Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.
Brad Daugherty’s odyssey from three dollar winner to one million dollar winner is quite an impressive story. Daugherty has had some success since his one million dollar score at the 1991 World Series of Poker, but that is the day that catapulted him into poker immortality.
Daugherty was born in Mountain Grove, Missouri in 1951, but shortly after his birth his family moved to Iowa. While gambling wasn’t a huge part of his childhood, it wasn’t uncommon for his family to sit around on the weekend or on vacations and play draw poker for pennies. It was during these frequent card games that Daugherty began to learn the game. However, other than a passing interest in it, it wasn’t until a few years later that he would consider the game as a career.
In 1968, on a two-day train ride from Iowa to Kansas, Daugherty and members of his family played a continuous poker game every waking moment. For the 40 hours or so of poker Daugherty ended the game a winner, up three dollars. It was also around this time that Daugherty began to take the game more seriously, and began reading up on it. Daugherty still wasn’t quite ready to make the game his sole source of income, so he became a construction worker for the steady income.
After spending his early twentys in construction and welding he became aware of the success of Doyle Brunson and his 1977 WSOP Main Event victory, his second in a row. It sounds quite simple, but Daugherty thought that because Brunson was able to be a Main Event Champion there was no reason he couldn’t become one. Of course, he would end up being right.
Daugherty announced he would be leaving the friendly confines of Iowa, including a steady job, to try to make his mark in Las Vegas. In 1978 Daugherty arrived with a bankroll he had earned from playing, and beating, his friends back in Iowa out of their paychecks. Upon arriving in “Sin City,” Daugherty picked up every piece of poker literature he could get his hands on. With no job to go to Daugherty had nothing to do but play poker and read about poker. Good work if you can get it.
The transition to winning poker player wasn’t an easy one. Daugherty was able to squeak out a meager living playing mid-stakes ring games, but he was in Vegas a full ten years before he started having any success in tournament poker. Daugherty was even forced to take a job in 1987 working as a card room manager as well, stuck somewhere between one of the working masses and a poker pro. On the advice of a friend, Daugherty once again gave up his steady job to concentrate full-time on poker. This decision would prove a good one, as shortly after this decision Daugherty’s luck would change, and it’s never turned since then.
In December of 1988 Daugherty placed third for $48,500 in the $5,000 championship no-limit event of the Hall of Fame Poker Classic. The score seemed to give Daugherty the confidence he needed, as he would proceed to place highly in about a dozen more poker tournaments, including a third place finish in the 1990 $1,500 Stud hi/lo event at the World Series of Poker, a sign of big things to come.
In 1991 the world of poker was beginning to make subtle changes, and Brad Daugherty was in the center of all of it. Although the “hole-cam” was years away from being invented, the Main Event of the WSOP was in its fourth year of being carried by ESPN, meaning that there was still some obvious interest in it. The 1991 Main Event had 215 entrants, its biggest ever. With the exception of the following year, where the number of entrants dropped to 201, the Main Event saw a rise in competitors all the way up until 2007 when it dropped because of the recent legislature. The point is, poker was changing. As history has shown us, it was here to stay.
The final hand of the tournament came as a big of surprise, as Don Holt called a big raise from Daugherty holding nothing but a 7-3 off suit. Daugherty had raised with , more than a decent hand in heads up play. The flop came 8-9-J rainbow, giving Daugherty top pair and Holt a gutshot straight draw. Brad checked. Mistaking this check as weakness, Holt went all-in. Brad soon called, and when a harmless five and then an eight fell, Daugherty was not only the 1991 WSOP Main Event Champion, he was also victor of the biggest prize in poker history, one million dollars.
Daugherty had done it. From a three dollar winner on a train to Kansas City, to the first million dollar winner in poker history, all because of the success of his idol, Doyle Brunson. Daugherty will tell you that he isn’t a pioneer of poker because the likes of Brunson are almost 20 years older than him, but it’s hard not to think of him as one because of the unique firsts that went along with his tournament victory.
Daugherty has had some success since his 1991 victory, but has never again had a six figure payday, let alone a seven million dollar one. However, much like Doyle Brunson in the 70’s, Daugherty has found another outlet to be successful in – writing. Daugherty has probably made just about as much money from his book projects as he has from his work on the felt. His two most popular books, which have been called a “must-read” for want to be serious poker players, are “Championship Satellite Strategy,” and “No-Limit Texas Hold’Em for Beginners.”
Daugherty has said that he now prefers online poker, but he is still a staple at the major events, including, of course, the WSOP. His live tournament poker winnings are somewhere in the neighborhood of two million dollars. It is unknown how much he has won online, but it is said he is a winning player there, as well.