S is for... Stuey 'The Kid' Ungar
Stuart Errol Ungar. You’ve probably never heard of him. I say probably and not possibly for a reason. Anyway, that's for my amusement. I can’t remember when I first discovered The Kid, but he is a legend and a hero of mine. Tragically, he is dead. Like many of my heroes, and I’m sure yours. The way I see it is he got swallowed up by life, and I figure basically finding peace in it. At some point or another, I think a lot of us struggle to relate and make sense of it all, life, let alone make sense of our self or other people.
Understanding yourself in relation to life can be tricky. Understanding yourself in relation everyone else can seem fucking impossible. The Kid, well, it would seem there aren’t many people like The Kid. He wasn’t likely to find many kindred spirits it appeared, and if he did, given the era and environment he grew up in, they probably would have double crossed him anyway. Not stabbed him in the back, double crossed, it’s a whole different level of betrayal.
I reckon, I first came across Stuey Ungar because I would have been going on holiday. As a kid I went to the States a bunch of times. So I reckon I would have seen the book I own by Nolan Dalla and Peter Alison, ‘The Man Behind The Shades: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘The Kid’ Ungar, Poker’s Greatest Player’. I probably saw it in an airport or something, if not perhaps it was just one of the times that I was mooching around town looking at stuff. Either way, given that I loved magic, David Blaine, Maverick, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Rounders growing up, this was a book that was always going to grab my attention.
I love poker for lots of reasons. The main one being reading people, tricking people, but also being sincere. You've got to be convincing. I love film, I love acting, and the way I see it is if you can play poker and win, you basically don’t need to go to drama class or acting school. It really is about stabilising the synthetic and the sincere. Nowadays though, for a lot of players poker really is about the maths.
Anyway, I also love the money. I love the maths. I love the styles of play, the demeanours and the characters. The psychology and the mind games. Poker is a thinking mans game (a thinking persons game - fuck of snowflakes - just remember 'man' is short for 'human') and I love to think.
I am fascinated by how people work and function. I mean, remember I started writing this blog to demonstrate my philosophy on coaching, self-development and performance. But yeah, how people function. The whole 'eyes tell no lies' thing. Well yeah, that’s clearly bollocks. But that’s the great thing about poker, and real life...how do you really know when someone is being straight and honest with you? Truth is, you really don’t, it’s takes a lot of interaction to believe someone and get to know someone. You wouldn't necessarily be able to spot a liar straight away. But Stuey Ungar could.
As far as I'm concerned, a poker player that wears glasses is weak. A poker player that wears headphones is weak. A poker player that can’t look you in the eye is weak. A poker player that can’t talk at the table is weak. Someone is going to say - but Stuey wore glasses at times. Yeah, and Stuey at times was weak. He's human. His demise was tragic, of course he was weak. But he was also strong - his record speaks for itself. Do I profess to be able to do all these things that I'm calling weak? Well yeah, of course I can. Can I do them all the time? Yeah, but it does take effort, and I'm only human, and humans are weak. The real question is, can I do them at the poker table and win? Honestly, I've never tried. I've dabbled online and lost a bunch and won a little. I have no doubt I would get rinsed by most poker playing enthusiasts. But you never know - and that's the point. I think I consciously made an effort to be as strong as I could away from a specialist environment, so that I could come and go from any arena as I please. Basically, I wanted to learn the lesson that Stuey's life had taught me. To be truly strong you need to be able to make the transition from one arena to the next seamlessly, and not get sucked in or sidetracked by life's distractions. You can be great in a number of ways, but some are more sustainable than others.
Anyway, this is about Mr. Stuey Ungar. This kid, literally was a kid when he started playing. This kid was something else. You know a lot of pros in a lot of things started young. Well that’s what happened with Stuey. But he had poker, not football, or golf, or tennis, you know something that might help you remained relatively healthy. No, he had poker. He may as well have had rock and roll. Because the poker scene when Stuey played was tough to remain sober in, something that has changed dramatically in the last 15/20 years.
Last night I watched High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story. I've heard of it for a while but never been bothered enough to get a copy of it. So, I found a stream of it online. OOooooo naughty. Anyways, I liked it, but I try these days to see the good in things and focus on it. I've read some reviews and other critiques that slate the film. Fuck them. Some stories are worth telling. Someone else with a bigger budget, different skills and different skills can retell the story later. How many times have they fucking remade Spider-m=Man? I bet you like one more than the others? But, it's still Spider-Man and Spider-Man is cool as fuck. I like High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story. Because at the very least it sets a bench mark, and tells the story about a remarkable man.
Stuey was simply, simultaneously sensational, and sad. But fuck me, was he sensational.
Who doesn't love a good quote?
"Fold and live to fold again." - Stu Ungar
Songs to listen to now:
Poker Face - Lady Gaga
The Gambler - Kenny Rogers
Pokerface - Ghostface Killah
Crazy Game of Poker - O.A.R.
The Dark Town Poker Club - Phil Harris
The Pusher - Blind Melon