Meet Our Instructors
"I absolutely benefit from it…and I play in the biggest games in the world! Any poker player can benefit from taking a Boot Camp...from beginner to professional, and everyone in between."
- World Series of Poker bracelet winner
- More than $3.5 million in tournament earnings
- Won more money playing cash games than nearly any other player in the world
Todd Brunson is one of the most successful high-stakes cash game players in the world. He has a World Series of Poker bracelet, he’s taken first or gone deep in numerous major tournaments, he’s played regularly on High-Stakes Poker and other TV shows, and he’s one of the most widely respected players in the poker world. Ever since he left college at age 20 to become a full-time poker pro, he has loved the game to which he has devoted his life.
But most of the time, he’s not talking about the high points. When he talks—or tweets—about the game, you hear about one of two topics. Either he’s sharing the little things that make poker fun—joking around at the table, good-naturedly crushing a long-time rival, enjoying the company of the people in his regular game.
Or else he’s talking about patience, discipline, and hard work.
“Just quit,” he once tweeted after a long night at his regular high-stakes game at Las Vegas’s Aria casino. “Tough 15 hour session. Managed a win without many hands. These are the days it feels good. Knowing you were supposed to lose but not.”
Making the Game His Own
As the son of Doyle Brunson, the “godfather of poker”, Todd Brunson probably has the most famous pedigree in the history of the game. In fact, he and his father were the first father-son team to win WSOP bracelets. But when he tells you about how he learned to play, you soon realize that right from the start, he had to make the game his own—and he had to work hard to do it.
“It had nothing to do with household life or anything like that,” he says emphatically. When Todd first started playing, he was living away from his family, in college. “When I was 18, I thought 2 pair beat 3 of a kind,” he says. “I had no clue of anything about it.”
Todd was at Southwest Texas University, then at Texas Tech, studying political science, but one summer he went to California to try his luck. In those pre-Commerce days, he played at Oceanside. “I never made a conscious decision to play full-time,” he says. “I just wasn’t going to go back for that semester. And I obviously never went back.”
Todd worked hard to rise from his humble beginnings at $3-$6 into poker’s highest ranks: the Big Game at the Bellagio, where he played with some of the best players in the world, including his dad. Although Todd was primarily a cash game player, he also achieved significant tournament success, including winning a WSOP bracelet in 2005.
To Todd, though, it was important to keep having fun at the tables. When he teaches at WPT Boot Camp, one of his most consistent pieces of advice to students is “Make sure you always have fun playing.”
The most fun Todd has ever had at the table was playing Texas billionaire Andy Beal, a story that Michael Craig famously recounted in The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King. When Beal wanted to test his skills against real pros, a group of top Vegas players formed “The Corporation”. Under the leadership of Doyle Brunson, the players took turns playing Beal heads-up with an agreement to share their winnings—or their losses.
In Craig’s account, Todd emerges as one of the heroes who pulls The Corporation out of financial danger when literally millions were at stake. Todd put himself and his partners well into the black, and for Todd, the memory is still sweet. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” he says.
In Craig’s book, the matches don’t sound like much fun. Beal muffled his face, wore a noise-cancelling headset, and refused to speak, hoping to give away as little as possible. Other pros found it wearing, sitting in silence for hours on end.
Not Todd. “He did just sit there and all that, but what was fun was the stakes,” Todd explains. “Playing higher than anyone had ever played.” Craig describes only the matches that took place during 2001-2004, but there was a return engagement in 2006, where Todd also won millions for himself and his partners. When asked if he’d ever want to be in a similar game, Todd just laughs at the ridiculous question. “Unless I want to die, yes!” he says. “Of course! That's why I live.”
Mixing It Up at Aria
Although Todd loves the excitement of super-high-stakes play, he enjoys his current game at Aria for the opposite reason. Unlike the old Big Game at Bellagio, which has since dried up, Todd says the Aria game is “a lot less serious. If somebody takes a bad loss, they lose $30,000 as opposed to losing a million or more.”
The lower stakes make the game more light-hearted. At the Bellagio, “if somebody had a bad day, they had a really bad day,” Todd says. “It’s nothing like that at Aria. If somebody has a really bad day, it’s not all that bad!”
“It’s very sociable,” he goes on. “In the Big Game, there were like seven, eight guys – the same group every day. Which was okay, I like a lot of them, too. But in this group, there are a lot more people playing, so you get to play with different people. It’s a great group - maybe 30 different guys who are coming in and out - and I like every single one of them. It’s just fun.”
Sharing His Hard-Won Wisdom
The life of a high-stakes player has its high points, but most of the time, it’s even more of a grind than playing $1-$2. You sit down at the table, you focus, and you play, usually for hours at a time. When your opponents are tough—and in high-stakes games, at least some of them always are—you have to stay alert for even the slightest edge.
“I was just thinking about this the other day,” Todd says, referring to his game at Aria. “I took a lot of ridiculous beats and then I had a lot of marginal hands I just went ahead and threw away. I just knew my table image was bad. And I was thinking, almost nobody would throw any of these hands away! I said to myself, 90 percent of the people in the game yesterday would probably have had a bad loss - not just a loss, a bad one. But by tightening up and being aware of my table, I was able to break even. I felt good about myself, you know? I really accomplished something by not losing.”
This is the kind of discipline Todd tries to pass on to students at WPT Boot Camp. He enjoys teaching because he remembers how hard he had to work as he ground his way up from low stakes to high. By teaching people “the right attitude to the game” as well as some of his hard-won skill, Todd hopes to make that climb a bit easier for them.
“I really like seeing students work hard and learn how to play better,” he says. “I know they’ll have a lot more fun if they’re winning—and I want to help them win.”
Todd also loves teaching because it’s good for his own game. Like the students, he finds that thinking about hands carefully helps him play better. He said that “recently I was talking with Nick Binger, who also teaches at Boot Camp. We both agreed that after teaching a camp, we play better. I absolutely benefit from it…and I play in the biggest games in the world! Any poker player can benefit from taking a Boot Camp...from beginner to professional, and everyone in between."