Stu Ungar

Stuart Errol “Stu” Ungar is said to be the best ever professional poker and gin rummy player to have ever lived. He holds the record of being the only player to win three World Series of Poker main events. Not only that, he has also won three Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker. During its time, it is the most prestigious poker title in the world.

Ungar was born on September 8, 1953 to Jewish parents at Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was exposed to gambling at a young age because his father, Isadore, is a loan shark that operates a social club that’s a front for a gambling den. His father didn’t want him to gamble but Ungar made a name for himself playing tournament gin.

He won a gin tournament when he was just 10 years old. By the year 1976, he was regarded as the best in the state of New York. He dropped out of school to pursue a gin rummy career to help support his mother and sister parents when his father died due to a heart attack in 1968.

This is the time he met Victor Romano, who acted as the father figure to him. They got close because they both share the same love of math and gambling. Ungar love to openly criticize his opponents that are inferior to him and because of his relationship with Romano, other player don’t dare cross him. There’s a story of a man who tried to hit Ungar on the head with a chair after he was defeated. That man was found shot to death a few days after.

Because he was already the best gin rummy player, no one dared played with him anymore. He would even set handicaps to level the field. He would let his opponent look at the last card of the deck, offer rebates, or play each hand at the dealer position. There was a story about Ungar playing a match with a known cheater. The other player blatantly cheated throughout the match yet Ungar still managed to win it.

He then moved to Las Vegas, hoping to find more competitors. He would win or place high in most tournaments that hotels would ask him not to join at their events because players might not enter if they know Ungar is in it.

In 1980 he entered the World Series of Poker and won the main event, beating poker legend Doyle Brunson and at that time became the youngest champion in WSOP history. That’s where his nickname The Kid is from. He repeated the victory the next year be defeating Perry Green for the 1981 WSOP title.

His next WSOP main event win would come 16 years later. Another poker pro and close friend, Billy Baxter, gave Ungar he $10,000 so hat he could join in the event. During the first day of the tournament, he was exhausted because he had to stay awake for 24 hours trying to raise the money for the buy-in. Midway through the first day, he fell asleep in his table. After encouragement from Sexton and a scolding from Baxter, Ungar settled in and made it through day one.

During the whole tournament he kept the picture of his daughter Stefanie in his wallet and would call to update her about the tournament. Feeling refreshed the next day; he eventually got the chip lead going to the final table. He won the event to become the first person to ever win three WSOP main event titles and was nicknamed The Comeback Kid by the media. He split the $1 million purse with Baxter.

Sadly, he lost most of his 1997 WSOP winnings on drugs and sports betting. He tried to stay away from drugs but his addiction is too high for him to stop. Before the 1998 WSOP main event, Baxter again offered to foot his buy-in but Ungar declined the offer, saying that he was tired and did not feel like playing. He would later confide to friends that the reason why he didn’t want to enter the said event was that he feels that showing up in his current condition would be embarrassing than not showing up at all.

After the 1998 WSOP event, he would disappear from the public eye. He would stay at different hotels in Las Vegas, oftentimes not going out his room. He would be spotted outside poker rooms, begging for money. He would say that it would be to start his bankroll but in reality he will use it on drugs.

He was found dead on November 22, 1998 in a room at the Oasis Motel in Las Vegas. Autopsy showed that there are traces of illegal substances in his body but it is not enough to cause an overdose. It is concluded that he died of a heart failure due to his history of drug abuse.

Though his death was tragic, he is still remembered as the best poker player to have ever played the game.

Bluffing and Other Forms of Deception

Bluffing is part of poker. It is one form of deception used to provoke opponents to fold even if they have the more superior hand. Players who don’t bluff are easy opponents. When your opponent is not a bluffer, then don’t call his bet unless you have a very good hand.

Another form of deception employed in poker is slow playing. This is the opposite of bluffing. When you slow play, you bet weakly whenever you have a strong hand. When you utilize both bluffing and slow playing, opponents will never know how to play you.

Know Your Enemies at Sit-N-Go

When you’re at the later stages of a sit-n-go, it is important that you know your opponents. The one to consider is the short stacks. They are the ones under a lot of pressure from the blinds. Then there are the middle stacks. They are the ones who’ll most likely fold even when they have decent hands. The most dangerous players are the large stacks. They would be likely to gamble to oust other players. But if you have a good hand, it is wise to go against the large stack.

Max’s Bad Beat Story

This happened to Max in a home game. About two hours in the game, he was dealt pocket aces. He raised and two players called. The flop was 2-5-8 rainbow. Max bet again but the second player went all in. The third guy folded. Max called the all in bet. The guy had 3-8. The guy who folded has an eight so quad 8s is out of the equation. The turn was an eight which rendered Max’s pocket aces useless. Then the guy said he just wanted to go home that’s why he went all in.

AA in Blind Lost

This might be hard to believe but it is true. Ben had pocket rockets in the small blind. He raised and one player called. Luck must be on his side when the turn was A-K-K. Trying to small play his opponent with his full house As and Ks, Ben checked. Opponent checked as well. The turn is a 2, nothing significant. Ben bets the pot and the opponent called. River is also insignificant. Ben bet half the pot and the opponent went all in. Thinking his opponent has quad Ks, Ben folded. Then opponent flips his pocket Ks.

How Pocket Qs Lost to Pocket Js

Simon was ecstatic when he was dealt with pocket Qs. Flop was a rainbow 2-4-9. Bob bet the minimum $2 and his opponent raised $20 while another player checked. The opponent then went all in and the other player called it. Simon thinking he has the upper hand also called.

The one who went all in has pocket Js. The other player had an A-K. Simon indeed had the strongest hand. The river was a J. That’s how pocket Js beat pocket Qs.

Out on the First Hand of the Tournament

To cut the story short, on the first hand of the tournament Bob is dealt with pocket 7s. He raise three times on the blind and two players called it. The flop was 7-9-9. Bob likes the flop and raised again. One player folded while the other one called. The turn is a K. Bob made a minimum bet and the other player checked. The river was 7. Bob went all in. His opponent called. While Bob was already reeling in all the chips, his opponent showed his pocket 9s and ousted me from the tournament.

Delayed Flight and a Bad Beat

He should have seen it coming. His flight was delayed for almost 6 hours due to bad weather. He went straight for the poker table when he arrived at the hotel. His first hand was a king pair. He raised and all the other players folded except for one. Flop is K-8-8. He checked, trying to slow hand his opponent. The turn is another 8. Worried that his opponent has an 8, he checked. The river is 8 again. The full house is nullified and to make things worst, his opponent won on an A-Q hand.