Stu Ungar Profile

Posted by Bill "zimba" Seibert at 01 April 2011 03:53
The late Stu Ungar is one of the true legends of the poker world. He is the only poker player to have ever won the World Series of Poker Main Event three times (1980, 1981, and 1997). Johnny Moss has three WSOP titles, but his first was obtained by a vote of the players, not by winning a tournament. Ungar won two more bracelets in 1981 and 1983 to bring his total to five. He had 15 cashes in the WSOP in total. He is also the only person to win Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker three times (1984, 1988, and 1989), the world's second most prestigious poker title during its time. Stu Ungar was inducted posthumously into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2001. Ungar was born September 8, 1953 on the Lower East Side of New York City and passed away November 22, 1998 in a Las Vegas hotel.

Things you might not know:
  • Ungar was born to Jewish parents and raised on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
  • Ungar's father was a loan shark and ran a bar/social club that hosted gambling, which was how Stu was introduced to the gambling world and poker.
  • Ungar was gifted in school and skipped seventh grade, but then dropped out of school in tenth grade.
  • Ungar's father died of a heart attack during his teens, and he fell under the tutelage of Victor Romano, noted gambler and organized crime figure.
  • Ungar was also a professional gin rummy player, considered one of the best players of all time.
  • Ungar once beat a top player Harry "Yonkie" Stein 86 straight games of Hollywood Gin.
  • Ungar first visited Las Vegas in 1977 and ventured into poker when he could no longer get any action from opponents or even the casinos because he was so successful at gin.
  • Ungar was infamous for his arrogance and criticism of other players he felt were inferior.
  • Ungar once said "I never want to be called a 'good loser.' Show me a good loser and I'll just show you a loser."
  • Ungar's first WSOP was in 1980 which he won defeating Doyle Brunson to become the youngest champion in its history, later surpassed by Phil Hellmuth in 1989 and others after that.
  • Ungar was nearly banned from defending his title the next year when he spat in the face of a dealer after losing a sizable pot in a high stakes game. Jack Binion was able to convince his father, the casino owner, to allow him to play for the notoriety.
  • Ungar's genius level IQ and great memory also contributed to his success at blackjack, where he often was banned from playing in casino's due to his unparalleled success.
  • Ungar won a $100,000 prop bet in 1977 with Bog Stupak, a casino owner, that he could count down a six-deck shoe and determine what the final card in the shoe was. Ungar won the bet.
  • Ungar's success led to extremes of Vegas high living often tipping with $100 bills. He had a number of vices and eventually became an addict doing cocaine regularly once his mother passed away in 1979.
  • Ungar overdosed on coke during the 1990 WSOP Main Event in his hotel room. However, he had such a chip lead that even when the dealers kept taking his blinds out every time around the table Ungar still finished 9th and pocketed $20,500.
  • Ungar lost most of his winnings at the poker table to an assortment of sports betting, horse or assorted prop bets.
  • Ungar's friends, including Mike Sexton, encouraged Ungar to enter drug rehab, which he refused.
  • Ungar, although deeply in debt, was staked for the 1997 WSOP by friend and pro Billy Baxter. He wore sunglasses to hid the fact that his nostrils had collapsed from cocaine abuse. But that didn't deter him from winning the tournament.
  • Ungar's life was made into a movie High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story in 2003.
Stu "the kid" Ungar is generally considered one of the most brilliant poker, gin and blackjack players ever. Many players marveled at his ultra-aggressive style and almost clairvoyant ability to see his opponent's hole cards. He only played in 30 major No Limit Hold'em championship events in his life and won 10 of them. Amazingly he won over $30 million during his poker career, only to die with no assets to his name.

During the 1992 World Series of Poker, Ungar faced off against Mansour Matloubi in a series of $50,000 buy-in no limit hold'em heads-up freezeout events. On the final hand of the game, Matloubi tried to bluff Ungar all-in for $32,000 on the river with a board of 3-3-7-K-Q. Ungar, who held 10-9, thought for a few seconds and said to Matloubi, "You have 4-5 or 5-6 so I'm gonna call you with this" and flipped over his 10-high to win the pot and bust Matloubi, who in fact held exactly what Ungar said he did.

Ungar documentary video and coverage from the 1997 World Series of Poker final table:

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