Stu Ungar is one of the most recognized names in the poker world. Stuart Errol Ungar was born on September 8, 1953 and died on November 22, 1998. He was born to Jewish parents and raised in Manhattan. His father Isadore Ungar aka Ido, was a loan shark and ran a social club that was used as a gambling premise. It was his father’s business that exposed young Stu to gambling. His father was well-aware of the effects of gambling on his regular clients, which is why he tried to keep away Stu from the habit. Be that as it may, Stu went ahead and began to play underground gin. It was in no time that he made a name for himself.
His father died in 1966 from a heart attack, while his mother was incapacitated by a stroke. Ungar shortly after shifted around in New York, associating himself with some of the best card players such as Victor Romano, who was also reputable for his life of crime. Both Romano and Ungar had an interest in calculating odds while gambling. Romano became Ungar’s aide, protector and mentor.
Ungar had a reputation for being arrogant and rude to other players. This often did not settle well with others, but he had the backing of Romano, making him untouchable.
Following his mother’s death in 1979, he began using cocaine for the need to stay up and energized of long periods of time while playing at marathon poker sessions. The recreational habit however developed into an addiction. His drug problem continued to escalate, destroying him financially, and ruining his life. He eventually died in 1998. It is claimed that he died due to heart complications that arose due to his addiction to drugs.
Ungar began to gamble at a young age. He won a local gin tournament at the age of 10. When his father died, he dropped out of school to help raise money for his sick mother and sister. He made money playing gin rummy around New York. He later moved from New York to Florida and then to Las Vegas. He had such great skills that various opponents did not want to play against him and would either drop out or not sign up. This became a problem as casinos would deny him tournaments. Due to his reputation he transitioned to playing poker instead of gin rummy. He still proved to be a force to reckon with. It was during this time that he was nicknamed “The Kid” because he would beat everyone.
In 1980 and 1981 he became the youngest winner of the World Series of Poker at the time. He won the World Series of Poker Main Event three times, something that until today has only been achieved by one other person. He has five WSOP bracelets. He won 10 No Limit Hold’em championship events. He played in 30 championship events in his lifetime. He had 16 cashes and his total winning amounted to $2,126,838.
He will forever be remembered for his aggressive playing style and impressively timed bluffs. He was considered a bright genius with a photographic memory. Ungar never had a job, he lived his life winning and spending large amounts of money.
He is widely considered the greatest poker player to ever play the game.