Think like a pro

I always say: to win like a pro you must think like a pro, to think like a pro you must know what a pro thinks 🙂 … and what can you learn if the pro is also a legend? Let’s discover Doyle Brunson.

Here is an article published today on the hosted google news and written by Tim Dahlberg, a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at if you like.

Poker legend Doyle Brunson comes from another era

Doyle Brunson Being a poker legend in Las Vegas at this time of year means having your picture taken with a lot of different people. A lot of them have the same question for Doyle Brunson just before the click of the camera.

“People ask, `Did you ever have your picture taken in the old days?'” Brunson says. “I said, `Yeah I did, but they usually fingerprinted me afterward.'”

Nobody’s looking to put Brunson behind bars these days. Quite the opposite.

He’s poker royalty at a time when poker defies economic chaos and keeps booming. He’s also somewhat of a poker conglomerate, with his own poker web site, a couple of how-to books, and even a virtual casino.

He was a star before television ever discovered the game, winning back-to-back World Series of Poker titles in the 1970s. He’s also one of the last remaining links to the roots of Texas Hold ‘Em as the 40th WSOP gets underway just off the Vegas Strip.

Most of all, though, the 75-year-old who got his start hustling cards in towns across Texas, is still a player.

He used to play against guys with nicknames like “The Mouth,” “Z-Man” and “The Owl.” Today, a game at the Bellagio poker room on a weeknight in Las Vegas might include a hometown champion who learned to play on a computer wanting to try his luck against one of best who ever played.

It doesn’t come cheap. Bring $100,000 to the table or don’t bother to show up.

The big target on the back of his shirt comes with a big price tag.

“Anybody that can afford to play can get in, and there’s always someone who wants to come out and play against the big guys,” Brunson said. “As a rule they lose, but occasionally a guy comes along with real stuff and he sticks around.”

If he does, Brunson might have himself partly to blame. He let the world in on some of the secrets of professional poker players with his “Super System” book in 1978 that continues to be the industry Bible.

But even he couldn’t imagine what has become of the game he once played in the back rooms in dusty towns with one eye out for the cops and the other out for the mob. Or what would happen to the WSOP, which began with Brunson taking one of nine seats at the table at Binion’s Horseshoe Club in 1970.

That was a cash game, and the players had to vote among each other who was the champion. Now it’s the biggest game in the world, with the Texas Hold ‘Em final at the Rio Hotel-Casino expected to draw thousands of poker players eager to ante up $10,000 for a shot at both wealth and fame.

“Nobody had any idea it could happen like this,” Brunson said. “The media and Internet woke everybody up to the fact poker is the greatest game in the world. But I found that out 50 years ago.”

Now that everyone knows, Brunson admits his chances of adding a third bracelet to his trophy case are slim. There’s too many players, too many gunslingers who will engage in hands they probably shouldn’t just to be able to tell friends they knocked Texas Dolly from the tournament.

Last year a 22-year-old from Denmark bested the field of 6,844 players to win $9.15 million in the final. By the end of the first day of play, Brunson was already through.

“That’s poker, anybody can win during a short period of time,” Brunson said. “Over an extended period of time, though, the best player wins.”

That, more often than not, has been Brunson, who got his master’s in education before deciding that the bankroll of a teacher wasn’t for him. While players today cut their teeth online or by watching poker on TV, he learned by traveling the circuit, playing ranchers and bankers for their money in illegal games in Texas.

He was robbed five times, part of the price of doing business. He couldn’t go to authorities, though sometimes they came to him.

“In some places it was like a way of raising money,” Brunson recalled. “They would raid the game and take us to the station where we’d give them false names, pay a 25 dollar fine, and be on our way.”

He’s won more millions and lost more millions over the years than he can count, but money was always just a way to keep score. It’s always been nice to have, but Brunson realized early that the minute he started worrying about losing money he might as well toss his cards in and walk away.

Now, everything has changed in poker except the game itself. Where players once hid from sight, they now play to the cameras. When someone comes barging up to the table now, it’s the cocktail waitress, not the cops.

Brunson embraces the changes just as he keeps alive the past. He’s had a good run, but there’s always another game to play.

“There is,” he says, “no life as good as the life of a poker player.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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