Hold’em & Hollywood: New Movie to Cover Life and Times of Poker Legend Doyle Brunson

May 4, 2022
Hold’em & Hollywood: New Movie to Cover Life and Times of Poker Legend Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson has seen it all in the world of poker – from back room games in Texas and the birth of the World Series of Poker to the online poker boom and the growth of televised poker.

The poker legend’s life is now in development to become a new film. Radar Pictures announced Wednesday that the company had secured the movie rights to the Poker Hall of Famer’s story.

Producer and studio partner Justin Smith will write a script covering Brunson’s more than half-century as a poker pro. Smith is also a regular poker player with more than $2.5 million in live tournament winnings. He’s excited about the prospect of bringing Brunson’s story to the silver screen.

“There have been many gambling and poker scripts sent to me,” Smith said in a news release. “None of them has intrigued me as much as Doyle’s story. There’s no better life story than Doyle’s that I know of. Having played the biggest poker games with Doyle myself, I’m extremely honored to be in a unique position to be able to help tell his story and capture the environment accurately from an insider perspective.”

What poker fans can expect from the film

While the film is still in the early stages, Bruson’s unique life offers plenty of fodder for a film. He grew up in Longworth, Texas, where he excelled in sports. After earning a master’s degree from Hardin-Simmons University, Brunson found he made more at the poker table than in the business world.

That poker life led to  becoming the first player to win $1 million in poker tournaments. Brunson was also among those players at Benny Binion’s first WSOP in 1970. He won the Main Event in 1976 and ‘77 and is one of only four players to win multiple times.

Brunson now has 10 WSOP bracelets throughout his career, tying him with Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey for second all-time. Another nice bullet point was becoming the first of six players to win both the WSOP Main Event and a World Poker Tour title.

A legend in the game, Brunson’s life seems perfect for a film. At age 88, he still plays in some of the biggest cash games in the world in Las Vegas.

Smith has produced several films and is currently co-producing the TV series The Guardians of Justice for Paramount+.  Industry veteran Ted Field (Cocktail, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Chronicles of Riddick) will also co-produce the film. 

“I met Doyle for the first time when he was 88,” Field said. “From the twinkle in his eye, I was immediately aware that even at that age, with his razor-sharp mind he could still be formidable in any proposition he might undertake. If Doyle wants to bet with you, look out. His improbable life story needs to be told with all its rollercoaster ups and downs and we at Radar feel privileged to have the chance to do it justice.“ 

An amazing life in poker

The life of Doyle Brunson isn’t new for many poker players and fans. As a road gambler, he survived whippings, gun fights, stabbings, mobsters, and murderers.That list also includes once being diagnosed with incurable cancer with just months to live.

Producers of the new film pointed out some other interesting notes about his life. Of a group of 32 men he played with as a Texas road gambler, just he and one other player remain alive.

On another occasion, Brunson was pistol-whipped and told he’s going to die as a stick-up man pointed a gun at his forehead.

Along with poker, Brunson was one of the biggest sports bettors in the world, producers note. He has a reputation for betting huge sums of money on just about anything. He once bet $1 million on a single hole of golf when he was virtually wheelchair-bound and could barely stand.

Brunson’s life has included numerous episodes of going broke and winning millions on other occasions. Producers also note that he once even tried to help discover Noah’s ark and raise the Titanic. The devastating death of his first-born daughter may also be touched on in the film.

“Doyle’s rollercoaster of a life defines the saying ‘Truth is stranger than fiction,,” Radar noted in announcing the project.

Who could play Doyle Brunson?

Could Vince Vaughn (left) play poker legend Doyle Brunson?

So who could actually play this poker legend and one of the biggest names in the game? There are certainly numerous talented actors who would be interested in the part. Here’s a look at just a few who might fit the bill.

  • Vince Vaughn – He brings poker knowledge and also has Brunson’s charm and good sense of humor. He loves the game and LasVegas, and just seems like a natural fit.
  • Kevin Costner – With the success of Yellowstone, Costner’s name is hot and he has the acting chops to play the godfather of poker. The Oscar winner loves the culture of the American West and adding the role might be a nice addition to his impressive resumé.
  • Josh Brolin – This acting veteran is receiving nice reviews for Outer Range on Amazon Prime. He has the acting chops and the sensibilities for the role.
  • Matthew McConaughey – This Oscar-winning Texan certainly has the accent and love of the Lone Star State. Would Wooderson be down with trading Austin for Las Vegas?

* Lead image and Vince Vaughan images courtesy PokerGO

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