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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Todd Brunson

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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.

Having a famous dad may be cause enough to have an interesting, and sometimes challenging, childhood and in some cases, adulthood for you.  Choosing to follow your dad in the profession that made him famous would be immensely more challenging, being constantly compared to your father and what he accomplished, with others looking on and wondering if you can duplicate his success.  That’s exactly the path Todd Brunson, son of perhaps the most famous poker player who’s ever lived, Doyle, has decided to take.  For the most part, he’s been able to keep a lower profile, but at the same time has built himself a very nice career at the poker table that compared to anyone would be considered good.  

Todd Brunson was born August 7, 1969 in Texas.  Growing up as the son of a poker great, you would think Brunson was born with a deck of cards in his hand, but surprisingly enough, this wasn’t the case.  For most of his childhood Brunson concentrated on his education, which would eventually earn him a scholarship to the Texas Tech University.  Other than knowing just the basic rules of poker, Brunson didn’t get interested in the game until right before heading to college.  His dad invited him along to a poker tournament he was attending in Australia, and at first Todd was more interested in seeing the Great Outback than he was in watching his dad play poker.  But, things changed when he got there, as he found himself watching his dad pile up chips which seemed a lot more exciting than some kangaroos hopping around.

Brunson went off to Texas Tech, but the poker seed had already been planted firmly in his mind.  While he was a decent student, as the years in college progressed he found himself more in local home games and less in classes.  By his junior year he was seriously entertaining thoughts of going pro, and before his senior year he dropped out to do just that.  

One would think that having a famous dad would help you build your bankroll, but from all accounts, Doyle didn’t help his son in that department.  Dad felt if his son was going to make it as a poker pro, he should do it on his own, which was fine with Todd because that’s the way he wanted to do it anyway.  Of course being able to talk about hands and strategy with his dad, a world champion, was a priceless commodity, and as we’ll see shortly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Brunson originally started off focusing his attention on cash games around the Texas area.  When he was comfortable with those games, and had cleaned them out for the most part, he headed to Vegas to play with the giants of the game.  Here and there Brunson would play tournaments, but this being a bit before the poker boom in the tournament world, there was much more money to be made at the cash games.  However, Brunson gave us a taste of the future, placing in a number of tournaments throughout the 1990’s including five in the money finishes in the World Series of Poker, including two deep runs in the Main Event.
It was also during these tournaments that Brunson earned his nickname the “Darkhorse” because he was playing, and routinely beating the legends of the game, such as his father, Chip Reese, and T.J. Cloutier.  Brunson’s best tournament victories in the 90’s were the Jim Brady Month Championship event in August of 1993 for $198,000 and the 1994 Hall of Fame Poker Classic in 1994 for $105,600.  Talk about good birthday and Christmas presents.

Despite those great finishes, the prize money in those would amount to pennies compared to the high stakes game Brunson would be apart of over the course of a couple years just after the turn of the century.  Millionaire banker Andy Beal challenged a group of Texas Hold’em pros to the biggest cash games ever recorded in history , a group that became known as “The Corporation.”  The blinds in these games would eventually reach $100,000/$200,000.  That’s in cash, mind you.  Because of Brunson’s expertise in these games he was called upon to be one of the ones to pool their money together to take on Beal.  Beal actually started off on a heater, but as the games and years progressed “The Corporation” was able to even things out, and eventually took the lead, much thanks to the younger Brunson.  Over a two day span Brunson took upwards of 14 million dollars from Beal.  The full detailed account of these events has been chronicled in Michael Craig’sThe Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King.

Around the same time period Brunson was taking on Beal, he also began the challenging endeavor of tournament poker.  The prizes were higher, meaning the money was bigger, meaning there was no better time to strike.  Between 1997 and 2002 Brunson only played a handful of poker tournaments, but since then he has been a regular on the circuit.  Despite the relatively short tournament career, Brunson has quickly become one of the more respected players in the world.  Compared with his winning cash game career, it stands to say that Brunson is one of the best all-around players in the game.

The year of 2004 was great for Brunson, who finished in the money of five tournaments at the World Series of Poker, including 5th place finish in the $5,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Split event, winning $25,840.  While he had numerous cashes in tournaments where he earned more dollars, this was a year where he earned respect.  The following year he made sure he will go down as one of the best players in history when he took down the $2,500 Omaha Hi/Lo for his only gold bracelet to date, and a prize of $255,945.  All said, Brunson has finished in the money a total of 22 times.  The World Poker Tour has also been kind to him as well, with five money finishes.

Despite his apparent mastery of variations of Hold’em and Omaha, his best game may be Seven Card Stud eight-or-better.  He’s so good at it that his dad asked him to write about it in the book Super System II, sequel to perhaps the greatest strategy book ever written about poker.  He complied, and is now seen as the authority on the game.  By all accounts, when the game at Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio (home to the biggest cash games on the strip, and probably in the world) turns to his specialty, the players quickly start to wish they were playing something else.  

Todd doesn’t seem to have the same “aww shucks” personality as his father and this has drawn criticism from some players and fans as appearing to be too gruff at the table.  However, despite his appearance, he never seems rude toward people, or to get that angry when he loses with the best hand.  That is only one of a few criticisms you could possibly have of a player who has successfully pulled away from his father’s shadow and made a name for himself in the poker world.

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