It’s not just another Sunday at the World Series of Poker. On this day, Doyle Brunson cards will no longer be honored. That’s why hundreds of friends and family from the Godfather of Poker flocked to the Horseshoe Jubilee Theater for a “Celebration of Life” honoring the famous Texas Dolly. Brunson died in mid-May, and although the family had held a private ceremony, a memorial service for Doyle was quickly organized under the direction of his longtime manager, Brian Balsbaugh up.
Ceremony well received The hour-long ceremony was attended by poker professionals and industry titans at the WSOP in Las Vegas. The celebration continued throughout Brunson’s life, the winner of 10 World Series bracelets, a WPT champion and a star in cash games, including televised games. Brunson is the author of several books, including The Poker System, which is considered the bible.
Meanwhile, a documentary about Brunson’s life is in the works by poker pro and filmmaker Justin BoostedJ Smith. Excerpts from the documentary were also shown at the festivities at the Horseshoe Theatre.
Balsbaugh’s welcome to the celebration-goers included some of his own recollections of working with some of the biggest names in gaming. “I think he wants people to remember him as the guy who set the standard by which all future poker players will be judged,” Balsbaugh told attendees. Balsbow also gave a special thank you to Jack Binyon, one of the many celebrities in attendance.
Balsbow then passed the microphone to several prominent professionals and celebrities who shared some of their fondest memories of spending time with Brunson. Whether it’s on the table, on the golf course, or at other events. Dewey Tomko, Mori Eskandani, Gabe Kaplan, Lyle Berman, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and Doyle’s son Todd Brunson spoke for a few minutes, interspersed with two sessions hosted by the World Poker Tour and Balsbaugh’s Poker. A short video tribute was produced by an authorized agency.
The first to greet Brunson was his longtime poker and golf friend Dewey Tomko, who recounted how Doyle and his wife Louise helped Build it to clean water wells helped Africa earn sponsorship bonuses of $1,500 each. Some fountains are named after famous poker figures, so people take water from Brunson’s fountain or Binion’s fountain or even Tomko’s fountain, although Tomko has nothing to do with it.
Next is PokerGO President Mori Eskandani, another longtime friend of Brunson’s. “We didn’t lose the legend, what we lost was the legend,” Escandani told the party. Eskandani described filming the commercial starring Brunson, in which the rest of the cast stood on a 10-foot platform in front of a nautical backdrop. The rest of the cast climbed onto the platform via ladders, but Escandani arranged for a separate chair for Brunson — who suffered a leg problem after an accident on the job — and planned to film him in front of a green screen , and edit him into the shot. Brunson didn’t want it all. He rose from his chair, threw his cane aside, and climbed up the ladder to join the others.
Next up is actor and commentator Gabe Kaplan. “We’re here to celebrate his life, his legacy, his wit, his charisma, ‘Big Daddy.’ There’s never been anyone like him. And there will never be another like him. When you know you love him. If you know him well, you know he has a not-so-lovable side. I saw this page in particular. You’re trying to score on the first tee of a golf game. I’m not saying this guy is a tough negotiator, but if he was a hostage negotiator, a lot of people would die,” he interjected humorously.
Other Speaking from a turnaround was Hellmuth, who was just hours away from winning the No. 17 WSOP bracelet. The poker kid told the crowd that Doyle was “like an oasis” for him , a comforting presence in the vast ocean of poker. Then he changed the subject, telling how Brunson Hellmuth continued to cheat in pots for decades, even at the age of 89. “I’ll miss you,” Helms said in memory of Brunson. “But I’m not sure I’ll miss you cheating on me.
Daniel Negreanu also focused on Brunson’s unrivaled stamina. “For someone like Doyle to be able to do that, year after year, and not only go on to play the biggest games, but to win them, I think we can all admire and aspire .You know, when you think about the Poker Hall of Fame, I think one of the key aspects that Doyle has been emphasizing that von Dewey mentioned is standing the test of time. He’s the barometer.”
Gabe Kaplan had some great stories at Doyle Brunson’s celebration! ♣️♥️🖤 @Kevmath @ToddBrunson @TexDolly @LasVegasLocally pic.twitter.com /HpC44plxdM
– HippyLandscaperGuy 💚🤍 (@HippyPokerGuy) July 2, 2023
Last on stage One guest speaker was his son Todd, who had a more serious story told from the early days of online poker, many years before Doyle’s room. Doyle owns a substantial 40% stake in one of the first online poker rooms, Highlands Club Poker, Todd said. The room was using Planet Poker software, which turned out to be non-random, and Highlands players, including Doyle’s close friend Chip Reese, may have been duped.
There have also been internal setbacks, as Todd Brunson said at the conference, including mixing operating funds with player deposits. Highland Poker soon went bankrupt, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to its player base. Even though Doyle only owns 4% of the company, he steps up to make sure the site’s players stay healthy.
After the speakers, Brian Balsbaugh, the host of the ceremony, returned to the podium to thank all those who attended the ceremony. Balsbaugh detailed the gift that was given to each ceremony attendee: a special set of 52 cards titled “Doyle Brunson: A Celebration of Life” with event details.
Each card in the unique deck has what Balbaugh described One of 52 different “Doyle Doctrines,” this deck contains 26 tens and 26 twos, commemorating Doyle Brunson’s favorite “10-2” hand, which won him two bracelets.
Balsbaugh also suggested celebrating the annual “Doyle Day” throughout the poker community. “I want to call October 2 (10/2) Doyle Day,” Balsbow offered. He asked for a second statement on his impromptu motion, received several statements, and then took an informal vote. “We should commemorate his life on October 2nd every year.”
So be it…