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Stu Ungar

 

Stu Ungar Stu Ungar will always be remembered as one of the greatest poker players who ever lived – some even say he was the greatest No Limit Hold’em player of all time. Stu was born on September 8, 1953 in the Lower East Side of New York City, where he grew up with his parents and his older sister Judy. Stu was exposed to gambling since he was a kid; back then, his father Isadore “Ido” Ungar ran a bar/social club/gambling establishment.

At the age of 13, his life took a drastic turn when his father died after suffering a fatal heart attack. Just twelve months later, his mother suffered a stroke; she was not able to care for herself or her children. Stu dropped out of school and became a dealer for a local card club to support his mother and sister. As a youngster, Stu had great success gambling on the streets of the Lower East Side, and before long Stu Ungar made a name for himself as a tournament gin player.

In 1978, at the age of 22, Stu arrived in Las Vegas, where he had huge success playing high-stakes gin rummy. Ungar started playing poker in Las Vegas in 1980; his youth and success earned him the nickname “The Kid.” He quickly became a force to be reckoned with: Stu went on to win five World Series of Poker bracelets and become a three-time World Champion. Stu won the Main Event back to back in 1980 and 1981, a record shared with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. Ungar and Johnny Moss are the only players to ever win three championship titles at the World Series of Poker.

“The Kid” won ten major $5,000 or higher buy-in No Limit Hold’em championship events. To understand his dominance in No Limit Texas Hold’em, you have to consider that T.J. Cloutier (winner of six World Series of Poker bracelets) and two-time World Champion Johnny Chan have won half that many. Even more impressive is the fact that Stu only played in approximately thirty of these events in his entire life. Stu Ungar was the only man to ever win the World Series of Poker and Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker. He won Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker three times; back then it was the second largest poker tournament in the world.

Stu was enormously talented, his mind was extremely quick and he simply dominated every single card game. Unfortunately, one of his problems was that he never had any respect for money; the more he had, the more he bet. Stu used to bet at poker, gin, horses, golf, or at any other sport. At the 1997 World Series of Poker, Stu Ungar won the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event for the last time; it was also his final win. Despite his undeniable talent and his accomplishments, his life was a tragedy, mainly triggered by his history of drug abuse. Stu Ungar died of drug addiction on November 22, 1998 at the age of 42. His place in history as a legend of poker is unquestionable.

World Series of Poker Bracelets

Year

Tournament

Prize (US$)

1980

$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship

$365,000

1981

$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship

$375,000

1981

$10,000 Deuce to Seven Draw

$95,000

1983

$5,000 Seven Card Stud

$110,000

1997

$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship

$1,000,000