Doyle Brunson to Undergo Cancer Surgery
One of the game of poker’s elder statesmen, Doyle Brunson, has announced that he will undergo surgery in the near future to remove a cancerous melanoma growth from his head. The announcement, which Brunson made on Twitter, represents a recurrence of health concerns for the two-time WSOP main event winner, one of the game’s most famous players ever.
Brunson, now 81, has faced numerous significant health problems over the course of his long life, and remarked that his upcoming procedure will be his 12th significant surgery. Brunson has already been a long-time cancer survivor, including two previous bouts with melanoma (a skin malignancy often associated with exposure to the sun) and a major cancer battle over a half century ago.
Back in 1962, just after he married his wife, Louise, Brunson was confirmed to have a malignant tumor in his neck. Doctors proclaimed the cancer incurable, but advised Brunson to have surgery to extend his life long enough to allow him to see the birth of his first child by his then-pregnant wife. Miraculously, the doctors could find no trace of the cancer not long after the surgery. His wife endured a similar terminal-cancer-and-recovery saga a decade later.
Brunson also suffered a serious leg injury that dashed his hopes of a professional basketball career. A standout in Texas at both the high school and college levels, Brunson was being scouted by the Minneapolis Lakers of the NBA for a possible pro career. Instead, while working at a summer job, Brunson’s leg was shattered, an injury which ended his playing days and left him with a pronounced limp, and the need to use the personal cart in large casinos for which Brunson is now associated.
Brunson’s career is one of the most legendary in all of poker, spanning well over half a century. Following his injury, Brunson soon learned that he was adept at poker, and quit a traveling sales job to play poker full-time becoming one of a select crew of legendary Texas road gamblers. Brunson eventually relocated to Las Vegas, where he helped establish poker as viable casino game, and he was instrumental in the establishment and recognition given to the World Series of Poker in its earliest years.
In addition to winning ten career World Series of Poker bracelets (including the main event twice), Brunson holds several other records, including being the first player to ever log a million dollars in tournament earnings. Though those figures have long since been eclipsed in the modern era, Brunson’s poker legacy remains intact; he was one of the earliest “living” selections into the Poker Hall of Fame and remains on the the HOF’s voter finalist board.
Brunson no longer plays tournament poker, citing the long hours involved in a major multi-day event, but continues to participate in the highest-stakes cash games in Vegas.
Among his other poker-world legacies are several books which he’s authored or co-authored, including the seminal strategy book Super/System. Brunson created the book as a means of bringing knowledge of proper poker strategy to the mainstream, casual poker player. The publishing of Super/System turned into an arduous, self-published task, and for years after he rued the effect the book had on the poker world. Though outdated today, Super/System was revolutionary when it arrived, and taught proper poker strategy to a generation of new players.
It still cost Brunson some winnings, however. As he told author Al Alvarez in The Biggest Game in Town, “In the old days, if a guy came along and tried playing my aggressive game I would just move up a gear and play right back over him.  But now they’ve read the book, they recognize what I’m doing, they think I’m bluffing, and call me. It’s hampered my style. I used to be able to wreck a agame without holding any cards at all, because I never got called. Now I need the cards.”
As for the upcoming cancer surgery, Brunson announced it with his usual deadpan humor. A couple of sample Tweets from his @TexDolly account show the vintage Brunson deprecation still on display:
Got my 3rd melanoma confirmed today. Early stages, should be simple operation. Fortunately, it’s on my head and everybody knows I’m hardheaded — @TexDolly
Simple or not, this will be my 12th major operation. Gonna play poker now because i always heard u get lucky right before u die.#justsaying — @TexDolly