Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson Undergoes Successful Gallbladder Surgery

According to Pamela Brunson, her famous father, legendary poker player Doyle Brunson, had successful gallbladder surgery over the weekend. Ms. Brunson originally made the news known via Facebook, after announcing that he was undergoing the procedure on Friday.

While details are minimal, as they probably should be in the matter of personal medical issues, Pamela wrote that “Texas Dolly” needed to have a blockage removed from his gallbladder. It appears, based on a follow-up post, that Doyle had his gall bladder removed, which is very common with this type of issue. According to, this procedure is typically done laparoscopically, which means that a few small incisions are made in the abdomen, rather than the gory experience of having the entire area opened up. A lighted scope attached to a video camera is inserted in one incision, while surgical instruments are inserted into the other cuts, making for a rather non-invasive surgery, as far as surgeries go. The gallbladder and related blockages are then removed through the incisions.

The gallbladder (not to be confused with the bladder) normally stores bile, but as it is no longer there, the bile duct is usually rerouted to go directly to the small intestine from the liver. While it all sounds fairly horrible, as long as the surgeons do not need to switch to open surgery, recovery is fairly speedy, with patients being allowed to resume normal activities within a week or two. While any surgery is risky, especially on an 81-year old man, this one is on the low end of the danger scale.

Based on Pamela’s follow-up Facebook post, it does seem that Doyle had the standard gallbladder procedure, plus a bonus:

Dad is doing MUCH BETTER this morning. The Dr. came in and said there were a bunch of surgeons in and out of surgery observing. It’s extremely rare they can get huge bile duct stones out and reroute the bile duct lapposcopically [sic]. He also had a hernia repair. The hernia was causing lots of problems. I’m sooo excited as I KNOW he is gonna be feeling SO MUCH BETTER once he’s healed from surgery.

Doyle Brunson is no stranger to medical issues. His most recent battle came about two years ago when it was discovered that he had a malignant form of skin cancer. Squamous-cell cancer is the second-most common form of skin cancer, typically showing up as a red, crusted, or scaly patch of skin. Surgery to remove the cancer was successful.

He also had a melanoma removed in early 2011.

His most well-known bout with cancer, though, was detailed in his book, Super System 2. According to Brunson, at the end of 1962, he developed a sore throat and found a small knot in his neck. Doctors treated him with antibiotics, but the lump grew, so they decided to remove it. Expecting to find a benign tumor, the doctors instead found a cancer that had spread throughout Brunson’s body. Given just months to live, he opted to have a longshot surgery in order to prolong his life just a few months so that he could see his first child born. After an eight-hour operation, though, the doctors saw that somehow, the cancer was gone.

As Brunson himself wrote in his book, “The odds against merely surviving the operation itself were very high. A month earlier the black corruption of melanoma had been visible to the naked eye. That the cancer had disappeared was incomprehensible to the staff at the hospital. Five doctors had unanimously agreed that it was a medical impossibility for me to live longer than a few more months, with or without the operation.”

Doyle Brunson with Jack Binion Image courtesy:

Doyle Brunson with Jack Binion
Image courtesy:

Brunson had one other notable medical issue, one that completely changed the course of his life. He was a star athlete in high school, named to the Texas all-state basketball team. Though he received scholarship offers from bigger programs, he stayed close to home at played ball at Hardin-Simmons University. He was so good, in fact, that the Minneapolis (now Los Angeles) Lakers were interested in him once he graduated. Working at a gypsum factory one summer, he was unloading sheetrock when the weight shifted and fell, crushing his leg. His basketball future was as shattered as his leg. Instead, he turned from sports to education, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in administrative education.

He already knew how to play poker before he got hurt, but after his injury, he got much more involved in the game. The rest, as they say, is history. Had Brunson never had that factory accident, he may have gone on to fame in the NBA and the poker world would never have had its “Godfather.”


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