A Tale of 2-7: Doyle Brunson Announces Retirement, Then Dominates Tough Field in WSOP Farewell

June 12th, 2018 by Jon Sofen

Doyle Brunson announced his coming retirement on Monday, then headed to the World Series of Poker at the Rio to late-register for what could be the final tournament of his storied career.

Doyle Brunson 2-7 Lowball

Doyle Brunson sizes up his WSOP competition in $10k NL 2-7 Lowball Draw, a tournament that very well could be his last. (Image: Jon Sofen/CardsChat News)

It was Day Two of $10,000 no-limit 2-7 lowball draw, and with registration still open, his son Todd convinced him to get in on the action. He would be one of the last of 95 people to enter this WSOP event, and from there proceeded to lay waste to his opponents as they crossed his path and growing chip stack.

Quentin Tarantino or Aaron Sorkin couldn’t write a better script. This real-life movie — we’ll call it “The Godfather of Poker” — had all the makings for an Academy Award-winning flick.

It had drama, with Doyle announcing his retirement to spend his remaining days with his ailing wife, Louise. It had action, with head-to-head clashes against some of the game’s best. It featured a superstar cast of characters, including Todd Brunson, Erik Seidel, Mike Matusow, and other poker legends.

Opening Scene

Two months from his 85th birthday, Doyle announced on Twitter Monday morning that he was “going to the Rio” to play in the 2-7 lowball tournament and that it will “probably be the last one I’ll ever play.” Upon arriving, he told Poker Central that he planned on retiring from poker “after the summer.”

It’s been known for quite some time that Brunson’s wife, Louise, has been ill. But few knew just how sick his partner of 57 years had become.

“I feel guilty when I leave the house to play poker,” Texas Dolly told CardsChat.

“It’s been a great career but I want to spend my remaining time or hers with my wife,” the living poker legend said.

Tournament Story

Before he calls it a career, Doyle decided to take one last shot at an eleventh WSOP bracelet in the game he enjoys the most, 2-7 lowball draw. But there was another reason he chose this specific event.

“I told him this was the only one he could come in on Day Two and it would probably be a short day and then he just has to play tomorrow,” his son Todd Brunson, who also advanced to Day Three, told CardsChat during a break.

At age 84 and with a sick wife at home, Doyle sought a “goodbye to the WSOP” event that wouldn’t require him to play three long days. This, Todd determined, was his best option.

But will it actually be his final tournament?

“I hope not,” Todd said.

Doyle Brunson Todd Brunson

With his son Todd behind him, Doyle Brunson is ready to step away from the table at the 2018 WSOP. (Image: Jon Sofen/CardsChat News)

Plot Thickens

When Doyle took his seat inside the Amazon room at the Rio on Monday, a crowd hovered around his table. Poker fans took pictures of the Texas poker legend and caught a glimpse of what is likely going to be his final act.

But no one could have envisioned how that final act would play out. Almost from the moment he sat down, he started stacking chips…slowly, as you’d expect from an 84-year-old man riding in on a motorized scooter. His 50,000-chip starting stack quickly grew to 400,000, putting him in the chip lead long before the dinner break.

He sent Cary Katz and Nick Schulman packing early in the session, well before the money bubble burst. Soon after, he lost half his stack to recent bracelet winner Paul Volpe and was showing physical signs of fatigue. It appeared the incredible run might soon be coming to an end.

But this is Doyle Brunson we’re talking about. He’s the Godfather of Poker. Even though he hasn’t competed in a WSOP event, or any tournament for that matter, for a few years, he hasn’t forgotten how to play.

WSOP Event #23: $10,000 NL 2-7 Lowball Draw
Chip Leaders

1 Mike Wattel (USA) 1,293,000
2 Shawn Sheikhan (USA) 645,500
3 Galen Hall (USA) 517,000
4 Brian Rast (USA) 477,000
5 Doyle Brunson (USA) 470,500

*Todd Brunson will start Day Three with 185,000 in 9th chip position with 11 players remaining.

Within minutes, he rebuilt his stack and regained the chip lead. Players started dropping like flies and Doyle was closing in on his 37th career WSOP cash, perhaps his most improbable one. After Paul Kruse was eliminated on the bubble, Texas Dolly was officially in the money, an accomplishment few expected.

Once the tournament was down to its final 11 players, with Brunson sitting pretty at 5th in chips, the players agreed to call it an early night to allow Doyle to get some rest and prepare for Tuesday’s final day.

Doyle will come back to the Rio for Day Three along with his son, John Hennigan, Brian Rast, Shawn Sheikhan, and six other bracelet hopefuls.

Superstar Cameos

Most great flicks feature a star-studded cast of characters, and this one was no different. Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, and other poker legends stopped by during the session to congratulate Doyle on an impressive career and to reflect on how much he’s meant to the game.

“He’s meant everything to me,” Matusow told CardsChat. “I love him and his family. I owe them the world. I heard he was retiring and thought maybe he was just getting sick of grinding against these players, but he told me the wife was getting sick. I thought she was getting better but she’s getting really sick.”

Mike isn’t completely convinced Doyle’s poker career will conclude after the summer, however.

“He’s going to spend time with her,” he said of Brunson’s wife. “But I think he’ll get back to playing. We’ll see.”

“Doyle gave me advice once I wish I never listened to, but it was good advice,” Matusow said.

“What’s that?” CardsChat asked.

“In 2002, I was like the best player in the world. I was just crushing everybody. I had never played higher than $200/$400 and had built a huge bankroll and Doyle goes to me, ‘Mike, it’s fun to win everyday, right? You’ve got to play a little higher. You got to play when you lose, you feel it and it f*cking hurts,'” Matusow recalled. “At the time, I was pretty new to poker so I looked up to Doyle. So, I said, ‘alright,’ and jumped in the $400/$800 game and lost like three-quarters of my bankroll. I’m on f*cking tilt.” 

Erik Seidel, who busted short of the money on Monday and has battled against Doyle numerous times over the years in the highest stakes cash games and tournaments, told CardsChat he was “surprised to see” his peer retiring.

“It’s really nice to see him play,” Seidel said. “He is a very important part of poker history. He and Chip (Reese) were the greatest players in the game for many years. He’s the last of a great breed.”

Final Act?

The screenwriter hasn’t released the content for the remainder of the final act, but will do so on the PokerGo livestream beginning at 3 pm PT. Poker fans can watch what very well could be the final session of Doyle Brunson’s tournament poker career.

Ali Nejad and Phil Galfond will provide commentary.

If Brunson takes down the bracelet, he escapes a three-way tie with Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey for 2nd place all-time with 10 WSOP titles. Phil Hellmuth is the record holder with 14.

But no matter what happens, no matter how this $10,000 no-limit 2-7 lowball draw tournament finishes, everyone watching will know … it always was and always will be Doyle’s game.

5 Responses to “A Tale of 2-7: Doyle Brunson Announces Retirement, Then Dominates Tough Field in WSOP Farewell”

  1. Pablo22 says:

    Good luck Doyle. An 11th bracelet would be the prefect end to a great poker career.

  2. Bnad says:

    I really hope he ships it. I guess I’m going to have to subscribe to pokergo. I feel like I’m missing so much action!

  3. icnbe56 says:

    Doyle has always been a favorite of mine , he represents everything that poker players should be , he always is polite, respects the game and other players. He is a true ambassador of the game .
    I wish him well and hope his wife gets better and they can enjoy a long time yet together . If he gets out to play poker again – hopefully his wife will be well and be there to see him play.
    I can only wish the best for both of them no matter what they do together.

  4. vovqa93 says:

    I love Todd’s words, his answer to a question about his father, Doyle. And I hope they will enjoy playing together for a long time, respect Brunson’s.

  5. joeisi says:

    Sad to see one of the true legends in Poker hang it up. He will be missed but he will forever be immortalized in the game of Texas Holdem as 102 will forever be known as the Doyle.

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