Dealing Cards With Doyle Brunson

the Godfather of Poker

by Sean Chaffin

Legendary poker player Doyle Brunson played and partied on Jacksboro Highway. An old-time Texas poker player, Brunson got his start traveling from poker game to poker game throughout Texas. Born in 1933 in Longworth, Texas, Brunson found himself playing poker regularly in Fort Worth and spending plenty of nights on Jacksboro Highway. He now lives in Las Vegas, and in his more than 50 years of playing poker has won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets including the coveted $10,000 Main Event twice. This poker pro spoke with Fort Worth, Texas, about the highway and his time in Fort Worth.

Where were some of the places you played on Jacksboro Highway?
The highway wasn't exactly a poker spot. It was more of a casino-type environment out there. The poker was downtown and on the north side and then way out on the south side, three different spots. The Jacksboro Highway, that was Tiffin Hall's, Benny Binion's and Pappy Kirkwood's. They all had gambling places out there.

I played a few times, but it wasn't one of the main places for poker. I played at Elmer Sharp's. He was supposed to be one of the toughest guys in Fort Worth. He went around looking for fights, and usually found them. He had a bear that he kept on a chain at his nightclub casino. He would actually get in there and wrestle that bear. I guess he had it de-clawed or something. It was kind of a major attraction out on the highway and brought a lot of people in there.

What are your thoughts on Jacksboro Highway?
The highway was more of a party spot. That was where everybody went to find the girls.

You were a young man then too. Did you do some partying?
Yes, I did. It wasn't a spot to go to unless you were willing to get in some trouble. Every time you would go out, there were knives, and that was the spot where there were always tough guys, professional thieves, pimps and hustlers. That's where they hung out, on the highway. You saw a lot of killings out there and major fights. It was really like the Old West.

Any interesting memories?
I remember the old Owl Club was where a lot of people went. I think it was right at the beginning of the Jacksboro Highway coming out of town. I think the first time I got arrested I was there. I wasn't a known person back in those days, and I gave the officer a false name. I got arrested, and they kept me in jail overnight and over the weekend. It wasn't a pleasant experience, for sure.

Life in the poker world has changed a lot I guess?
It's gotten to be more legitimate. Back then, it was pretty wild. I'm not sure why I did it. I guess I just enjoyed the excitement, and I was single and didn't have any attachments and so forth.

How often do you play poker now?
I play several times a week. Whenever there's a big game down at the Bellagio, I'm usually there.

How is your health?
I had a melanoma on my arm. It was pretty scary, but I went down to MD Anderson Cancer Center, and they fixed it up. It left an 8- or 10-inch scar on my arm, but that doesn't bother me. My health is still pretty good. My leg's bad, but my motor's pretty good.

Do you get back to Texas very often?
Not very often. Most of my friends are gone, my sister passed away, all my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins are gone, so I don't have a lot of family left in Texas.

See the full story of Jacksboro Highway’s days of gambling and saloons HERE.