“Doyle Brunson’s Super System” Review

[LL] “I guess it’s my turn to review some books”, Leroy the Lion suggested. “I just inherited a huge box of them from an uncle.”

[FF] “Sorry to hear. How did he die?” Figaro the Fish inquired.

[LL] “Oh, he didn’t die. But he was about to. His wife said she’d kill him if he didn’t stop squandering their retirement savings playing poker.”

[RR] “I guess the books you got didn’t help him much”, Roderick the Rock ventured.

[LL] “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can give a person a book to read, but you can’t make him think.”

[SS] “So, you like the books?” Stan the Stat asked.

[LL] “They’re a mixed bag, but in general I thought they were pretty good if a bit dated. I think you’d particularly like the history books though, Stan. Those are timeless.”

[SS] “Oh, absolutely. I’d love to borrow any of the ones you won’t be reading soon.”

[LL] “I’ll bring some to the next tournament.

Most of the books are from 1999 to 2009. But a few are older, starting with a classic, Doyle Brunson’s Super System, from 1979. Since I’m reading them in chronological order, that’s where I’ll start.”

[SS] “If I remember, Brunson originally self-published the material as How I Made Over $1,000,000 Playing Poker and sold it for $100 a pop in 1978.”

[LL] “That sounds about right. But that’s a fairly rare, valuable book. If my uncle had that he could have sold it and kept playing a little longer.”

[LL] “Anyway, Super System covers a lot of ground. Brunson got expert help for most of the poker variations:

  • Draw Poker: Mike Caro1 not only covers draw poker extensively but discusses tells long before his own book on the subject came out. He also contributed fifty pages worth of computer-calculated probability tables for the appendixes.
  • Seven-Card Stud: Chip Reese had just won the 1978 WSOP $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Split and went on to win the 1982 WSOP $5,000 Seven-Card Stud.
  • Lowball: Joey Hawthorne, a poker theorist, and Doyle Brunson cover Ace-to-Five, Deuce-to-Seven (which Brunson won the 1976 $5,000 event in), and Razz (which Brunson won the 1998 $1,500 event in).
  • Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split: David Sklansky would go on to write over a dozen of his own books on poker and gambling.
  • Limit Texas Hold ‘Em: Bobby Baldwin captured all four of his WSOP bracelets between 1977 and 1979, including the 1978 Main Event just after this book was published.
  • No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em: Doyle Brunson won four of his ten WSOP bracelets in No Limit Hold ‘Em, which has been his favorite since well before it even arrived in Las Vegas.

[LL] “There’s no arguing with Brunson’s credentials or how groundbreaking Super System was, but he did take a few missteps. He believes in poker ESP (‘I believe some good Poker players actually employ a degree of extrasensory perception’), rushes (‘After I’ve won a pot in No-Limit… I’m in the next pot — regardless of what two cards I pick up‘), and the weakness of female players (‘Nor do I like to see women at a Poker table’).2

Overall, though, this book is still an excellent primer for all the different poker variations it covers. I certainly learned a lot about Draw Poker and all the Stud variants that I wish I knew when I played them as a kid. We’ve started to play them more in the side games here, too.”

Title Doyle Brunson’s Super System
Author Doyle Brunson
Year 1979
Skill Level Intermediate
Pros Covers several types of poker over a comprehensive 605 pages. Teaches what used to be an aggressive style of play.
Cons What used to be aggressive is just normal now and won’t work like it used to. Although much of his advice is still valid, Brunson published Super System 2 in 2005.
Rating 3.0

Footnotes:

  1. The Draw Poker chapter is the only one Brunson didn’t write any of.
  2. The three quotes are from page 23, 450, and 24, respectively. To his credit, Brunson later retracted what he said about women, acknowledging that they could play just as aggressively as men in Poker Wisdom of a Champion.

    On the same page, Brunson also said, “I doubt that any of my children will decide to play professionally. It can be a very good life, and it has been for me, but my children haven’t come from the background that produced good Poker players.” Thirty-seven years later, his son Todd joined him in the Poker Hall of Fame.

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