Stu Ungar was born in New York in 1953 and is considered by many to have been the greatest Texas Hold’em player that ever lived. Ungar’s father ran a social club where gambling was a common occurrence which meant that Ungar was introduced to gambling as a young boy. While roaming the gambling scene in New York, Ungar met alleged crime figure Victor Romano who was a very skilled card player himself.
Ungar had started out playing gin rummy and was soon considered to be the best player of this game but he had an aggressive nature and his reputation soon preceded him meaning he had to give up the gin rummy tournaments. He then turned his hand to poker instead.
And he soon became quite accomplished in this game too, winning five World Series of Poker bracelets, three of which were in the Main Event. At the moment there is only Ungar and Johnny Moss who have ever won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker three times.
Ungar’s first WSOP bracelet was won in 1980 in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship Main Event which he won again the following year along with his third bracelet in the $10,000 Deuce to Seven Draw. In 1983 Ungar won his fourth WSOP bracelet in the $5,000 Seven Card Stud and he won his third bracelet in a Main Event and fifth overall, in 1997 again in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship. These five bracelets see Ungar in 17th position in the all time WSOP bracelet leader board.
Ungar cashed in 15 World Series of Poker events and had WSOP winnings of over $2 million. His total tournament winnings was said to be over three and a half million dollars.
Despite his success on the poker tables, Ungar developed bad habits notably drug taking and betting. These habits began to take over his life and he was left with no money, and in a bad way due to taking drugs such as cocaine. He was found dead in a motel room in 1998. It is said that he died from a heart condition which had been brought on by his years of drug taking. In 2001 Stu Ungar was posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.