Ghosts at the Table: Excerpt 2/4
Stu Ungar’s Last Stand
Ghosts at the Table
Come the final day, they moved the table outside into the sunlight. There, in view of a bigger crowd than had ever watched a poker game before, the sun warming his fragile frame, Stuey Ungar really turned it on. Typical of his play was a sensational bluff when confronting the 4th place finisher Ron Stanley. The flop was showing Ace-9-6 and both checked. The turn card was an 8. Stanley, who had 9-7 in the pocket, now had a pair of 9’s and an open-ended straight draw, so he bet $25,000 and then called when Ungar raised the pot by $60,000. The river card was a King. Stanley had failed to get his straight but still had his 9’s, but Ungar bet a stunning $225,000 and Stanley folded. Ungar then showed Queen-10…he had nothing.
Ungar had provided this theatre of poker with its greatest scene – a dazzling performance that took him to his third World Series main event title. It had been a comeback beyond belief.
There was another winner too. Billy Baxter. His act of compassion and friendship for the man who had so let him down in the past (putting up the $10,000 buy-in on a 50-50 deal) was repaid with a $500,000 return, his share of the prize money making him the biggest-ever winner of a poker event without even making the final table.
As for Stuey, 18 months later he was found lying face-down on a bed in a sleazy flophouse motel called the Oasis …the kind of cesspool that has only porno movies on the television set, burned holes in the carpet, seedy draps, a cockroach to the square inch, and where you risk your life just breathing in the air. Only Stuey wasn’t breathing. He was dead at 43.