He is also one of only two players, along with Bill Boyd, to have won WSOP tournaments in four consecutive years. In addition, he is the first of five players to win both the WSOP Main Event and a World Poker Tour title. In January 2006, Bluff Magazine voted Brunson the most influential force in the world of poker.
Brunson was born in Longworth, Fisher County, Texas, one of three children. He was part of the All-State Texas basketball team. In the 1950 Texas Interscholastic Track Meet, he won the one-mile event with a time of 4:43. Despite receiving offers from many colleges, he attended Hardin–Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.
The Minneapolis Lakers showed interest in Brunson but a knee injury ended his hopes of becoming a professional basketball player. He still occasionally requires a crutch because of the injury. Brunson earned a bachelor's degree in 1954 and a master's degree in administrative education the following year.
Brunson had begun playing poker before his injury, playing five-card draw. He played more often after being injured and his winnings paid for his expenses. After graduating, he took a job as a business machines salesman. On his first day, he was invited to play in a seven-card stud game and earned over a month's salary. He soon left the company and became a professional poker player.
Brunson started off by playing in illegal games on Exchange Street in Fort Worth with friend Dwayne Hamilton. Eventually, they began traveling around Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, playing in bigger games, and meeting fellow professionals Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts. The illegal games Brunson played in during this time were usually run by criminals who were often members of organized crime, so rules were not always enforced. Brunson has admitted to having a gun pulled on him several times and that he was robbed and beaten.
Hamilton moved back to Fort Worth, while the others teamed up and travelled around together, gambling on poker, golf and, in Doyle's words, "just about everything." They pooled their money for gambling and after six years, they made their first serious trip to Las Vegas and lost all of it, a six-figure amount. They decided to stop playing as partners, but remained friends.
Brunson finally settled in Las Vegas. He has been a regular player at the World Series of Poker since its inception in 1970, playing in the Main Event nearly every year since then, in addition to many of the other preceding bracelet-awarding events. He made some WSOP championship event final tables before his back-to-back wins, but since this was when the event was winner-take-all, they are not counted as cashes. Besides his two championship wins in 1976 and 1977, Brunson's other Main Event cashes are: 1972 (3rd), 1980 (runner-up to three-time champion Stu Ungar), 1982 (4th), 1983 (3rd), 1997 (16th), 2004 (53rd) and 2013 (409th).
Brunson authored Super/System, which is widely considered to be one of the most authoritative books on poker. Originally self-published in 1978, Super/System was the book credited with transforming poker by giving ordinary players insight into the way that professionals such as Brunson played and won, so much so that Brunson believes that it cost him a lot of money. An updated revision, Super/System 2, was published in 2004. Besides Brunson, several top poker players contributed chapters to Super/System including Bobby Baldwin, Mike Caro, David Sklansky, Chip Reese, and Joey Hawthorne. The book is subtitled "How I made one million dollars playing poker," by Doyle Brunson. Brunson is also the author of Poker Wisdom of a Champion, originally published as According to Doyle by Lyle Stuart in 1984.
Brunson continues to play in the biggest poker games in the world, including a $4,000/$8,000 limit mixed poker game in "Bobby's Room" at the Bellagio. He also plays in many of the biggest poker tournaments around the world. He won his ninth gold bracelet in a mixed games event in 2003, and in 2004, he finished 53rd (in a field of 2,576) in the No Limit Texas hold 'em Championship event. He won the Legends of Poker World Poker Tour (WPT) event in 2004 (garnering him a $1.1 million prize) and finished fourth in the WPT's first championship event. Early in the morning on July 1, 2005, less than a week after Chan had won his 10th gold bracelet (presented to each WSOP tournament winner) - setting a new record - Brunson tied him at the 2005 World Series of Poker. He is currently four bracelets behind Phil Hellmuth, who earned his 14th bracelet at the 2015 World Series of Poker. He reached the money in the 2013 World Series of Poker $10,000 No Limit Hold'em Championship event, marking the fifth decade he has cashed in the event.
As of 2017, his total live tournament winnings exceed $6,100,000. He has totaled $2,994,116 in earnings from his 36 cashes at the WSOP.
Brunson has two Texas hold'em hands named after him. The holding of ten-deuce bears his name because he won the No Limit Hold 'Em event at the World Series of Poker two years in a row with a ten and a two (1976 and 1977), in both cases completing a full house. In both 1976 and 1977, he was an underdog in the final hand. The other hand known as a "Doyle Brunson", especially in Texas, is the ace and queen of any suit because, as he says on page 519 of Super/System, he "never plays this hand." He changed his wording in Super/System 2, however, noting that he "tries to never play this hand."
Brunson met his future wife, Louise, in 1959 and married her in August 1962. Louise became pregnant, but later that year, a tumor was discovered in Doyle's neck. When it was operated on, the surgeons found that the cancer had spread. They felt that an operation would prolong his life long enough for him to see the birth of the baby, so they went ahead with it. After the operation, no trace of the cancer could be found.
Brunson has attributed his cure to the prayers of friends of his wife and their correspondence with Kathryn Kuhlman, a self-proclaimed Christian faith healer. Louise developed a tumor shortly afterwards and, when she went for surgery, her tumor was also found to have disappeared. In 1975, their daughter Doyla was diagnosed with scoliosis, yet her spine straightened completely within three months. Doyla died at 18 of a heart-valve condition.
His son, Todd, also plays poker professionally. Todd has won a bracelet in Omaha Hi-Lo at the 2005 World Series of Poker, making Doyle and Todd the first father-son combination to win World Series bracelets. His daughter Pamela played in the 2007 World Series of Poker and 2009 World Series of Poker Main Events, outlasting both Doyle and Todd both times.
On December 14, 2005, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed an action to enforce subpoenas issued to the attorneys of Doyle Brunson regarding his unsolicited offer in July 2005 to buy WPT Enterprises, Inc., the publicly traded owner of the World Poker Tour, at a high premium over its then-market value. Shortly thereafter, the Commission contends, a public relations firm Brunson hired, and a website he endorses, publicly announced the offer. The Commission asserts that publication of this offer, widely covered in the media, triggered a steep rise in WPT's stock price on record trading volume. When pressed for details, Brunson and his lawyers immediately stopped responding to the WPT and the media. Instead, after delivering the offer, Brunson withdrew from the engagement. When the WPT publicly disclosed Brunson and his law firm's unresponsiveness, its stock price sharply declined, costing investors tens of millions of dollars in lost market value. The offer eventually expired by its terms.
The SEC is formally investigating whether Brunson's offer and its publication violated federal securities laws, including the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. As part of its investigation, the SEC subpoenaed documents and testimony from Brunson's lawyers. However, Brunson, who has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify in the investigation, directed his lawyers to withhold certain documents and not to testify on critical aspects of the offer, under the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine. The subpoena enforcement action seeks to set aside these privileges on various legal grounds, including the crime-fraud exception, and to compel Brunson's firm to provide the requested documents and testimony. The court has not yet set the Commission's action for hearing.
The case was dropped by the SEC in 2007.
Doyles Room was an online poker room founded in 2004. Originally on the Tribeca Poker Network (now part of the Playtech iPoker network), Doyles Room moved to the Microgaming (Prima) Poker Network in 2007, then to the Cake Poker Network in January 2009, and most recently to the Yatahay Network in January 2011. On May 26, 2011, Doyles Room was seized in accordance with an investigation into the violation of online gambling laws. Following the events of April 15, Brunson cut ties with Doyles Room. In October 2011, Doyles Room was acquired by Americas Cardroom.