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Poker legend Doyle Brunson retires, plays last game at WSOP

Doyle Brunson sheepishly tipped his hat in acknowledgment of the standing ovation, unsure what the fuss was all about.

He then climbed aboard his electric mobility scooter and sped off toward the parking lot at the Rio Convention Center.

“It’s another poker game,” he said hours earlier.

Except this one signaled the end of a legendary career.

The normally nondescript $10,000 buy-in No-limit 2-7 Lowball Draw Championship at the World Series of Poker took on added significance this week when the iconic Brunson made a rare appearance at the Rio.

His sixth-place finish Tuesday night provided a footnote to his earlier announcement that it would be the final tournament of his Hall of Fame career after more than 60 years at the tables.

Brunson later confirmed his retirement to multiple poker media outlets, adding that he also no longer will play in the famed high-stakes cash game at “Bobby’s Room” at Bellagio.

“I am going to quit poker because I’ve been married to the most wonderful woman (Louise) in the world for 57 years, and she’s not in very good health, and I’m going to spend our last years together as much as we can,” Brunson said. “I’m 85 myself, so it wouldn’t be any big upset if I didn’t wake up some morning. We don’t have a lot of time, and I would like to spend it with her. That is my priority.”

Nicknamed “Texas Dolly,” Brunson was a basketball and track standout at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, in the early 1950s before a factory accident ended his athletic career.

Brunson was one of the original poker “rounders,” playing in illegal games around Texas before he eventually settled in Las Vegas. His 1978 best-seller, “Super/System: A Course in Power Poker,” remains widely recognized to this day as the Bible for No-limit Texas Hold’em.

Brunson is a two-time winner of the WSOP Main Event (1976 and 1977) and is tied for second all time with 10 career WSOP bracelets.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988 and was voted the most influential force in poker by Bluff magazine in 2006.

“When I started, you were a second-class citizen,” Brunson said. “If you were a poker player, they equated you with being a drug dealer or some kind of mobster. To see it evolve like this to where people do respect the poker players now as a profession, that’s quite a transition. I’m thankful I was a part of it, and all my buddies — most of them are gone now — we played a big part in building all this. It’s gratifying to see it.”

Brunson stopped playing a full schedule at the WSOP several years ago, citing fatigue caused by the long days that come with tournament poker.

But he made his farewell the 2-7 Lowball Draw Championship and thrilled the poker community with one final deep run. Brunson and his son, Todd, were one of 11 players to begin play Tuesday.

“It feels great to be here,” an emotional Todd Brunson said before the start of play. “Hopefully we can both make the final table.”

Todd Brunson went out in 10th place, three spots short of the official final table. Meanwhile, Doyle Brunson continued to chip up, and his status was the No. 1 topic of conversation in the Amazon Room.

During breaks from their own tournaments, players of varying ages and nationalities walked by the featured table on ESPN’s main stage to check on Brunson’s progress.

But Brunson was unable to write a storybook ending, as he was eliminated Tuesday night by eventual fourth-place finisher James Alexander of San Antonio. Brian Rast earned his fourth career bracelet and more than $259,000 early Wednesday, defeating Mike Wattel heads-up.

Brunson collected $43,963 in his first WSOP cash since the 2013 Main Event.

As Brunson was leaving the Rio on Tuesday evening, an unidentified player sprinted through the hallway to catch up with the legendary poker pro. Brunson stopped and shook his hand a final time.

“There’s been a lot of great players through the years, and it’s always been debatable who’s the best player and all,” Brunson said. “But I think my legacy will be that I probably played at the high levels longer than anybody else.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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