Poker & Life

Doyle Brunson played professional poker for over 50 years. He was a two-time World Series of Poker main event champion, a Poker Hall of Fame inductee, wrote several books on poker and was the first player to earn $1 million from poker tournaments.

Did Brunson smoke cigars? Not that I know of. Did he ever run a retail tobacco shop? There is no record of that. So, what is Texas Dolly doing as a central character in this PCA Magazine column? With Doyle’s passing at age 89, on May 14, 2023, I thought his wisdom on the poker felt offered insights that we could benefit from. More specifically, no individual saw more change in the game of poker than Doyle, and his keen mind might offer us wisdom as we navigate our businesses and lives.

Poker and Cigars

Everyone gets lucky once in a while, but no one is consistently lucky. – DB

I need to be reminded of this on a regular basis. I have certainly had a bit of “run good” as a retail tobacconist over the past six years. My shop has seen massive growth. We are expanding into two more locations over the next 24 months. I do believe we have had a bit of fortune during this period, but to rely on that as I plan for the future would be irresponsible.

There are still spreadsheets to be developed, staff to hire and train, market analysis to be performed and customers to serve. To lose sight of the hard work and execution that must occur to ensure success would be akin to playing the lottery to provide for your family. Sure, I might hit an occasional win, but my family is going to suffer if I rely on luck for their provision.

Now might be a good time to focus on the small things we have taken for granted in our retail locations. Maybe it’s time to replace that humidification system that has been making noise, back up that accounting data on that old computer or change the login information to your social media accounts. It is rarely a natural disaster that hurts our business, it is a failure to address something small that has not broken … yet.

Try to decide how good your hand is at a given moment. Nothing else matters. Nothing. – DB

Self-reflection and the humility it takes to faithfully evaluate your business and life is a crucial element to long-term success. As I was days away from opening my second retail location, I was notified that my competitor had submitted permits to build a rival cigar experience one block away. I must confess that my initial reaction was frustration. After experiencing that unproductive emotion, I started to evaluate what the real impact of that data point meant for our team and efforts to expand.

Quickly, I realized that my hand was in pretty good shape. My location was entering and shaping this untapped market first. My team would have a two-year head start capturing a customer base and establishing the strong bonds of relationship. My brand would have the benefit of leading, while my competitor would suffer the perception of intrusion after the fact. A real sense of peace revealed itself as I took the time to evaluate the impact of something that was out my control. It is a great reminder to always know where you stand and to make the best decision possible with the facts you have at that time.

I now see what the really important things in life are and they don’t relate to what I do for a living. – DB

I had to take a deep breath after reading this. Two months ago, one of our customers lost his wife to cancer. Yes, I sell premium cigars for a living. However, the real important work that has occupied my lounge has been the care, encouragement and support provided to a brother of the leaf. As I have written previously, when we make relationships the central part of our retail experience, we are opening ourselves to the messiness of life. Do not shy away from that in your retail business. People are the most important things in life, and I cannot imagine a world where we would forget that. Take the opportunity today to thank a staff member, a customer, and a sales rep for their continued investment in your business.

Through the years I’ve never stopped doing things, thinking about things, and I still think young. – DB

My wife asked me recently how much the Premium Cigar Association was paying me for these quarterly articles. I sheepishly replied, “Well, they include my picture in every publication.” I don’t write for the industry as much as I write for myself. I read … a lot. I spend a great amount of time thinking about things that matter, and some things that don’t. I want to keep my mind sharp as the years wear on my joints. Our collective time on this spinning globe is very short. Take some time over the coming weeks to be thoughtful. Take some time to get back to that activity that brought you joy in the past. Take some time to live fully.

Thank you, Mr. Brunson, for the reminders to be thoughtful, to prioritize the important and love the things that matter. Shuffle up and deal!

This story first appeared in PCA The Magazine, Volume 2, 2023. To receive a copy of this magazine you must be a current member of PCA. Join or renew today at