Stuart Errol "Stu" Ungar was one of the greatest American professional pokers of all time who was well known for playing Texas Holdem and gin rummy. He holds the record for being one of the players to win The World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main event three times. Stu Ungar also was popular as the sole player to win Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker three times which is known as the second most highly admired title in the world of poker.
Stuart Errol Stu Ungar had a few nicknames such as ‘Stuey’, ‘The Kid’ and ‘The Comeback Kid’.
Stuart Errol Ungar was born on September 8, 1953 in a Jewish family and was raised in the fascinating Manhattan’s lower East Side. Stu Ungar’s father, Isadore Ungar, was the owner of a bar named Foxes Corner which was also a gambling establishment which exposed Stuart to gambling when he was young. His father tried to keep Stuart away from the card game, but his passion to play cards was so strong that he started playing underground gin. He lost his interest in education and finally dropped out from school in the tenth standard. In 1966, Stuart’s father died of heart attack.
Until the age of 18, Stuart Ungar continued to play gambling around the New York and even came in touch with the notorious organized crime figure Victor Romano, who was also a proficient card player of his time. Both shared a common bond and Victor served as a mentor and protector to Stuart which defended him other ill famous criminals.
Stuart Ungar was infamous for being arrogant and criticizing his opponents if he thinks they lack in skills. One of his famous quotes is: "I never want to be called a 'good loser.' Show me a good loser and I'll just show you a loser."
At the age of 10, Stuart Ungar won a local gin tournament. After his father’s death, Stuart quit studies to support his sister and mother and played tournaments to earn his living. His proficiency in poker was highly impressive and in 1976, he became one of the best players in New York.
However, despite his winnings, Stuart Ungar was under the burden of debt and eventually had to leave New York due to gambling debts.
In 1977, he bid good bye to New York and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he came in contact with Madeline, his former girlfriend and eventually married her in 1982. But both divorced in 1986.
Stu Ungar played in many casinos and with his skills could easily win gin tournaments. He became extensively popular and many players would rethink to play against him if they knew Stu Ungar was playing.
In Las Vegas, Stuart Ungar competed and defeated many professional gamblers such as Billy Baxter.
Stu Ungar was popular among his poker pros for offering large tips to cabbies and casino employees irrespective whatever amount he won.
In 1979, his mother died and it was around this time that Ungar began using cocaine which escalated to extreme during the World Series of Poker main event in 1990. Stuart Ungar’s life was full of sorrow as his daughter committed suicide and main players believe that the only thing that kept him alive irrespective of physical illness was his determination to see his daughter grow up.
Eventually, Stu Ungar was found dead on November 22, 1998 at the Oasis Motel. An autopsy revealed that drugs might be the cause of his death. He is interred at Palm Valley View Memorial Park in East Las Vegas.
Stuart Ungar in his career has won many tournaments and titles. He was so skilled in his passion that his opponents would fear to play against him.
In 1980, Stuart Ungar made his entry in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in which for the first time he had ever played a Texas Hold'em tournament. However, the 1980 SBOP was the Stu's first tournament in which he finished in 34th. Ungar became victorious by defeating Doyle Brunson only to become the youngest champion.
In 1981, Stu Ungar struggled to defend his title at the 1981 World Series of Poker by defeating Perry Green. And it was in this year, he won his second bracelet in the $10,000 Deuce to Seven Draw event defeating Bobby Baldwin, world champion in 1978.
He won his fourth WSOP bracelet in 1983.
Stu Ungar has a record of defeating professional poker player and multi-WSOP bracelet winner.
What made his so proficient in poker? Well, many believe that it was his eidetic memory and IQ that were his crucial contributions. Because of such features, many casino owners banned Ungar from playing in casinos. In 1977, Bob Stupak, an owner and designer of casinos, bet $100,000 that Ungar could possibly not count and determine the final card down in a six-deck shoe. But Bob lost the bet.
In his poker career, Ungar also confronted certain allegations. In one incident in 1982, he was penalised by the New Jersey Gaming Commission for allegedly cheating in an Atlantic City casino while playing blackjack. But he filed a legal suit and won the same.
Stuart Ungar won the pot in the 1992 World Series of Poker defeating Mansour Matloubi in a series of $50,000 buy-in no limit hold'em heads-up freezeout events.
Stuart also won the 1997 WSOP prize but spent all the winnings chiefly on drugs and sports betting.
To participate in the 1998 WSOP, Ungar didn’t have enough cash and it was Baxter who offered financial endorsement. However, to surprise Stu Ungar told Baxter he did not feel like playing just before ten minutes to start which he later justified because of his drug abuse.
Following the 1998 WSOP, Stuart Ungar keep himself away from the public eye and was spotted walking around Las Vegas poker rooms asking for cash to get him back on the poker tables.
In October 1998, Bob Stupak came to his rescue and offered support to Ungar to play several tournaments over a period of time.
He also flew to Europe to play poker tournament with several fellow pros.
Ungar won the World Series of Poker main event three times and five WSOP bracelets. His winnings are estimated to be over $3,600,000 in tournament.
He won the main event of Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker three times in 1984, 1988 and 1989.
In 2001, Stu Ungar for his winnings and exceptional achievements was inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame.