Brunson: How to bluff constantly and win

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in the London Telegraph in 2005.

Doyle Brunson index.

Historical note: The following explanatory note didn’t appear in the series, but was sent with each column as submitted.

Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson stands unchallenged as the most celebrated poker player who ever lived. In 2005, at age 72, he won an unprecedented 10th championship gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker. He is among the few living members of the Poker Hall of Fame, and his books  are the bibles for poker professionals.. Through and, Brunson has teamed with Mike Caro, today’s premiere poker educator, to offer a free learning experience to players worldwide. This column is founded on  those collaborative teachings.

Doyle Brunson

I’ve often wondered what would happen in life if everything turned out as expected. My bet is that every day would be boring. Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty peculiar things – at the poker table and beyond. I’ve seen herds of cattle holding up traffic on the busiest Texas highways and unusual poker hands that make you shake your head in disbelief every time you think about them.


But one incident that stands out in my mind involves a college kid named Tom who decided to invade one of the most serious poker games in the Northern half of Texas. Now, by “serious” I don’t mean that it was all about huge money. It was a significant game for its time, but nothing like the biggest poker games today. But the players took it very seriously. There were no soft spots, no players who didn’t understand no-limit hold ’em thoroughly.

We didn’t know what to make of Tom. He took his seat looking studious and out-of-place with his thick-rimmed glasses and pens clipped to his shirt pocket. He looked like he should be sitting at a drafting table, not a poker table. As he made himself comfortable, he put two books on a table next to him. The top one was by John Steinbeck, possibly Grapes of Wrath. The other one we couldn’t see. There was no title on the side of it, and the cover was completely obscured.

Well, this kid turns out to play a fairly conservative game, folding at lot and making only reasonably sized wagers. But about half an hour into it, something memorable occurs. A small pot is brewing. “What’s that other book, boy?” Jim, one of the more aggressive players demands, while casually playing the pot. It’s just Jim and Tom who are competing for this one.


Tom says nothing, but he immediately shoves $9,000 into a $700 pot. It seems impetuous, like he was goaded into it at that very moment. Tom’s unusually large bet is so unexpected that we all fall still to watch the outcome. Normally, a player would just fold unless he held a monster of a hand. Jim starts to throw his hand away, but then – suddenly – Tom’s elbow grazes the Steinbeck book and sends it sliding off the second book underneath. Now the title of that book is glaring at us: How to Bluff Constantly and Win. Tom – the young college kid with seemingly little poker prowess – now seems embarrassed and fumbles for words.

In a moment of high drama Jim rises from his seat and shoves all his chips into the pot. He’s a little short of the full amount to call, so he figures Tom will get a few chips back.

“Did you learn much from that book?” he sneers, sarcastically. His gaze is triumphant.

Then that gaze changes suddenly when Tom turns over his cards. He holds an unbeatable flush. Jim can’t seem to speak and just stands there for the longest time. Then he says simply, “Good night, boys.”

It was a good night for Tom. Despite the suspicious ploy, several players still didn’t seem to trust him and kept right on calling. When he cashed out, he tossed the book on the table, urging us to read it.

Inside How to Bluff Constantly and Win were all blank pages, except the first one which read, “Don’t.” — DB

Next entry in this Doyle Brunson series


6 thoughts on “Brunson: How to bluff constantly and win”

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  1. Texas Dolly is one of a kind. You run him a close second Mike but I love Doyle dearly. He says it all right there. Don’t. I like Maverick’s statement on that. “I almost never bluff.” Until he does. A bluff is a wonderful tool, used correctly and at just the right moment it can reap great rewards. Used incorrectly or too often and it can cost you. I like to run a bluff early with the expectation of getting picked off. Then later, no matter how strong your hand is, somebody will call.

  2. Mike these links you put up are so helpful and fascinating I get up each morning looking to see if there is another one. I love these stories about Doyle very interesting stuff as I read them i too myself have witnessed the same type of situations the side bets, tossing of chips across the room etc. What a great time Poker is.

  3. Mike is this story really about you? Did Doyle just change your name to Tom? He could’ve picked a better name for you lol.

    1. Hi, Anthony —

      Tom isn’t me in Doyle’s story. However, I did that exact trick in Gardena in the 1970s — and have written about it. Real names in these stories are disguised. And remember, Doyle wrote some of the entries in this series in collaboration with me (see top note). I’ve learned a lot from him and, hopefully, he’s picked up a few small things from me. That’s how poker education works.

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  4. Fine lesson for the young “kamikaze” players of today….(I called them “kamikaze” as in suicide bets…..thanks for the story..Jaime

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