The Story of the “Doyle Brunson Hand” – 10-2
Long 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-similar 10-3.
The 1976 WSOP
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, both 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 year.
The 1977 WSOP
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.
Doyle Brunson’s Favorite Hand in Today’s Game
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 classic World Poker Tour episodes, Mike Sexton regularly reminded viewers of this hand’s storied past. After all, is there anyone better to name a Texas Hold’em poker hand after than Doyle Brunson?