Brunson started off by playing in illegal games on Exchange Street, Fort Worth, Texas with a friend named Dwayne Hamilton. Eventually, they began traveling around Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, playing in bigger games, and met 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. Poker was not a socially accepted career path during this time and, given the reputation of those running the games he was playing in, he had little legal recourse.
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 together 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 yet remain friends.
Brunson finally settled in Las Vegas.
Other than his poker success, his greatest achievement is probably his book, 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 that transformed poker by giving ordinary players an 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”. 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 $4000/$8000 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 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 – setting a new record – Brunson tied the record at the 2005 WSOP. He is currently one bracelet behind Phil Hellmuth, who earned his 11th bracelet at the WSOP on June 11, 2007.
Brunson’s nickname, “Texas Dolly”, came from a mistake by Jimmy Snyder. Snyder was supposed to announce Brunson as “Texas Doyle”, but incorrectly pronounced the first name as Dolly. It stuck and many of Brunson’s fellow top pros now simply refer to Brunson as “Dolly”.
Brunson has the honor of having two Texas hold’em hands named after him. One hand, a ten and a two of any suit, bears his name as he won the No Limit Hold ‘Em event at the World Series of Poker two years in a row with them (1976 and 1977), in both cases completing a full house. In both 1976 and 1977, he was an underdog in the final hand, requiring Brunson to come from behind both times. Another hand known as a “Brunson”, especially in Texas, is the ace and queen of any suit because, as he says on page 519 of the Super/System, he “never plays this hand.” He changes his wording in SuperSystem2, however, noting that he “tries to never play this hand”. However, it has been seen on episodes of High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark, the Professional Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour that he does play it.
Brunson endorses the online poker room Doyles Room.
As of 2008, his total live tournament winnings exceeded $5,300,000. He has totaled $2,808,945 in earnings at the WSOP.