Hundreds of poker enthusiasts joined a who’s who of the poker world on Sunday to honor the late Doyle Brunson in a special celebration of life ceremony. The event was open to the public and there was a line to enter the Jubilee Theater around the floor of the Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas to enter.
Brunson, who passed away in May at the age of 89, is regarded as poker’s greatest legend. The Hall of Famer has competed at the top level of the game for the better part of seven decades, winning 10 of them World Series of Poker bracelets to match Poker World Tour title, and wrote the original poker bible Supersystem.
The ceremony was hosted by Brunson’s agent and longtime friend, Brian Balsbaugh, who suggested October 2 for an annual Doyle Brunson Day honoring the two main events he won 10-2. The “motion” was well “heard” and supported by those present.
“On Doyle Brunson day, we all celebrate and play poker,” Balsbaugh said.
Audiences were treated to a preview of an upcoming documentary about Doyle Brunson, as well as panelists Dewey Tomko, Mori Eskandani, Gabe Kaplan, Lyle Berman, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth, who ran without sleep after winning his record extension 17th bracelet a few hours earlier that morning.
Other notables in attendance included Jack Binion, Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, Freddy Deeb, Linda Johnson, Terry King, Jan Fisher, David Williams, Erick Lindgren, Josh Arieh, Tony Dunst, Allyn Shulman, Ken Lambert, Karina Jett, Betrand Grospellier, WPT executives Adam Pliska and Matt Savage; and poker vloggers Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen.
Longtime friend and three-time bracelet winner Dewey Tomko decided to talk about Brunson’s faith and generosity instead of his poker prowess, telling a story about water wells in Africa that Brunson allegedly paid for and then named after his friends.
PokerGO producer Mori Eskandani continued with his stories, telling the crowd that “poker got lucky when Doyle Brunson hit his first pot.”
Actor, comedian and former poker commentator Gabe Kaplan has spoken about the first time he met Brunson, who gave him a copy of his book Supersystem. “That $100 book, over the last 40 years, cost me $35 million,” Kaplan joked.
WPT co-founder Lyle Berman has also opened up about their friendship, joking that he’s spent “more time with Doyle than [his] two ex-wives combined.
Both Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu spoke about Brunson’s efforts to grow the game and share its wisdom with younger generations.
“It was an oasis of comfort,” Hellmuth said, while Negreanu emphasized that not only was he still competing at a high level right up until his death, but he was actually getting better.
The ceremony was closed by Doyle’s son, fellow Hall of Famer Todd Brunson, who gave the other speakers a light toast before thanking the crowd for coming.
“Dad would have been tickled pink to see this turnout,” she said.
You can watch part of the ceremony on Daniel Negreanu’s vlog.
Brunson’s life and poker career is also featured in the latest issue of Card Player Magazine, available now on line.
Those who came to the celebration of the life event received a deck of cards with Brunson’s picture on the box. The deck consists of 26 tens and 26 deuces, each with a different “Doyle-ism” printed on the back.
“The meaning of life cannot be said, it must be lived.”
“Success comes from taking the hand you’ve been given and using it to the best of your ability.”
“Sometimes opportunity knocks, other times you have to pursue it.”