Honoring Doyle Brunson: Strategies to Learn From the Godfather of Poker

Doyle Brunson, the Godfather of Poker and considered the most legendary player in the game’s history, passed away this weekend, prompting the poker community to shower him with accolades.ย 

From his early days as a Texas road gambler in the 1970s to his memorable appearances on popular televised poker shows such as High Stakes Poker and The Big Game and his more recent role as an ambassador for the World Poker Tour, Brunson’s enduring career and timeless contributions establish him as arguably the most significant figure in the world of poker. 

As we pay tribute to this great legend, let us recall one of his most valuable pieces of advice for poker game tournaments.

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His Advice on Strategy

  • Early on in the Game

It may be surprising that Doyle Brunson’s advice for poker tournaments involves adopting a highly conservative approach, particularly during the initial stages. In the early blind levels, The Godfather of Poker prefers a patient stance, content with winning pots within the range of his dealt cards.

This survival-oriented strategy in poker tournaments allows Brunson and many other professional players to navigate the challenging landscape of inexperienced players at the beginning of such events. 

The approach entails raising with moderately strong hands like mid-pairs or unsuited high cards while refraining from simply calling with them. It also involves making small attempts to claim pots but being prepared to retreat when met with resistance.

  • At the Middle Stage of the Game

During the middle stage of a tournament, Doyle Brunson advocates a strategic approach that involves meticulous evaluation of various situational factors. These factors encompass the tendencies displayed by opponents, as well as a crucial consideration of their stack sizes. It is essential to exercise caution when dealing with small and large stacks, as they are more inclined to call significant bets, albeit for different reasons.

As the middle stages progress, Brunson’s trademark aggressive and upbeat poker cards style comes into play. This entails gradually intensifying the level of aggression to apply pressure on opponents who become increasingly apprehensive about getting eliminated. 

According to Brunson, accumulating chips is a crucial strategy during this tournament phase. Staying ahead of the escalating blinds and antes provides the advantage of being able to choose when to place significant bets instead of being compelled to make plays without holding solid hands.

  • At the Final Table

Regarding the final table of a poker tournament, Doyle Brunson emphasizes the importance of thoroughly assessing your opponents and their chip stacks as part of his recommended strategy. 

While Brunson always advocates playing to win, there are instances where multiple opponents with short stacks make it advantageous to adopt a tight playing style, securing a higher finishing position.

However, if your ultimate objective is to claim victory and you find yourself in second place regarding chip count, Doyle advises directing your focus toward the chip leader. He suggests adopting an aggressive playing style and concerted efforts to surpass and overtake the chip leader in such a scenario.

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The Importance of Playing Tight

The playing-friendly advice has been echoed countless times in the poker world, and at some point in our poker journeys, we may have questioned its validity. In a rapidly evolving poker landscape, how could playing a limited range of hands aggressively still hold merit?

The allure of more flashy or alluring aspects of poker strategy often tempts players to prioritize them over solid, time-tested fundamentals. However, this was never the case for Doyle Brunson. Being a Texan, he understands precisely where the horse should be positioned about the proverbial cart.

Brunson suggests a strategic move where you enter the pot with pocket aces by merely calling from an early position. This move invites someone who acts after you to have a pair of kings or queens and raise the bet. This allows you to go all in and extract maximum value from that player.

It is worth noting that some aggressive players, particularly in late position, tend to play hands like suited connectors and AK aggressively. However, these players often find it challenging to fold such hands when faced with a re-raise, especially if their cards are highly ranked.

  • Advantages of a Tight Image

Doyle Brunson sheds light on the benefits of adopting an aggressive approach to securing blinds, allowing him to accumulate chips that can be utilized for taking risks in drawing hands. 

By successfully stealing blinds, he creates a scenario where he can win without trouble when aiming for a mighty hand. Those chips, in theory, should have remained in the stacks of weaker players at the table.

While the suggestion to be aggressive in poker is not uncommon, Brunson’s perspective and advice are uniquely phrased, making it highly worthwhile to explore. Both loose and tight players’ potential to display aggression, and the term “aggression” refers to the frequency of betting and raising compared to calling or checking.

One can opt to play only premium hands and exhibit aggression consistently through betting and raising with them. Conversely, someone might be willing to play a wide range of indicators and, by submitting with weaker hands, can capitalize on the unclaimed chips on the table.

This strategy is particularly effective when competing against tight or inexperienced players. Doyle’s acute awareness of close ranges further elevates his proficiency, enabling him to make them even more profitable by incorporating precisely calibrated bluffs.

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Doubling Down on Unconscious Competence

A remarkable characteristic shared by many seasoned live players who have dedicated extensive time to play poker is their ability to possess this extraordinary trait. Like other esteemed old-school players, Doyle Brunson demonstrates exceptional skills in deciphering the dynamics of the table, drawing upon his vast experience.

While Doyle is not renowned for making light call-downs, he can do so when the situation demands it. He possesses a profound understanding of how other players perceive his game. 

When we combine this awareness with a dry board texture where opponents have limited possibilities for solid hands and Doyle’s uncanny aptitude for reading other players, we witness a play that may deviate slightly from his usual style but proves remarkably solid.

Final Thoughts

Doyle Brunson was one of the greatest poker players of all time. Current and future professional poker players will always remember his strategies. He gained respect from every corner of the industry for his vast expertise and skillful gameplay.

With his passing, the poker world has lost a legend that will never be forgotten. Doyle’s legacy continues to live on through all he has left us – cards, written books, fields of memorabilia, and fond memories of a man whose name is so deeply entwined with the game’s history. Farewell, Doyle Brunson; may you rest in peace, knowing that many celebrate your legacy.