What is it about the way a Grandfather
tells a story about the “old days”? How do they always manage to spin tales that not only entertain, but also usually wind up shaping
the lives of the ‘youngins’ sitting on their knees? Their fables are special because they take us away to another time, when things
were so much different, yet we relate their history to the present and learn from it. Anyone who is thankful for the influence passed
along in those words of wisdom from our elders will undoubtedly benefit in the same manner from this introspective peek at the budding
career of the “Godfather” of poker, Doyle Brunson.
"Poker Wisdom of a Champion" was originally published in 1984, under the title “According to Doyle”, this 2003 Second Edition
(Cardoza Publishing) is as timeless as the author’s poker skills. Written initially as separate magazine articles, the book is comprised
of 47 short, movie-vignette-like chapters. Each is a lesson in humanity garnered from Brunson’s earliest and ongoing experiences playing
poker on the road, long before the days of Bellagio, et al. With little doubt, these pearls of wisdom are just as important/relevant now
as when young Doyle began learning them firsthand over 40 years ago. One added enjoyment in reading this Doyle Brunson book of wisdom now
for the first time (rather than in ’84, before “Brunson”, “Doyle” or even “Texas Dolly” were household names) is the added delight of being
able to visualize the humble, yet confident author and hear his gentle drawl while reading his narratives. (If you are unable to do this,
it simply means you don’t own a television, or have miraculously never stumbled upon any of the countless poker programs featuring the
ubiquitous Brunson as “poker’s living legend” (much to his chagrin)).
Taken back as far as the early 1960’s, the reader is placed right along side Doyle on his adventures traveling “the Texas Circuit”. Mostly
comprised of home games (a.k.a. – “friendly games”), this circuit was a far cry from the “WPT” or “WSOP” circuits of today. It was in these
“back room” games where Brunson not only cultivated his poker playing skills, but more importantly where he developed his character – which
is an underlying theme throughout; highlighting the extent to which one’s character can greatly influence one’s poker bankroll. Brunson’s
skill in deciphering the character flaws in the other players he encountered, combined with his staying true to his own high moral standards,
is what set him apart on his literal “road” to winning.
Reliving tales older than most casinos, Doyle reminisces about friends and acquaintances met along the way to illustrate the lessons that
have shaped his life and poker career. His story telling has an almost good vs. evil, “fairytale-esque” quality to it – where in the end,
honesty prevails over deceit, prudence over lavishness, pragmatism over foolhardiness, honor over immorality, and modesty over pretension.
It is easy to correlate Brunson’s values and beliefs with his longstanding success and popularity.
While offering serious advice, Brunson manages to do it with humor in almost every chapter. The humor is not forced, or perhaps not even
intentional. It’s merely the natural result of a Texas “good ol’ boy” describing a wide array of real-life characters colliding under an
equally diverse number of circumstances, wherein money and gambling fuel the heart of every story.
Human nature is comprised of countless traits and tendencies, and Doyle was exposed to just about every one while learning his craft. His
intuitive observations of other players taught him just as much as the consequences of his own actions. Watching others fall victim to
“pride in poker”, or “taking bluffs personally” (chapters unto themselves), and avoiding those same pitfalls, helped Brunson develop a winning
style of poker playing that is arguably the most revered in the game, even today.
Doyle’s advice about “Home Poker” (a section of the book comprised of 7 chapters), while written two decades ago, seems especially pertinent
to today’s poker scene. With the exponential growth of poker over the past several years, his views on this subject are invaluable to maintaining
and promoting the integrity and enjoyment of private games not under the scrutiny of “Mother Casino”.
While Brunson is usually in the enviable position of making his points by relating stories of his successes, he is not averse to sharing his
mistakes along the way. Not every decision he made was the correct one, not every outcome was profitable, nor was every friend true to him in
the end. His bumps along the road were many, and often dangerous.
Being “hijacked” (the word then used by southern poker pros to mean “getting robbed”) was all too commonplace, and it didn’t take long to
confirm one particular lesson after a friend Doyle was traveling with flashed his bankroll in front of the wrong kind of strangers: “… exposing
money in a public place is pretty stupid.”
At the end of most chapters however, the reader ends up as “satisfied” as Doyle usually did when the lessons hit home and newfound knowledge
was put to good use. These anecdotes, from one of the greatest poker players ever, contain valuable insight into the psychology and human side
of poker. The lessons he learned, and shares, will always be a winning guide to anyone stepping up to a poker table... at home, on the road, or
in a casino. Yep... Reading "Poker Wisdom of a Champion" is just like sitting on grandpa’s lap. Pay attention!
Buy Doyle's book at Amazon