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2010 Todd Brunson Montana Poker Challenge

The biggest yet

by Todd Brunson |  Published: Oct 29, 2010


Todd BrunsonIt’s hard to believe that we just wrapped up my third Montana poker tournament. With 65 players and a prize pool just shy of $45,000, it was our biggest yet, and to the best of my knowledge, it was the biggest poker tournament in the history of Montana!

I even made Page 3 of the local newspaper. I might have made the front page had Farmer Murphy’s fence not blown down, allowing his 21 goats to run down Main Street — or if local rodeo hero Cowboy Joe Redneck hadn’t placed third in the Idaho Falls calf-fry eating contest. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Quite a few pros showed up this year. My dad, Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, was the top dog. My sister, Pam “Well, My Name’s Pam” Brunson, was at the other end of the spectrum. In between them were many notables, including Hoyt “All-In Cowboy” Corkins, Lenny “Decoy” Martin, Danny “Ain’t I Gorgeous” Georges, and Rick “I Used to be a Cop, Damn It” Fuller; and even Nick “Creamy Italian” Brancato managed to sneak away from Snooky in Jersey to teach a camp and play my event.

Nick just acquired that nickname during this tournament. You see, a group of us were at the Bigfork Inn, which is more than 100 years old and a place where Clark Gable used to hang out. The waitress brought our salads and asked, “Who’s creamy Italian?” You obviously can’t leave me an opening like that and get away with it. So now, in addition to “Nicky Numbers” and “Albino Soprano,” Nick’s new nickname is “Creamy Italian.”

Another pro who was supposed to show up was Gavin “No Show” Smith. He told me that he was 80 percent likely to make it. I told everyone that he was about 8 percent. You see, last year he committed to come (and I was actually paying him), and he wussed out at the last minute, along with Layne “Back From Crack” Flack. I had them on my persona non grata list on my Web page until recently.

I probably should put them back on that list, but I really need the Canadians to put my tournament over the top. Quite a few Canucks showed up for my first event in Whitefish, but most didn’t follow me south to Bigfork. Those guys are gamblers after my own heart.

When the waitress puts a shot and a beer in front of them as the dealer cuts the cards, they’re gone before the flop. There’s even been talk of my tournament joining the Canadian poker tour. We’re just a few miles south of the border, so we’ll see.

The World Poker Tour Boot Camp has already joined the fold. It held two one-day camps during my tournament, both on no-limit hold’em. The first was on tournaments and the second was on cash games. The WPT Boot Camp is already booked for next year’s event, as well. It’s the perfect fit — classes during the day, and tournaments and cash games at night for the players to try out what they learned.

The final dimension of my tournament is the charity event. This year, the charity was the Flathead Valley High School Rodeo Association. I let a friend pick the charity this time, and it was a mistake. I usually like to help kids with cancer, fallen police officers, or mentally challenged adults who are trying to better their lives.
These are able-bodied, healthy young kids. They can raise their own money — or at least they should be able to do so. They were supposed to pass out flyers and bring players to their charity event, but they failed to bring even one. There were 30 players in the charity event, but each and every one of them was there for my event. You would think that at least one father would show up to support his kids.

Next year, I’ll pick the charity myself. I’ve already been approached by two that sound good. I’ll select one, or I could split the proceeds between the two. I’m not sure yet, but I will announce it on my Web page,, when it’s finalized.

Besides the charity event, everything went pretty well. The one exception may have been with a friend of mine who was helping to run the floor. You see, he is a legal caregiver for medical marijuana. He had made a batch of special cookies, and they somehow accidentally wound up being passed around the room. My wife, Anjela, was running the cage, registering players, and whatnot. She was so whacked-out after eating a cookie that I had to sit out the first eight hours of the tournament to count the money and straighten everything out. Now I see why that stuff’s been illegal for so long!

If you come next year, I’ll have all of the cookies sorted out, to make sure that we don’t repeat that debacle. So, I hope that you’ll be able to make it. There were satellites held on DoylesRoom for my event this year, and I’m sure that they’ll be held again for next year’s event. So, you have no excuses — be there! ♠

Todd Brunson has been a professional poker player for more than 20 years. While primarily a cash-game player, he still has managed to win 18 major tournaments, for more than $3.5 million. He has won one bracelet and cashed 25 times at the World Series of Poker. You can play with Todd online at or live at his tournament, The Todd Brunson Montana Poker Challenge, in Bigfork, Montana. Check his website,, for details.