Stu Ungar Biography

Perhaps one of the most recognized names in the world of poker is the late Stu Ungar. Ungar died in 1998 after battling a long string of cocaine addiction and sports gambling that ruined his life and financially broke him. However, before the tragedy occurred, Ungar was a force to be reckoned with at the poker table.

Ungar's life story starts in New York City in 1953, where he grew up exposed to gambling. His father was a loan shark and, despite his best efforts, Ungar became engrossed with the gambling world. When his father died, Ungar dropped out of school in order to help his family in desperate need of money with a sick mother and sister. He made his money by playing gin rummy in local places around New York where he was unbeatable, so much so that many people refused to play with him. After incurring many debts at the race track, Ungar moved from New York, first to Florida and then to Las Vegas. However, he found that there were still problems with players wanting to play with him. So much so that many casinos would not allow Ungar to play in tournaments because other players would drop out or not sign up. Because of this, Ungar started giving his opponents handicaps and would even play with those that were known to cheat at the game, however, he still always managed to win these games. Which goes to prove just how great of a poker play that Ungar really was. The nickname, "The Kid" was given to Ungar in his early years of playing because of his ability to beat everyone. He was often noted as saying that no one could beat him, and that seemed to be the reality for most that he came up against.

In 1980 and 1981 Ungar won the World Series of Poker, making him the youngest winner at the time, however, in later years was replaced by Phil Hellmuth as the youngest player to win. The suicide of his son was when Ungar started to suffer from his addiction and gambling problems. A close friend of Ungar said that the player went from being a millionaire to being broke many times throughout his career because of his problems and addictions. In his participation in the 1990 World Series of Poker game, Ungar walked away with ninth place, despite having lost most of his chips throughout the game and performing at what was considered the worse that people had seen.

In the 1997 World Series of Poker, a friend staked him in the game to win, in which he did win and was once again given a new nickname, "The Comeback Kid". He was set to be staked again in the 1998 World Series of Poker game however backed out because he believed that in the condition he was in with the addiction taking over his life, it would be an embarrassment to participate in the game. And a few months later, he was found in his hotel room dead, only with $800 to his name.