Stu Ungar was born in New York in 1953. His father was a bar owner and bookmaker. Stu Ungar began gambling professionally at the age of 14, one year after the death of this father. When asked when he first started gambling he replied that he was seven or eight. His IQ was 185, but he said he only used it to play cards and figure out odds.
Stu Ungar was best known for being one of the best gin rummy players I the world. He won his first tournament at the age of 10. By 14, Stu Ungar had beaten all the best gin rummy players in New York and dropped out of school to enter a big tournament. After winning without losing a hand he gave his parents $1000 and blew the rest betting on horses.
In the mid seventies, he won piles of money from gin rummy games in Miami,
but would always lose it betting on horses at the racetrack. He managed
to enter a big $50 000 tournament in which he correctly forecast his opponents
last two hands of cards. Everyone was reluctant to play him.
Stu Ungar never had a bank account before he came to Las Vegas and thought he needed to go to the bank every time he wrote a check. Even though he was unbeatable at cards, his need for action had him betting big amount in golf, a game he was terrible at and losing thousands of dollars. After a championship in 1981, he was asked what he is going to do with all the money he won. He giggled and replied, "lose it."
He cleaned up on every poker table from Atlantic City to Las Vegas and decided to try his hand at blackjack. At Caesar's Place, Stu Ungar won $83 000 dollars when the casino stopped the play. Angered, Stu Ungar correctly predicted the last 18 cards left in the shoe. Single deck games were no more at Caesar's. Stu Ungar was banned from every casino in town.
In 1980 at the age of 24, Stu Ungar won his first world championship. He won the following year as well. In the 1990s, Stu Ungar dropped out of site of the high stakes gambling world, but turned up again when an hour before the 1997 World Series of Poker an anonymous donor put up the $10 000 entry fee for Ungar. Four days later Ungar made it a record of three world tournaments.
A couple of months later, Stu Ungar was broke again, but an old friend offered to pay his debts and sign him up as a commissioned player. He was found two days later in his hotel room dead - the result of a drug overdose.
Stu Ungar's amazing ability to remember and predict cards was attributed to his photographic-like memory. Unfortunately, his lack of respect for money and desperate need to always be in the action lead to his financial downfalls and constant drug abuse.