The Story of the "Doyle Brunson Hand"
before the days of online poker, the game still had its
incredibly bad beats. Take, for example, the final hands
of both the 1976 and 1977 WSOP Main Events. For the
crowning hands of Doyle Brunson's back-to-back
championships, he had to suck out twice against
dominating hands. Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, a living
legend and one of the greatest players to ever grace the
felt, couldn't be stopped when he held his new favorite
hand. Most amazingly, Doyle held the pitiful 10-2 to win
both WSOP titles.
The 10-2 is an absolute trash hand in Texas Hold'em with
almost zero potential value, even to someone of
Brunson's stature. To this day, the 10-2 is now
nicknamed the "Doyle Brunson" hand by poker
players in cardrooms around the world. Doyle himself
still has a fondness for playing the hand as much as
possible. Who could blame him with his track record? To
a lesser degree, A-Q is also associated with Doyle
Brunson because of his well-known distaste for the hand.
In his best-selling 1979 strategy manual Super System,
Brunson says that he "never plays this hand". In 2005,
Doyle won his 10th WSOP bracelet holding the eerily
In 1976, the WSOP was only
in its 7th year but was growing in popularity. Doyle
Brunson was in the prime of his poker playing career and
was gunning for his first Main Event title. Down to
heads-up play against a final-table fixture of the day
in Jesse Alto, The Doyle Brunson hand would make its
first mark on the poker world. Preflop, Alto raised with
his unsuited A-J, an excellent heads-up hand. Doyle
called with his 10-2 of spades. The flop was A-J-10 with
2 hearts and 1 spade.
With top two pair on a flop
with lots of draws, Alto made a pot-sized bet. Almost
certainly on an aggressive play intended to induce a
fold from Alto, Brunson moved all-in with the chip lead!
Alto naturally called and was a dominating favorite to
double up. A 2 on the turn improved Doyle's hand but
still gave him two smaller pair. On the river, Doyle
spiked another 10 for a runner-runner full house and the
title. The first-place prize money was $220,000 that
In 1977, Doyle dominated the field again to make a run
at back-to-back WSOP championships. Down to heads-up
play with the chip lead against Bones Berland, Doyle was
dealt the 10-2 again. Unlike the previous year's final
hand, he was up against another trash hand in Berland's
8-5. Neither hand was suited and neither player showed
any strength preflop. The flop came 10-8-5 rainbow,
giving Doyle top pair and Berland bottom two pair.
Both players slowplayed
their hand and the turn gave Doyle the miracle 2 for a
better two pair. This time, Doyle bet out, Berland
raised him all-in and, of course, Doyle called.
Amazingly, the 10 on the river gave Doyle another full
house on the river to win his second consecutive WSOP
Main Event with this antithesis of a power hand. His
prize for the win was $340,000. Texas Dolly went on to
poker immortality and the 10-2 was forever known as the
Doyle Brunson hand.
In today's world of
round-the-clock televised poker, countless books, and an
exploding amount of new players and fans flocking to the
game, Doyle Brunson's hand has never been more popular.
Whenever Doyle picks up a 10-2 in a televised event, he
usually flirts with the idea of playing it. This almost
always makes the final cut of the show. Other players at
the table often show their 10-2 with Doyle nearby as
they exchange a smile with the poker legend. On the
World Poker Tour, Mike Sexton regularly reminds viewers
of this hand's storied past. After all, is there anyone
better to name a Texas Hold'em poker hand after than
to Poker Players.
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