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One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey, 'The Kid', Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player
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One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey, 'The Kid', Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player

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4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  839 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
He was the Jim Morrison of the casino, a legend before he was of legal age. Stuey Ungar, the son of a Jewish bookie on Manhattan's Lower East Side, dropped out of high school to become an underground card-table sensation, eventually taking out every top gin-rummy player on the East Coast. Bankrolled by the Genovese crime family, Stuey would soon travel around the country i ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Atria Books (first published June 28th 2005)
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Tyler Jones
Apr 24, 2012 Tyler Jones rated it really liked it
Shelves: poker, addiction
For those of us who only knew of the outline of his life this book provides a satisfyingly full portrait of Stuart Ungar. I appreciated that the authors maintained a moral neutrality - neither condemning nor defending his self-destruction. I came away feeling he was neither fully to blame for his own demise nor simply a victim of demons beyond his power to fight. This strikes me as probably close to the truth. Stuey's life was far from common and I was completely engrossed in his story. Dalla an ...more
Yash Dalmia
May 01, 2016 Yash Dalmia rated it it was amazing
A journey with the young Stuey, a card playing sensation till his death upon succumbing to his drug habits. A man with an inborn talent for cards, arguably the best gin rummy player ever and possibly the best poker player to grace this world. The genius of this man is mind blowing. I am an avid poker fan and absolutely loved this detailed depiction of Stuey's life, especially his action seeking compulsion and his genius at the tables. The roller coaster life ride of this man is sickening. A must ...more
Martin Moleski
Apr 17, 2014 Martin Moleski rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
If I had the time and money, I'd be dead from gambling and any number of other addictions that destroyed Stuey Ungar. If not for the grace of God, this would be my story--except I wouldn't have won as much money or as many bracelets as Ungar did. I don't have anything like that talent. What I have is the same kind of hunger for action and the same kind of broken heart that refuses to be filled with the kind of everyday happiness that life has to offer.

May he rest in peace.
Tom Grover
Jul 18, 2017 Tom Grover rated it it was amazing
The basics of Stu Ungar's life are fairly well known: his upbringing in New York, proficiency at gin rummy, transition to poker, drug addiction, 1997 comeback and 1998 ignominious death. This book does a fantastic job of filling in the details of Stu's truly unparalleled life.

I appreciated that the author did not glorify or glamorize Ungar, whose life was cut short and made miserable by drug abuse. At the same time, it would have been unfair to paint a picture of someone who was great at poker
...more
Kyle Clark
Feb 01, 2017 Kyle Clark rated it it was amazing
A must read
Robert Jonsson
Feb 16, 2014 Robert Jonsson rated it liked it
Inte den mest välskrivna biografi jag läst, den är för att tala klarspråk träig. Jag får helt enkelt inga bilder, blir inte riktigt engagerad. Det är lite som att läsa en faktabok och därmed bjuds jag inte med på samma sätt som jag gör då en bok är riktigt bra skriven. De kursiverande styckena - där man får höra Stu’s röst i presens - bryter det återberättande textflödet och lättar upp och skänker boken lite mer närvaro och nerv. Men ändå, det är Stu Ungar! Tidernas bästa pokerspelare. ’The come ...more
Matt Cromartie
Jan 22, 2013 Matt Cromartie rated it liked it
A fascinating read through the life of one of the most brilliant card players of all time and one of the most tormented souls of all time. Stuey Ungar grew up in New York, looking over the shoulder of his father who was part bar owner and part bookie. He instantly fell in love with the gambling life, which would prove to be an avenue to greatness and to his downfall. Blessed with a spectacular memory and calculating mind, Stuey quickly became a darling of the NY mob, making money for them and be ...more
Zach
Well written. Suprisingly interesting biography.

The author has done a great deal of research and interviewed dozens of people, the result is a very full picture of Stuey Unger his personality and the demons that evantually consumed him.

The book also provides insight into the personality of gamblers, the need for action and that at a certain point the money is not as important as the rush and the action.

Also through Unger's story the reader can see the evolution of Vegas over the past 30-40 ye
...more
J.C.
Sep 22, 2015 J.C. rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I can't say I loved this book because I was skimming through about the last 100 pages or so, but I found the life of Stu Ungar pretty fascinating as well. The only man to actually win Binion's World Series of Poker three times (and the pound-for-pound, hands down, no contest, end the debate right now, best Gin Rummy player ever, [apparently]) lived a short and depressing life chasing the action wherever he could find it. A sad read. If I had more interest in Poker, or more enthusiasm for reading ...more
Joe
Nov 27, 2014 Joe rated it liked it
Be forewarned that this is less a poker book than a book about the downward spiral of an unbalanced addict who also happened to be one of the greatest card players (not just poker) ever. Ungar's rise in the poker world and his three WSOP championships are detailed, but the reader is also given a lot of insight into his demons and his ultimate destruction.

Ungar is maddening because he has this amazing talent that he ultimately throws away, and it makes the book a little depressing. Watching him w
...more
Andrew Wanner
Aug 03, 2015 Andrew Wanner rated it really liked it
I thought this book was fantastic... it is written with the type of admiration that you would expect for a book whose title refers to someone as 'the world's greatest' anything... but has the type of honesty that you wouldn't expect. The title 'rise and fall' also brings up images of a ton of other biographies about successful people who got hooked on drugs but the honesty is present from start to finish and there is nothing done to glorify him at all. It starts with stories of him as a child, a ...more
Alan Duggan
Jun 07, 2010 Alan Duggan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-biographies
What can i say, this book is an amazing insight into the life of the greatest poker player to ever play the game.

Stuey Ungar was a genius but his addiction to drugs was his downfall.

The book takes you through Stuey's life from a young boy to when he passes at an early age. Nolan Dalla writes in a way very easy to follow and describes many heartache moments in great detail.

How can a man who has won millions gambling end up stealing a $1 poker chip just to feed himself ? Well it happens and its sa
...more
Justin Lerer
Sep 01, 2011 Justin Lerer rated it it was ok
There is a great book to be written based on Stuey Ungar's life, but this is not it. You get a sense of Ungar as a wildly unpredictable person, but other than that, this book suffers from the fault of telling instead of showing. Ungar is a great poker and even better gin player, but where are the discussions of specific key hands? The book also doesn't look critically enough at Ungar's gambling addictions, which must have fueled his drug addictions. And speaking of his drug addictions, the book ...more
Jim
Dec 05, 2010 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Sluggish and un-engaging, you'd think a book about a poker prodigy who goes to the dogs with drink and drugs in Las Vegas would be a story worth telling. But could you write about darts and make it exciting? I doubt it, and the same goes for poker, especially for the non-player where gobbledygook like "Steve discarded the flop with an ace showing and took a turn on the river" is about as enlightening as reading Polish. I gave this book a good attempt, but couldn't find an attraction to keep me g ...more
Tom
Jul 30, 2011 Tom rated it it was ok
A competent but unspectacular biography of an undeniably tragic figure. I think my ultimate problem with the book is that Stuey Ungar doesn't seem all that interesting. One of the greatest card players of all time, yes; but one never gets the sense that there's a lot underneath the surface other than a head for numbers, a good read on others, and a self-destructive streak a mile wide. If there was more underneath it all, it didn't really come through here. If you're looking for a roughly contemp ...more
George
Feb 07, 2008 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poker-books
The story of Stu Ungar, perhaps the greatest poker player ever. 2-time World Champion at the age of 26, youngest ever champion at the time. This story is about life and heartache as he loved what he does, had a photographic memory, an IQ of 185, and killed at the poker tables, but threw it all away on sports betting and drugs. To understand the pitfalls of the gambler's life, this is a must-read.
Damien
Mar 18, 2009 Damien rated it really liked it
Stuey "The Kid" Unger, unbeatable in gin, poker or any other card game was destined to be destroyed by his addictions.

I can never get enough stories about the kid who was so unbelievably good at cards and so unable to manage his own life. This is a compelling collection of stories.

The project was originally intended as an auto-biography and the last pages written by Unger are as haunting as anything I've ever read.
Mike Hoffman
Jun 16, 2009 Mike Hoffman rated it it was amazing
Terrific story about a terribly tragic and wonderfully troubled character. Stuey never grew up, lived in constant flux. The poor boy never grew up. He played games . . . he was a child. This story talks about how he was the BEST and it was partially because of and partially despite his lacking in other areas. This book is a true picture of him. Not one that sugar coats it. . . not one that villianizes Stuey. Its on e that tells HIS story. well! READ IT!
Danm
Aug 05, 2014 Danm rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poker
This book and The Dark Side of the Felt are my two favorite poker books. This one tells a great story about the greatest poker player who ever lived, and how he was actually an even better gin player. He was a card genius. But like so many geniuses, he had an addictive drug habit. It's another rise-and-fall story, but it's done exceptionally well.
Lisa
Aug 14, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: read-adults
I read it because the Handsome Man wanted me to read it so we could talk about it. Not really my kind of book. I felt less sympathetic and more annoyed than I probably should of. This book will be good for people who like poker...and/ or addiction stories. That's about it.
Kirsten
Sep 18, 2015 Kirsten rated it it was amazing
Utterly compelling read. Would have been tragic if it wasn't so inevitable. Don't know anything about poker or gambling but didn't need to. Authors seemed to tell his story fairly and realistically but also kindly, no bashing.
Jesse
Sep 11, 2009 Jesse rated it it was ok
This is pretty much a 300 page version of the wikipedia article about him. I did learn that the MIT Blackjack Team didn't invent team counting; they just got the idea from the 1977 book The Big Player. That's on wikipedia, too.
Susan Scalza
Jan 29, 2013 Susan Scalza rated it it was amazing
Excellent, unflinching history of the life of a misfit gin and poker prodigy through his own eyes and the eyes of those close to him. Chronicles his rise to championship, subsequent rises and falls, and untimely demise. An easy read about man who seemed doomed from the start.
Ben
Dec 04, 2012 Ben rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book as it allowed me a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest poker players of all time. A truly gifted, but troubled, individual, Stu Ungar is both a legend and a cautionary tale for poker players.
John Reeves
Apr 01, 2011 John Reeves rated it it was amazing
This was a great book, and It clearly shows you who the best poker player is/was in the history of the game. I never like reading books twice, however with this one, I'll definitely make an exception.
Tmone75 Harris
Apr 02, 2009 Tmone75 Harris rated it it was amazing
This is a great book based on the life of Stu Unger.. I also saw this movie, but the book is much better. Its a rollercoaster type of book, just like the way he lived his life.

Sasha
Nov 30, 2008 Sasha rated it really liked it
If you like poker and autobiographies, it's great
Elliott Hayes
Aug 08, 2013 Elliott Hayes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poker-gambling
Fantastic.

Best poker related book, one of the most interesting poker pros ever.
Bryan Grover
May 22, 2013 Bryan Grover rated it really liked it
Fantastic book. Reads and follows the same sort of cadence that wise guys by pileggi does. Definitely worth a read
Ben
Aug 27, 2007 Ben rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: risk takers
spectacular depiction of an amazing individual
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Dalla, Media Director for the World Series of Poker, has written extensively about poker for magazines. He lives in Las Vegas.
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