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"The Kid" Ungar: A Legendary Gambler

This article was written by: Jannah Strat for Celebrity Poker Players

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Jannah Strat is an efficiently writer from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. She's writes anything that has to do with online gambling. She tackles all about Casino Games, Poker Players and Sports Betting. She also owns two blogs about some of the best and hottest Poker Players and her blog about Celebrity Poker Players.

Stuart Errol Ungar a.k.a The Kid was born on September 8, 1953 in New York City and was raised in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Stu born to Jewish parents, Isadore "Ido" Ungar, his father, a loan shark who ran a bar called Foxes Corner that doubled as a gambling establishment which exposed Stu to gambling at a young age.

Despite of Ido's attempts to keep his son from gambling after seeing the effects of it on his regular customers, Stu began playing underground gin and made a name for himself.

After his father's death, he was befriended by an alleged crime fighting figure in the name of Victor Romano. His relationship with Romano gave Ungar protection from various gamblers who did not take his crass attitude and assassin-like playing style kindly.

Ungar won a local gin tournament at the age of 10. He dropped school to play gin rummy in the 1960's to help support his remaining family members, his mother and sister. He was regarded as one of the best players in New York in 1976.

Ungar relocated to Miami where his weakness for sports & track betting drained him of any achievement. In 1976 he arrived in Las Vegas, penniless. Somehow Ungar found the cash to enter a $50,000 tournament and on the final two hands correctly guessed the losing player's cards. Regrettably, Stu's bravado proved to be another weak career move as other players became afraid of his skills. Thus, Ungar could no longer participate in any games outside tournaments.

One of the reasons Ungar eventually took up poker exclusively was because gin action had dried up due to his reputation. Ungar destroyed anyone who challenged him in a gin match including a professional widely regarded as the best gin player of Ungar's generation, Harry "Yonkie" Stein. Ungar beat Stein 86 games to none in a high stakes game of Hollywood Gin, after which Stein dropped out of sight in gin circles and eventually stopped playing professionally. As one observer who knew him put it, Stein "was never the same after that night."

After beating Stein and several other top gin professionals, Ungar was a marked man. Nobody wanted to play him in a gin match because of his superior skill, not to mention his creation of an image that he was impossible to beat. In the hopes of generating more action for himself, Ungar began offering potential gin opponents handicaps to even the playing field. He was known to let his opponent (professional or not) look at the last card in the deck, offer rebates to defeated opponents and always play each hand in the dealer position, all of which put him at a decisive disadvantage.

He then shifted to blackjack where, one night at Caesars Palace, Ungar won $83,000 but the manager stopped the play. Stu retaliated by properly forecasting the last eighteen cards remaining in the single-deck shoe. That signaled the end of single-deck blackjack tables which were removed from Caesars and subsequently from other casinos. Stu's picture was also posted up in the security rooms of dozens of casinos in which Stu was banned for life.

Stu and Madeline had a daughter, Stephanie. Stu also legally adopted Madeline's son from her first marriage, Richie. Richie commited suicide shortly after his highschool prom, leaving the two couples devastated and eventually divorced in 1986. Stu also started using cocaine around this time. At first, he just take an advice of fellow poker players because of the drugs ability to keep the player energized and up for a long period of time. However, recreational use soon led to addiction.

His drug problem escalated even during the WSOP main event in 1990. He was found unconcious on the floor of his hotel room on the third day of the tournament from drug overdose. However, he has such a chip lead that even dealers kept taking his blinds every time around the table, Ungar still managed to become 9th and pocketed $20,500.

By the 1997 WSOP tournament in Las Vegas, Ungar did not have the cash required to enter the championship event. However, an hour before play an anonymous benefactor provided the $10,000 entry. Four days afterwards the greatest comeback in poker history had taken place and the record of three victories established. In all Ungar won ten major No Limit Hold'em tournaments out of the thirty he entered!

Two months afterwards Ungar was again bankrupt, and a year later, was back with his old pal Bob Stupak who paid Ungar's debts and signed him up for more commissioned card playing. With $2000 of Stupak's cash in his pocket (spending money) Stu checked into a low-priced downtown hotel.

Seven months after the 1998 WSOP, Ungar was found dead in his room at the Oasis Motel in Las Vegas with $800 on him. The $800 was the remnants of a $25,000 loan he got from Baxter just a week earlier to put him back in action at the poker tables. An autopsy showed traces of drugs in his system, but not enough to have directly caused his death. The medical examiner concluded that he had died of a heart condition brought on by his years of drug abuse.

Despite winning millions during his poker career, Ungar died with no assets to his name. A collection was taken up by friend and fellow poker player Bob Stupak at his funeral to pay for it.

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