Born Stuart Errol Ungar September 8th, 1953, this remarkable young man became one of the world’s most famous poker players. Stuart or ‘Stu’ as he was affectionately called was one of two people to have ever won the World Poker Series three times in a row. He was also the only person to have ever won the Amarillo Slim and the Poker Super Bowl three times as well.
Ungar was born and raised in Manhattan. His family was Jewish, and his father was a well know loan shark who was the proprietor of the Foxes Corner, a hip bar and social club which was a front for gambling. Because of the sins of the father, Stuart was exposed to the gambling arena from a tender age and his father’s attempts to prevent Stuart from gambling were all in vain. His father was very adamant that Stuart should not gamble, but children love to test the waters, and Stuart was no different. He got caught up in underground gambling and rapidly made his debut as a seasoned gin player.
Stuart was a brilliant lad who went from sixth grade directly into eighth, but in tenth grade, he had decided that he had had enough, and quit school. In 1966, his father Ido died of a heart attack and his mother suffered a stroke due to the stress of Ido’s passing. These two catastrophic events left Stuart saddened but free to peruse the gambling scene at the ripe old age of 18.
At this time, he met and was befriended by a well-known crime fighter by the name of Victor Romano. Romano had the reputation for being one of the best card players in the business. He was not only an incredible card player, but he was also very intelligent. Victor Romano became Stuart’s protector and mentored him in the ways of gambling at the same time.
Loud and Proud
Ungar was well known for berating individuals whom he deemed not up to par with his playing skills and level, and often could be heard belittling them. His arrogant, loud mouth was not his friend but because of his affiliation with Romano, he was well protected.
Ungar was an obtuse loudmouth with no humility and no respect, and because of this, the gin action dried up for him. Ungar was mean and haughty along with being arrogant and self-righteous and would literally destroy anyone he played with. Harry Stein had a reputation for being one of the best gin players in the industry but after a match with Stuart Ungar he left the gambling arena for good. Ungar made a mess of poor Harry; breaking his spirit and making Harry question his self-worth. His belligerent attitude got the better of him in gin circles, and no one wanted to play with him. He became desperate for action, even offering his opponents handicaps so he could retain his prominence in the gambling arena.
Sometimes arrogance and intelligence do not go well together and once such time was when Ungar first visited Las Vegas. As a virtual unknown in Las Vegas in 1977, he was able to win or score highly in most of the games that he played. However, the word soon spread, which caused players to withdraw from the game. After that, casinos to ask Ungar not to return.
Stuart Ungar’s mother finally died in 1979 which prompted Ungar to begin using cocaine. Ungar married a lady by the name of Madeline in 1982, some three years after his mother’s death.
After many missteps and losses due to his overwhelming drug use, he hit rock bottom in 1990 when he was found unconscious on his hotel room floor at a WSOP main event. He was still high as a kite but managed to finish in 9th position with a whopping $ 20,500.
In 1997, Stuart Ungar, heavily in debt and ravished by years of cocaine use entered the WSOP once again. Heavily drugged and almost incoherent he was able to push through and win along with his close friend Billy Baxter.
As you can guess, he wasted all of his winnings on drugs in just a few short months.