Epic Poker Awards Doyle Brunson the First Lifetime Membership Card

By Michael Craig

On Wednesday, before the start of the Epic Poker League’s third Main Event, the League awarded poker icon Doyle Brunson its first Lifetime Card. The twenty-minute ceremony, featuring Commissioner Annie Duke, League members Barry Greenstein and Jennifer Harman, Bellagio poker executives Doug Dalton and Jack McClelland, and Doyle himself, was a sometimes-humorous, sometimes-emotional tribute to Brunson and the rich, complex history of professional poker. “I’m accepting it,” Brunson acknowledged, “as a tribute to all the guys when I started … Sailor (Bryan Roberts), Slim (Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston), (Johnny) Moss, Goody (James “Tennessee Long Goody” Roy), Aubrey (Day), Crandell (Addington), (Jack) Straus, and Sarge (Fred “Sarge” Ferris).”

Annie Duke began the ceremony on Epic’s behalf, explaining that the Lifetime Card represented “the highest level of success and true ambassadorship.” She concluded, “There could be no other ‘first choice’.”

Barry Greenstein, five-year Epic cardholder and 2011 inductee to the Poker Hall of Fame, cited Doyle Brunson’s longevity and commitment to excellence. “Doyle told me at 50 my game would start to deteriorate … That means Doyle, at 78, has been going downhill for 28 years.” In the last 10 years, Brunson has won $3 million in tournaments, a pair of WSOP bracelets, and a WPT championship. “How good does that mean Doyle was in his prime?” he asked.

Greenstein invoked poker’s rich and underappreciated history, describing how much he learned from the game three decades ago from one of Doyle’s contemporaries and friends, Bryan “Sailor” Roberts. He concluded by drawing Epic into that history. “The first test of the legitimacy of any new poker venture is to see if Doyle Brunson is involved. Epic chose wisely in making him the first recipient of a Lifetime Card.”

Jennifer Harman, another Epic member, friend, and frequent poker opponent of Brunson’s, provided an intimate view of the game’s greatest player. “Doyle is a great family man, married for over 40 years, always talking about his wife and his family. In fact, he has been as a father to me.” On the other hand, “he’s one of the biggest kids I’ve met in my life.” Jennifer provided examples and said, “clubbing with Doyle is the best. But don’t do shots with him. He’ll drink you under the table.”

Jack McClelland, Bellagio tournament director and friend of Brunson since the late 1970s, nevertheless thought Doyle “seemed like a godlike figure back then. And in 35 years, his stature has only grown in my eyes.” In a ceremony deservingly full of superlatives, McClelland issued the most sweeping and provocative (and possibly true) judgment: “Doyle Brunson is the greatest competitor the world has ever known in any sport.”

Doug Dalton, Bellagio director of poker operations, also talked about Doyle, from their first meeting in the presence of Benny Binion, Jack Binion, and Jack Straus. WPT President Adam Pliska and Jeffrey Pollack, Executive Chairman of Epic parent Federated Sports + Gaming, also attended, with scores of Epic League members flanking the aisles, many recording pictures and videos of the event.

Finally, the man himself took the stage. Disclaiming the necessity of the honor, he accepted it for “all these guys, the ex-road gamblers.” Doyle explained, “We went through a lot of adverse conditions to get to where poker is today.”

Commissioner Duke then directed Brunson’s attention to the burgundy curtain overhead. She pulled it away with a flourish, displaying the pennant that will forever hang in Epic Poker’s Hall of Champions. In red, white, and blue, against a black background, the pennant reads, “LIFETIME MEMBER – Epic Poker League – Inaugural Season – Doyle Brunson – 2011.” Epic awarded member a custom gold ring, with the same words and the Epic logo encircled by sapphires, designed by Josh Warner and GOOD ART HLWYD.

Annie invited Doyle back to the microphone, where he added just four more words.

“Shuffle up and deal.”

With that, Epic Poker’s third Main Event, with Doyle Brunson taking his seat among the 100 best players in the world, began.

Taken from epicpoker.com

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