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Stu Ungar

Stu Ungar is known as "The Kid" and his full name is Stuart Errol Ungar. He was born on 8th September 1953 and died on 22nd November 1998. He was a professional poker and gin rummy player and is considered the best player in the history of these two games. Stu Ungar won his first gin rummy tournament in 1963, when he was merely 10 years old. Within the next 3 years he was among the top New York players. After his father died, young Stu Ungar dropped out of school and decided to play gin rummy as a full time job in order to support his family. Right from the beginning his skills won him tournaments that earned him thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, despite these winnings, Stu Ungar was not at the peak of his form as he was losing more through his betting on the racetracks than he was making through winning at gin rummy games. Because of the discrepancy he was forced to leave New York, his gambling debts had reached dangerous proportions. Moving out of New York, Stu Ungar stayed in Miami, Florida for some time while looking for more opportunities to cash in on his game skills. It was in 1976 that he left for Las Vegas along with his girlfriend. They eventually got married there.

The main reason why Stu Ungar switched from gin rummy to poker was that he was a little too good at it. So good in fact, that no one could stand up to him. Even the so-called professionals who were meant to be the best at gin rummy were demolished when they played against Stu Ungar. One such gin rummy player was Harry Stein, nicknamed, "Yonkie". Harry Stein suffered such a humiliating defeat at the hands of Stu Ungar that he allegedly quit playing it professionally and never resurfaced at gin rummy tournaments.

Of course, with a reputation like that it was not long before people became shy of playing against Stu Ungar. He could find no matches and in his desperation he started doing something no one had done before. He offered startling handicaps to potential opponents in the hope that they might play against him if they believed they had an advantage. He deliberately played from a disadvantageous position and one story has it that he even played against a consistent cheater. During the game, he received warning that the cheater was at it again but Stu Ungar assured that he was aware of the cheating and he would still win, which he did, of course.

The same trend followed Stu Ungar into Las Vegas. He won so much at games like Holdem Poker that the casinos started asking him not to play on their respective premises anymore. The reason was that other casino customers refused to sit at the table if he were playing.

Stu Ungar is remembered better for his accomplishments in poker but he himself always maintained that he was far better at gin rummy.

He defeated Doyle Brunson in the World Series of Poker in 1980 to become the youngest world champion. Due to his features that made him appear far younger than he really was, he was nicknamed, "The Kid".

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