A Weekend with the Brunsons in Montana
I spent several days with the Doyle, Todd, and the Brunson family at their ranches and lakeside homes in Montana. Here’s a bunch of photos of them and the trip.
This past weekend, I spent time in Montana with the Brunsons.
The Brunson family owns several properties around the Flathead Lake area. Northwest Montana is one of the most scenic spots in North America. The location of the Brunson properties — several in number — is about 50 miles south of Glacier National Park. The nearest city of any size is Kalispell.
What follows is a photo essay of my trip, along with some personal observations.
The photo above shows the legend himself, Doyle Brunson, shooting his favorite rifle on his property. It’s engraved with Brunson’s famous motto, which is “It’s a long way from Longworth.” This refers to Brunson’s birthplace, in Longworth, TX.
By the way, Doyle celebrated his 81st birthday last month. He’s also a pretty good target shooter.
Here’s the entrance to Glacier National Park (obviously) with Jason Gronvold, our cameraman, editor, and all-around high-tech guru. We arrived in Montana on a perfect day — 70 degrees and not a single cloud in the sky. Now I know why they call this place “Big Sky Country.”
Look at the amazing clarity. The water is crystal clear. You can see all the way to the bottom. Mountains in the background are capped with year-round white snow. Animals are everywhere. So, what did I enjoy most?
Total peace and harmony with nature. When someone talks, the sound carries and you can hear someone’s conversation from like a half-mile away. Fortunately, most people who come here don’t disturb the serenity.
Here’s one of our cameramen, “Q” (Dave Quenette) setting up a shot of the amazing sunset, to be used on an upcoming episode of “Poker Night in America.”
Montana has a rich poker history. There are poker tables and games spread in several taverns around the state.
We came here to cover the eighth-annual Todd Brunson “Montana Poker Challenge,” which is held over a four-day period in early September. The tournament and cash games are held inside the ballroom, night next to the marina on the north end of Flathead Lake. Very unlike Las Vegas — which really makes it appealing.
Here’s me with our host for the week, Todd Brunson. He could not have been nicer to the crew and more accommodating in making sure we got what we needed. I’ll also admit, we all had an incredible time here. This is one filming assignment we hoped would not end for a while.
Todd was on site the entire time during his tournaments. He takes them seriously and they are run as well as any tournament you would find at a much larger venue. During my time there, I didn’t see a single player out of line, nor was there a dispute. Fill in the blank here with a line about Todd and his guns, but the truth is — everyone comes here to have fun and enjoy the people and scenery.
The Brunson Family primarily refers to Doyle and his two children — Todd and Pam. Todd also has a wife, named Angela.
Here’s Pam Brunson in the center with a bouquet of flowers. She came in second in the Montana Poker Challenge championship event, which was pretty impressive.
In this photo, Pam is joined by Donna Baptista-Houle (far left), Pam (who lives in Montana full time), and Sheryl Thorton-Burnham, who used to work for Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders.
One afternoon, we spent several hours with Doyle at his lakeside home. It’s one of the multi-million dollar log homes with all the accessories. Like out of a postcard. The home is decorated with mementos and artwork relating to Doyle’s life. I would have taken pictures of all this, but we will leave the home tour for the feature on “Poker Night in America,” to come.
Doyle and I did a 90-minute face-to-face interview on his back terrace overlooking the lake. We talked about nearly everything you can imagine, from poker to politics to religion to stories from the old days to what he thinks about poker today. I really felt as though this was probably Doyle’s best interview ever, the kind you might see on “60 Minutes.” Doyle was not only in top form, but was gracious, as well.
Here’s the “cabin” where the crew for “Poker Night in America” stayed. This is what you call “roughing it.” Such a brutal assignment.
Some of the best people I’ve ever worked with….the “Poker Night in America” crew (from left) — Tucker Lukas, Todd Anderson (the show’s creator), Q, Jason Gronvold, and Tony Mangnall.
We stayed on the south end of Flathead Lake. I didn’t realize it but this is the biggest lake in North America west of the Great Lakes. It’s even larger than Lake Tahoe. It’s 21 miles long and about 8 miles across.
The day after the tournament, Todd welcomed us onto his property. Here he is posing with his Rhino, an ATV which goes all over his property (this location is about 38 acres on the side of a small mountain).
Robert Mizrachi, the two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner, won first place at this year’s Montana Poker Challenge. He defeated Pam Brunson heads up. Here’s Robert taking aim, watched closely by Doyle.
Todd Brunson — the poster boy for “Guns and Ammo.”
I’m not going to ask Todd what he’s thinking about as he nails several targets in a row.
Shooting with the Brunsons — Doyle and Todd (that’s Todd’s wife Angela on the other side of the table).
People ask me how I get along with Todd given our political differences. I get asked sometimes if we argue, or how can we be friends. Truth is, people can have political and philosophical differences, but still enjoy hanging out together.
Here’s one of four horses next to the ranch which belongs to the Brunsons. This horse’s name is “Flash.”
Todd’s dog “Chase.” He’s a breed called a blue heeler. A fun dog who is treated as a member of the family.
I love dogs and really got attached to “Chase.”
The Brunson family on the front porch.
Thanks to all the Brunsons and the “Poker Night in America” crew.
I hope to return again next year to the 2015 Todd Brunson “Montana Poker Challenge.” Everyone’s invited to join the fun. For more information, go to TODD BRUNSON’S MONTANA POKER CHALLENGE