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Texas Dolly’s passing fires new interest in poker – especially on the West Coast



The sad passing of the man who did more than anyone to transform poker from seedy barrooms to the global stage has thrown an even bigger spotlight on the game of poker – just as the world’s biggest even is about to get started.

Doyle Brunson passed away last month, and there will, of course, be sadness at his absence from the table. But there will also be plenty of smiles and laughter in celebration of a life well lived and a legacy that will endure through his son Todd and daughter Pamela, both of whom are talented players and WSOP winners.

Loved in poker hotspots beyond his native Texas

Doyle never forgot his roots, and with his trademark 10-gallon Stetson and his southern drawl, he never let anyone else forget them either! But he will be missed and celebrated beyond the Lone Star State. Nevada was, of course, where he did most of his business due to the state’s more relaxed regulations when it comes to poker.

But Texas Dolly was also a much-loved figure here in California. The Golden State is, after all, the poker capital of the USA, and has even more poker rooms than Nevada. Over the past few years, online poker in California has become an increasingly important part of the poker mix. About 60 million US poker players play online, and while there is no definitive data on whereabouts they play from, it is fair to assume that online poker players in California number into the millions. And Doyle Brunson can take some of the credit for that.

A pioneer of the online game

Texas Dolly was well into his 60s by the time the internet started to hit the mainstream in the mid 1990s. You might assume that he’d have had little time for such new technology at his age. However, you’d have been mistaken. This is, after all, the man who said people don’t stop playing poker because they get old, they get old because they stop playing poker. Right into his 80s, he had a keen interest in keeping up with the latest poker trends and showing his adaptability in outfoxing younger players.

Back in the 90s, he jumped aboard the online poker bandwagon with both feet and was busy setting up his own online poker site while men half his age were sneeringly dismissive of the new technology.

Doyle’s Room was something of an internet sensation when it launched in 2004, just as the online poker scene was starting to gain momentum. Unlike many of its contemporaries, this wasn’t just a poker platform that used a famous name for its branding. Texas Dolly was, to coin a phrase, all in, and he used to be a regular participant in the online tournaments his site hosted. Other big names of the time such as Mike Caro, Cyndy Violette and our very own Alec Torelli from Orange County were also regulars at Doyle’s Room a good 15 years before phrases like “online meetup” became everyday terms.

Doyle cut ties with the online poker scene following the events of poker’s black Friday in 2011, but was pleased to see it reborn bigger, better, safer and properly regulated in more recent years.

Following in the footsteps of a giant

The World Series of Poker gets underway in Las Vegas on May 30, and there are certain to be some last-minute changes to the schedule to honor the game’s best-loved character. Closer to home, thousands are taking a seat at the table in memory of Texas Dolly, too.

There used to be literally hundreds of card rooms in San Diego, but the event of 2020/21 combined with the popularity of the online options we mentioned earlier, have led to many closing their doors forever. Having said that, there are still a few traditional real world poker rooms that welcome everyone from absolute beginners to seasoned pros. These include the following two large-scale casinos:

  • Seven Mile Casino in Chula Vista has fabulous views over San Diego Bay. It is open 24/7 and whether you prefer Texas Holdem or Omaha, there’s always at least a table or two open and ready to offer you a seat.
  • Jamul casino, a 30 minute drive from downtown San Diego on CA-94 is the city’s newest casino. This ultramodern venue offers a great range of dining and entertainment options alongside the card games. There are daily tournaments that cater to every skill level and bankroll.
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