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Doyle Brunson’s Poker Autobiography Now Available

Poker Legend Tells All From Five Decades as Gambler

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Doyle Brunson's autobiography The Grandfather of Poker is out“I’ve still got mixed feelings about writing this book,” Doyle Brunson commented in his blog.

After reading “The Godfather of Poker” (384 pages, illustrated, hardbound, $26.95), poker fans won’t have similar problems with mixed feelings.

Instead, they’ll be glad that the game’s living legend chose not to hold back and, with sharp detail, went ahead and dealt out a book rich in narrative and stories that encapsulate his pioneering poker life and contributions.

While some poker biographies are short on meat, Brunson’s is packed with vivid recollections and memories of the people, events, and places that have shaped his high-stakes life.

Mike Cochran, whom Brunson has known since 1954 during their college days at Hardin-Simmons University, helped assemble the book. Cochran previously spent four decades chasing colorful feature stories for the Associated Press. In “The Godfather of Poker,” Cochran has helped Brunson organize and articulate a brilliant poker story. It covers not only Brunson’s own life, but also traces the birth of the high-stakes poker world that people obsess over daily.

“The Brunson story is one for the ages,” Cochran says in the introduction, “a classic paradox, beginning on a hardscrabble, dry-land cotton farm in West Texas and playing out seventy years later in the glitzy casinos of Las Vegas and the flashy cardrooms across the country and around the world.”

That story takes the reader from Brunson’s boyhood home of Longworth, Texas, to Fort Worth’s Exchange Avenue, where “shootings, knife fights and fistfights happened every day.” It then goes further, to the back roads of the Texas poker circuit, where Brunson, Johnny Moss, Sailor Roberts, and Amarillo Slim Preston earned their fame before pulling into early Las Vegas.

As Brunson leads you along his life journey, he introduces you to a cast of colorful characters, the world-class conmen and gangsters who dominated the high-stakes world he frequented. Minnesota Fats, Bill Boyd, Archie Karas, Jimmy Chagra, Titanic Thompson, Tony Spilotro, Lefty Rosenthal, Benny Binion, Puggy Pearson, Stu Unger, and Chip Reese, just to name a few, are all legends whom Brunson rubbed shoulders with. And the stories that Brunson shares from these assorted personalities make “The Godfather of Poker” a hard book to put down.

Readers also get a peek into Brunson’s personal life and the tragedies he’s faced, including the death of his first-born child and a freak injury that ruined his opportunity at a career in professional sports. Throughout the book, he chronicles how he’s survived the years, going from being broke to betting $1.6 million on a round of golf. It was all just another day at the office. Brunson is candid and brave throughout.

In one of the book’s more humorous chapters, Brunson goes into detail about his ventures in business. “A lot of my business exploits headed south faster than a gaggle of geese,” he says. If you name it, Brunson threw money at it — including attempting to raise the Titanic, uncover Noah’s Ark, buying gold and emerald mines, and funding Christian television networks — and it probably didn’t go too well.

In the latter part of the book, Brunson talks about how the game has morphed into a “cultural phenomenon” thanks to online poker, television, and celebrity endorsement.

Brunson, a two-time World Series of Poker main-event champion, admits to throwing the 1972 title in “The Godfather of Poker.” He dumped his chips to Amarillo Slim because, as he says, “I was afraid of the publicity that winning this event would bring, and the terrible shame it would bring to my family.” My, how perceptions have changed three decades later.

Near the end of “The Godfather of Poker,” Brunson says, “I’ve come to realize that life’s experiences are ours to keep and cherish permanent gifts, like diamonds that sparkle in your head.”

Thankfully, because Brunson chose to share his experiences, the previously oral-only history of poker’s wild-west days now exists in written form for everyone to cherish.

“The Godfather of Poker: Doyle Brunson”

An Autobiography with Mike Cochran

384 pages. Cardoza Publishing. $26.95.