A look at Stu Ungar: The best Gin Player of All-Time

stu ungarThe late Stu Ungar is considered by many to be among the greatest poker players in the history of the game (this is especially true when people talk about tournament poker’s all-time greats) but before he was known as a poker player Ungar made a name for himself as a Gin Rummy player… The greatest Gin Rummy player to ever live and it’s not even close.

Ungar was so good at Gin Rummy that the reason he turned to poker was he could no longer get a anyone to play Gin against him! Unlike poker where it’s fun to debate who the best players are, or were, when it comes to Gin the answer is simple: Stu Ungar.

There are any number of Stu Ungar Gin stories that I could use to emphasize my point, so I have picked out just a few of the better ones to help illustrate just how talented, and head and shoulders above the competition Stu Ungar really was at Gin –interestingly, recent audio tapes of old WSOP tournaments have shown that Ungar was employing a LAG style of play decades before it became en vogue in the poker world as well, so apparently he was ahead of his time in just about any form of cards he played.

  • By most accounts Stu won his first Gin tournament at the tender age of 10, and would later drop out of school to help support his family through Gin.
  • By his early 20′s Stuey was considered one of the best Gin players in NYC and had to leave New York in order to find games (or to avoid debts depending on who you talk to)… This eventually brought him to Las Vegas.
  • Ungar essentially retired one of the greatest Gin players of his time Harold Stein, beating him 86 games to zero in a high stakes match. After this beating (Ungar apparently never followed the shear a sheep maxim that other gamblers heeded) Ungar’s Gin action went to zero faster than Stein’s bankroll, and he switched to poker.
  • Ungar was so dominant that he was asked not to participate in Gin tournaments around Las Vegas, as other players would skip the event if Ungar was playing.
  • According to legend (I’ve never bothered to fact check this one but it fits into everything else I have ever heard about him) Stu won a Gin tournament in New York without losing a single hand.

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