Stu Ungar was one of the greatest poker players but unfortunately he ruined himself with drugs and ended up being one of the saddest stories in the history of poker. While his gambling victories shine like sunny fairytales, his personal life leaves them less glorious. If Stu Ungar will serve as a warning to the poker stars of today as well as regular gamblers then perhaps his legacy as one of the best poker players of all times could be more than just that.
Stuart Errol Ungar grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His father, Ido Ungar, managed a bar that also offered gambling services. In spite of his father’s recommendations to stay out of gambling Stu quickly got into the world of tournament gin games. The young man did well and became quite famous for his play. When he was 18 he made friends with the crime figure Victor Romano. Romano gave Ungar protection from gamblers that he had offended or simply upset by beating them.
Stu Ungar never had a regular job and was in truth a full-time gambler. It wasn’t only in gin and poker that he made his success. His skills in Blackjack got him banned from several casinos. It has been claimed that money meant nothing to Ungar. The game was everything and money just the tool to gamble with.
To understand some of the genius of Stu Ungar his first appearance in the World Series of Poker serves as a great example. This was the first time he played Texas Hold’em and he left the tour with a bracelet after having won the main event and a price sum of $365,000. Through winning this event Ungar became the youngest champion that had ever been at that time. In total Stu Ungar won five bracelets, the last one being in the 1997 $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Campionship earning him $1,000,000.
Stu Ungar had a very high IQ and a photographic memory. This served him well in Blackjack and Poker. He was known for his young looks which earned him the nick-name The Kid. He could be sharp in his tongue against his opponents but he was also very generous and would tip well and could surprise people by giving them money. Today some people might call his intense style a form of hyper disorder. He was a gambler at all moments and couldn’t sit through a meal as he wanted to get back to the action.
As Stu Ungar continued to do well at the tables his drug abuse started to ruin his life. The drugs took over him and he could no longer focus on his gaming which led to a less shining reputation. Some people tried to get him back on his feet but he refused re-hab and spent his fortune on more drugs. He left the world in November 1998 when he was found dead in a hotel room in Las Vegas.