Stu Ungar

Stu Ungar was born and raised in New York. At an early age it was clear that Stu had a talent. At the age of ten he had already won a local gin tournament and by the time he was fifteen years old he was considered to be one of the best gin players in New York. His earnings from the game soon lead to an early departure from school and a search for more competition across America. Inevitably Stu ended up in Las Vegas. The casino owners soon recognized his special card-counting skills and banned the young kid from all games. One night at Caesars Palace he won $83000 playing Blackjack before being stopped by the manager. Stu retaliated by correctly forecasting the last 18 cards left in the single-deck shoe. That was the beginning of the end for single deck blackjack tables. They were removed from Caesars and later from other casinos, and Stu’s picture was posted up in the security rooms of dozens of casinos.

He soon found himself entering his first main event of the World Series of Poker, Aged 24. Stu found himself heads up on the final table against Doyle Brunson beating him with 5-4 of spades as the flop came ace, deuce and three. The following year Stu again entered the WSOP main event, by this time he was a well known face on the poker scene and was a clear favourite to win. Winning the tournament again Stu was now declared a millionaire for the first time in his life. Stu was a compulsive gambler and drug abuser causing him to be a millionaire one day to being broke the next. He would often have to borrow money of his friends to participate in tournaments.

In 1990 Ungar was once again in the fore at the WSOP Championship. At the start of day 3 of the event he was a very solid chip leader but when play began he was no where to be seen. A search was made and his hotel room forcefully entered. He was found lying on the floor, unconscious. Despite this he returned to play and finished 9th.

By the 1997 WSOP tournament in Las Vegas, Ungar hadn’t been in the frame for over 7 years. He was seen around the gambling Mecca playing in small games but was pretty much written off by the poker world. He didn’t have the money to enter the Championship event but an hour before play an anonymous benefactor produced the $10,000 entry. Four days later the greatest comeback in poker history had occurred and the record of three victories established. In all he won 10 major No limit Hold’em tournaments out of the 30 he entered.

Unfortunately two months later he was found dead aged 45 at a hotel room.The medical examiner concluded that he had died of a heart condition brought on by his years of drug abuse. Despite this tragic event, Stu Ungar will be remembered as one of the greatest poker players of all time, and possibly the best gin player who ever lived.