Not only those in the poker world are mourning the loss of Doyle Brunson. “Texas Dolly” has been part of the popular conciseness since winning his first two World Series of Poker titles in the 70s, publishing his best-selling “Super/System,” TV appearances, as Mikey’s unseen hero in “Rounders,” and profiles about his golf and poker habits in Sports Illustrated.
As one of the few poker players who broke though to the mainstream, news of his death was shared not only by every website and magazine that covers the sport of poker, but also by media giants like Yahoo, CBS News, the New York Times, and The Today Show.
Here are how some of these organizations covered the death of a legend.
New York Times
The New York Times gave Brunson’s obituary assignment to its Senior Editor Kathleen McElroy, who began a long, biographic obituary with:
“Doyle Brunson, a champion poker player who, in a long, lucrative and colorful career with a deck of cards, won 10 World Series of Poker events, including two back-to-back titles, and influenced countless players with his definitive guide to Texas hold ’em and other games, has died at 89.”
The New York Times has published obituaries of poker stars and industry leaders in the past, including Henry Orenstein’s in 2019, Amarillo Slim’s in 2012, Chip Reese’s in 2007, and Stu Ungar’s in 1998.
“Mr. Brunson thought that his legacy would be ‘the fact that I’ve played longer at the high levels than anybody else ever did,’ he said in 2003. ‘I mean, I’ve been playing at the high levels — the biggest games I could find — ever since I was 23 years old,’” McElroy wrote.
The Associated Press, a major news service that provides daily newspapers and TV news stations with articles, flooded the country with a generic and brief obituary that included quotes from Tweets by Scotty Nguyen and James Woods.
It’s a shame this write-up will appear in countless newspapers around the globe (like my local Tribune-Review) and be seen by millions. It’s a whiff by Mark Anderson, who actually lives in Las Vegas. It feels rushed and probably was.
The Today Show
NBC’s Today Show had a 30-second segment about Brunson passing away May 14. Savanah Gutherie told its 2.6-million viewers about how Brunson went from growing up on a farm, to earning a master’s degree in business, all the while navigating high stakes poker competition.
Co-host Craig Melvin chimed in, hammering home that Brunson was a giant.
CNN and Fox
Fox News beat CNN to the punch by an hour with a headline-screaming in 24-pt. “Poker Legend Doyle Brunson Dead at 89,” but it was just an uncredited copy of the AP obituary.
CNN took an extra hour to do a little better, but regurgitated the AP story and added a few Twitter reactions from Daniel Negreanu and the World Poker Tour.
Jason Owens, a sports writers for Yahoo Sports, pulled together a detailed, factual, and well-written obituary published hours after news broke. It’s obvious that Owens realized just how important Brunson was to a lot of people and included many Twitter reactions from poker superstars.
The Guardian took the AP’s report and filled it out, letting Brunson speak for himself by using pieces of an interview he did with the UK-based media giant and elsewhere.
“The two most important things are a good sense of recall and a good understanding of people,” Brunson said when asked about the secret to success in poker. “You have to have a sixth sense, a kind of gut feeling that tells you what the other guy’s holding. That’s probably the thing that all the greats share.”
New York Post
The New York Post sensationalized Brunson’s death with the headline “Poker player Doyle Brunson spent part of his $75M fortune looking for Noah’s Ark,” but the feature obituary is long and well-written with recent quotes gathered by writer Michael Kaplan, the senior news feature writer there.
“He was just smarter than everyone else,” high-stakes poker player Ben Lamb told The Post. “He was good at being very likable when taking your money.”
The article focused on Brunson’s business and investment career outside of poker, one that had some flops, like the millions he spent looking for both the Titanic and Noah’s Ark. Highlights include quotes from Brunson, which the author collected within the last six years:
“We invested in going to look for the Titanic, which we almost found before running out of money. Then we put up cash to find Noah’s Ark. They sent an expedition to Turkey. They supposedly got up the boat and sent back a piece of it. They gave it to Chip and I,” Brunson told me years ago about himself and poker pro Chip Reese, his sometime business partner. “What happened with it, I have no idea.”
“Then we got involved with a Christian television station, through a guy in Mobile, Alabama. We just couldn’t get away from him. I remember a thing called ChewBrush that we invested in. You chew on it, like gum, and supposedly it brushes your teeth. That didn’t work out.”
Even long-time fans of Brunson should find some new information and tidbits in Kaplan’s piece.
The Washington Post gave the task to write about Brunson to staffer Michael Rosenwald, an enterprise reporter writing about history, the social sciences, and culture. This paper played up Brunson’s colorful past barnstorming from town to town carrying a pistol in his pocket with the headline “Doyle Brunson, pistol-carrying poker legend who won millions, dies at 89.”
The piece is a nice summary of Brunson’s life and will give someone who wasn’t aware of his arc a very good and generous introduction to the man those who loved called Dolly.
NPR did a radio report about Brunson as part of its “top of the hour” news show. A brief obituary also appeared on National Public Radio’s site, highlighting Phil Hellmuth’s praise of Brunson’s “grit and style.”
The article was repeated across some of NPR’s regional markets, like Wisconsin. Writer Jose Hernandez allowed Hellmuth to have the last word in his piece, and I’ll join him:
“Doyle was married to the love of his life, Louise, for 62 years. Goodbye—and rest in peace—to the most beloved poker player in history.”