Todd Brunson

Todd Brunson has one of the most recognizable last names in the poker business, but thanks to his success in this year’s World Series of Poker and his appearances on television, poker fans are realizing there is much more to Todd than being “Doyle Brunson’s son”. Todd used to eschew tournament poker, preferring the big money allure of the highest cash games in the world. However, the recent poker boom has changed his philosophy somewhat, increased his visibility in the poker world and his bankroll. At the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Todd won his first bracelet in the $2,500 buy-in Omaha Hi/Lo event and made two other final tables winning approximately $400,000. Not to be outdone, Todd’s father won a later event making Todd and Doyle the first father/son team to ever win bracelets at the same WSOP.

PokerLizard sat down with Todd to discuss the poker boom, what winning that first bracelet has meant to him, and what it’s like to play in the biggest cash game in the world.


PokerLizard: How did you first become interested in Poker? When did you first become serious about playing?

Todd: I started playing when I went to Australia with my Father for a poker tournament. I had just graduated high school and this was just a vacation for me. However, there was little for me to do at night as everyone else on the trip was playing poker. Naturally I started too and here I am today.

PokerLizard: You’ve played in the biggest game in the world against billionaire banker Andy Beal, how do you put the size of those blinds out of your thoughts and play your best?

Todd: To me in poker, a bet is a bet. Be it $5 or $500,000. People are often surprised to see me play hard when I play $2-$4 but I am a competitor and I play to win. A $2 bet is still a bet and I treat it as such. By the same token a $200,000 is still just a bet, nothing more nothing less. If you say to yourself “well this bet is just $4, I’ll call with no pair and no draw” you will lose in the long run. It’s the same at the other end of the spectrum. If someone bets $100,000 and you say to yourself “Well…I have a flush and I’m pretty sure it’s good and I know I’m supposed to call but the bet is $100,000 and that’s just too much” you will also lose.

Worry about the dollar amounts before and after you play. In the game. Bets are just units.

PokerLizard: Obviously, based on your success in the game above, playing very high limits doesn’t faze you, does anything make you nervous?

Todd: Yes, doing interviews

PokerLizard: What attracts the very successful cash game players to play in tournaments?

Todd: I started off the first few years of my poker career playing quiet a few tournaments a year. After a while I noticed all the poker players with a lot of money were cash players and even the most successful tournament players were constantly broke borrowing money or trying to get staked. Tournaments require a great deal of travel, a lot of money and are extremely frustrating to say the least. After a few years of this I said “who needs this” and basically left them behind. Even though I was doing pretty well with them, I saw the upside to cash games.

Now, close to ten years later, poker tournaments have gone thru the roof thanks to the Internet and televised tournaments that expose player’s hole cards. Cash game players, including myself, have been drawn back into the tournament arena by the huge prize pools and large numbers of novice players looking for instant glory.

Also, with television brings fame which can be translated into monetary gain in the form of books and instructional videos. The poker world is bigger than ever and many want to buy anything worth reading. Improving ones game is more important now than ever with the increasing number of educated opponents out there.

PokerLizard: What do you enjoy most about the poker lifestyle? How about the least?

Todd: My three favorite things about poker are money, money and money. After that I would have to say being my own boss. I have always had a problem with authority and can’t stand to be told what to do. If it weren’t for poker I would probably be in prison by now, guilty of murdering the poor sap who wound up in charge of me.

My least favorite thing about poker is also one of my favorites strangely enough; traveling. It can be fun but it’s now a pain in the ass with all the security, layovers, and long flights.

PokerLizard: Congratulations on your first WSOP win, which came one week after another final table appearance. The pros seem to be doing much better at the world series this year compared to last year, how have you and other pros adjusted to the online players and large fields?

Todd: I think most all of us made a decision to play more events this year. I don’t really know of any adjustments anyone has made per say.

PokerLizard: Has anyone ever expressed any reservations about playing at the same table as you and your father?

Todd: Never. Quite the contrary, several times when it has gotten short handed in a game with both my Father and I, I have tried to quit only to be told I was being silly and to sit back down. Even so I try to avoid this as much as possible. I’m nocturnal and my Dad is an early riser, so I often wait for him to quit the game before going down to the Bellagio to play.

PokerLizard: Do you play online much? If so, what do you enjoy about the online game?

Todd: Yes I do. I like the convenience and the fast action. has tournaments starting every few minutes and a fast action 50-100 hold ’em game I enjoy. I also like the no limit heads up sit and go’s. It’s fun to play with players from all over the country as well as the world.

PokerLizard: Was it flattering to have your father ask you to write the Stud Hi/Lo section of Super System 2? Did you learn anything about yourself or the game during the writing process?

Todd: Yes, it was great to be included in Super System 2 as it was such a historic book. I actually picked the game I wrote as it was one we had trouble finding anyone else qualified and available to write it. Writing about poker was and is a difficult endeavor. Many plays I do in poker I don’t remember why I do them, I just know it’s the correct play. Some I just kind of learned trial and error and some I thought thru but no longer remember the thought process I went through ten or more years ago. It’s tough to have to explain why one play is correct and another wrong when I don’t even remember why anymore.

I have to go back over everything and explain it out in longhand. It’s very tedious and time consuming. I love to write but would much prefer something like poker stories to poker instruction. Why don’t I write a book on poker stories??? They are coming. My publisher asked me to put them on the back burner and write about nlh (No-Limit Hold’em) tournaments while they are hot.

PokerLizard: Some players have complained that the WSOP isn’t the same anymore with all the Internet qualifiers and huge fields, what are your thoughts?

Todd: Mo playas = mo money

PokerLizard: You’re currently seen on the show, Poker Superstars Invitational, do you enjoy the made for TV events? What do you think about the unique structure of the show? Do the bigger name players have any side bets to make tournament more interesting since the payout is “relatively” small?

Todd: I love poker Superstars!!! In the real world I get recognized 4 or 5 times a day. Before poker stars I would hear ” Look, that’s Doyle Brunson’s son”. They saw me enough to know who I was but not my name. I have only heard that once or twice since poker superstars aired. Now everyone seems to know my name and it’s one more step out of my Fathers long shadow.

Sometimes we do make side bets on tournaments, especially if they are small, but considering someone walked away from poker superstars with $735,000 I wouldn’t say this fit the bill.

PokerLizard: What is the most interesting “prop” bet you’ve ever been involved with?

Todd: I got paid $10,000 to cut off my ponytail. Five years later I turned down $20,000

PokerLizard: What is are some of the stranger things you’ve seen occur at the poker table?

Todd: Seeing someone die at the table is the first thing that comes to mind but I don’t want to talk about that. The funniest thing was in a $1000-$2000 game about seven years ago. This was an absolutely huge game at the time. A guy named Farha took a big mouth full of water and thought of something funny. He did a massive spit take like in the movies only it went directly into the faces of Chau Giang and Annie Duke who were involved in a giant pot against each other.

The game was high low regular and it was new to all of us, so they were both concentrating so hard neither of them flinched at all. Water dripped down their faces as they continued to raise and reraise an amazing number of times till the pot finally ended. Chau scooped Annie and as soon as he saw her hand he screamed loudly, but not because he won, he wanted to know who had spit all over him 45 seconds ago.

I was laughing so hard tears rolled down my face and I almost blacked out several times. Annie was so mad she never budged. She sat still staring forward, not even bothering to wipe the water and spit off her face. I tried to stop laughing when I saw how mad she was but to no avail, it was just too funny. She got madder and madder but I could not control myself. Finally, after an hour or so, she left and the whole table burst out and had a good laugh.

PokerLizard: To some players, winning a WSOP bracelet is validation, how do you feel after winning your first one?

Todd: It was more of a relief than anything. I’m so tired of the question “How many bracelets do you have?” I say none and many people argue with me. They remember me winning tournaments at the hall of fame which was also held at the Horseshoe casino. I was once on a talk show with ‘loud mouth’ Mike Matosow and we disagreed on the play of a hand. He had the nerve to ask me how many bracelets I had!!! I had a good reply though; I said none, how many millions do you have.

PokerLizard: Congratulations on your success and thanks for your time.

If you liked this interview please consider making a small donation, all proceeds will go toward my children’s college fund, Thanks.

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