Friday, December 04, 2009

Doyle Brunson’s Confessions

'The Godfather of Poker' by Doyle BrunsonBeen absolutely up to my eyeballs with work over the last week. Have yet to get to The Gambling Tales podcast, which I’m eager to hear. Also have not seen an episode of Poker2Nite yet, but this weekend I plan to give it a look.

I did manage to follow a little of that House hearing yesterday, and greatly enjoyed Pokerati Dan’s live blog of the proceedings. Definitely sounds as though the overall tenor of the online gambling debate has changed markedly, and so -- regardless of one’s views on it all -- it will be most interesting to see what comes next.

I also was able to find time to read Doyle Brunson’s new autobiography, The Godfather of Poker, and write a review over on Betfair -- check it out.

I liked the book and certainly recommend it to those interested in learning more about Texas Dolly’s story. As I mention in the review, he pretty much covers it all here, and while the book’s organization seems to break down a little toward the latter stages, I found myself fairly engaged right to the last pages.

One aspect of the book I didn’t dwell on too greatly in the review was the occasional discussions of faith that Brunson interweaves into his story. By no means is Brunson heavy-handed about it. In fact, near the end of the book he makes a point to distance himself from any suggestion that he might in any way be attempting force his views on others.

“I’m often asked about the difficulty of someone in my profession being a Christian,” he says near the book’s conclusion. “I avoid those kinds of discussions. I only talk with people I feel are genuinely interested in what I have to say about my Christian experience, and what I did to get to the point where I am now. Everyone’s entitled to his own beliefs.”

Faith matters only come up occasionally in the book, and every time they do Brunson handles them sensitively and with that same, careful touch, always focusing more on the status of his own faith than presuming to evaluate others’ -- an exception being his praise for the devout faith of his wife, Louise, and that of his mother, too.

St. Augustine's 'Confessions'Like I say, these discussions were not a huge part of the book, but I’ll admit there was a moment midway through when I found myself thinking of St. Augustine’s Confessions and noticing more than a few connections between Brunson’s story and that famous fifth-century autobiography in which Augustine tells the story of his own conversion to Christianity.

I’m not going to go too deeply into the parallels I saw, since they’ll probably only be interesting to those who are familiar with Confessions. I will just list a few, though.

Both begin their stories with childhood, and both recount getting involved with various mischief during their youth. As a kid, Augustine and some others steal some pears they don’t really need; in college, Brunson and some others steal some items from a nearby cabin (also unneeded). Both express sincere repentence for these actions (and other sins). Augustine’s father dies when he’s a teenager, and Brunson’s when he was in his twenties. In both cases, the fathers have relatively small influence on the sons’ lives, particularly with regard to their faith. Meanwhile, both have Christian mothers who live long lives and influence their sons greatly.

Like Augustine, Brunson finds his calling only after having tried other paths first. (Indeed, both were teachers, though Brunson only for a short while.) Both experience illness and recover. Both also find themselves nearly overwhelmed at times with grief over the death of others, but eventually find solace and strength in faith to endure.

Both are also constantly surrounded by mentors and friends along the way. Indeed, there was one moment following the death of Doyle’s eldest child, his daughter Doyla at age 18, when Brunson goes to a pastor named Bob Tremaine who offers him guidance during a difficult time. Brunson also speaks of the support of his close friend David “Chip” Reese, who would often discuss scripture with Brunson as would others in a Bible study group led by Tremaine. Couldn’t help but think of Augustine being mentored by St. Ambrose here, or his friend Alypius who is with him when he finally converts (and who converts as well).

There are a few other connections, some of which might require a little stretching to work, but you get the idea. As I say, unlike Augustine’s Confessions, a book explicitly written to help guide others toward the path of Christianity (among other purposes), such an evangelistic motive is obviously not primary for Brunson in his autobiography. His story is somewhat inspiring, though, and while he is hardly a perfect person -- and is always quick to confess he is not -- he nevertheless does in some ways present us with a model to follow.

For a less idiosyncratic reaction to the book, check out the review. And have a good weekend, all!

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Blogger stephenAmurphy said...

Never thought I would see a comparison between Dolly and St. Augustine, but there it is. Ha, good stuff though. I have the autobiography, but haven't delved into yet. Sounds like an interesting read.

12/04/2009 12:13 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Haha, yes, I know. I think Brunson would be the first to admit he's no saint!

12/04/2009 12:17 PM  
Blogger bastinptc said...

Although my only exposure to Brunson is via the TV, I believe it shows in his countenance.

12/04/2009 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

With the consistent success Doyle has had makes him a champion in my eyes. To be on top for that long takes a lot of skill.

12/06/2009 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Johnny Hughes said...

That is a neat review. I will send it to Doyle. I loved his book. Doyle speaks for me in attitude of the old Texas gamblers. We expect too much from others when it comes to ethics and their word. I am proud of being a Christian, in simple terms. Doyle has put his money where his mouth is, supporting good causes. He just gave me a dynamite quote for an article I am writing. I believe the stories in his book, as I knew and played most of the same Texas road gamblers. His stories are larger than life, and so is he.

12/08/2009 6:31 AM  

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