Stu Ungar…the best there ever was. Stu Ungar was also his own biggest enemy. That's why Stu Ungar was also one of the greatest degen gamblers of all-time…and that's not a notable distinction. Ungar's life leaks with sportsbetting, degen gambling, and his penchant for cocaine was a destructive cocktail that contributed to his demise and eventual death. Ungar passed away in Room 6 of the Oasis Motel on November 2, 1998, or roughly 1.5 years after his epic comeback victory at the 1997 WSOP Main Event.
Ungar made headlines when he won his first WSOP title at Binion's Horseshoe back in 1981. He proved it wasn't a fluke win when he dominated the event the next year and locked up back-to-back titles with a victory in 1982. Over the subsequent years, Ungar had some personal family issues. This documentary points to a specific moment in Ungar's life after the suicide of his stepson. It seemed that loss was a major trigger in a bout of self-destructive behavior that Ungar was unable to control.
Billy Baxter told the story about backing Ungar in the Main Event in 1990, less than a year after the untimely death of his stepson. Ungar managed to make the final table, but he partied too hard the night before and actually overdosed. Ungar was revived but in no shape to play the final table. He was blinded out in ninth place. Lots of poker insiders wonder what would have happened if Ungar showed up to play. It's safe to assume he probably would have won it…again…for a third time. Alas, his absence at the final table marked the beginning of the end for Ungar. Until….until the 1997 WSOP.
Prior to the 1997 WSOP Main Event, Ungar got his shot together enough to make another epic run. Billy Baxter staked him and Ungar went all the way to the winner's circle to win his third title. That event was historic because the final table was played outside in downtown Las Vegas in front of the Horseshoe Casino. It was one of the first events that ESPN taped so for many poker fans, that was their first glimpse of Stuey Ungar. Sadly, new fans only caught a glimpse of what Ungar was really like. At that point, he was frail, had collapsed nostrils from a decade or more of cocaine abuse. Alas, even though Ungar won the Main Event in 1997, he was a former shell of himself. Less than 1.5 years later, he overdosed in the Oasis Motel.
I never want to be called a 'good loser.' Show me a good loser and I'll just show you a loser.