When anyone talks about the legends of poker Stu "The Kid" Ungar is often cited as the greatest of all time. Stu was a fearless genius of the felt, whose poker craft was characterized by astronomical wins and devastating losses.
I know how Copperfield managed the Statue of Liberty, but I can't tell you how the hell Ungar, or any living human being for that matter, can run down a six deck shoe. It can't be done, but he just done it"
He possessed a sense of timing and feel that is unsurpassed in poker history. Unfortunately, like many geniuses before and after him, his life was a rollercoaster of dizzy highs and terrible lows that ultimately ended in tragedy when he was found in a down market Las Vegas hotel dead at the age of 45. If anything, the tragedy of one of poker's brightest stars has just added to the lustre of his legend.
As a precocious 22 year old with considerable debts owed to a mob bookmaker, Stu moved from New York to Las Vegas in the late 1970's and left an indelible mark on the world of poker - considered by many as the greatest No Limit Hold'em player ever seen. Proof if needed comes from his entrance in the record books as three times Binion World Poker Champion (with five World Series Of Poker bracelets) and twice Amarillo Slim Bowl of Poker winner. He is the only man to this day who has won both events. In 1997 he made what is still considered the greatest come back in the history of poker. Down to his last $30,000 at the WSOP he stormed back to win $1,100,000 - truly the stuff of legends.
Ironically, as incredible as The Kid was at No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker, his forte was Gin Rummy. At the tender age of 10 he won his first Gin Rummy tournament and armed with an imposing intellect and almost infallible memory was beating the best New York had to offer by the age of 14. A year later he set his first record by winning a Gin Rummy tournament with out ever losing a single hand.
By 1986 he had turned his prodigious talent to the occasional hand of blackjack and 21 with equal effect, and his almost super human ability to card count became both a blessing and a curse. After a successful weekend of blackjack at Caesars Palace where he collected a tidy $83,000, the casino manager brought the game to a close. Stu followed by correctly predicting the last remaining 18 cards in the single deck. Shaken by his ability, the management of Caesars' Palace barred him and sent a memo to every casino in the state; resulting in Stu being barred for life and never been able play blackjack again at any major resort in Nevada or New Jersey. Such was his impact on the game that he inspired the removal of single decks and the introduction of the shoe; and to this day you cannot find a single deck blackjack table at any major casino.
The Kid was so confident of his ability that he once bet that he could correctly count down the last three decks in a six deck shoe and give the correct value of the remaining cards. Bob Stupak, who took up the wager and ended up paying him $100,000 is quoted as saying:
"I know how Copperfield managed the Statue of Liberty, but I can't tell you how the hell Ungar, or any living human being for that matter, can run down a six deck shoe. It can't be done, but he just done it"
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Most recently Hollywood has just completed filing a motion picture directed by A W Vidmer based on his life titled "Stuey"
Stu "The Kid" Ungar - truly a great, truly a genius - rest in peace.