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Poker News | Poker Book Review

Book Review: One of a Kind

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When the question “Who is the greatest of all time?” is asked, often a heated debate ensues. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, be it baseball, football, chess, or any other topic for that matter. No two people ever seem to agree. But when that same question refers to the best no limit Holdem player of all time, there is little doubt. Ask any player inside the poker community and the answer will almost certainly be: Stu Ungar.

One of a Kind: The rise and fall of Stuey “The Kid” Ungar, the world’s greatest poker player is written by Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson. Originally intended to be his autobiography, Ungar enlisted the help of Dalla, one of the best poker authors of the time. Unfortunately, the book got put on the back burners, until Peter Alson stepped in to help Dalla finish the job. Now, part autobiography, part biography, the two authors take the reader on a roller coaster ride through the life and times of Stu Ungar, and it can only be done one way, through Ungar’s very own eyes. If you have ever heard the term “the Vegas lifestyle”, and always wondered what it meant, then this is the book for you.

The book begins in an odd way, by giving you, the reader, a glimpse of the ending. But before long, the authors take you down a long, winding road full of every speed bump imaginable with a lifestyle that includes high stakes gambling, drugs, and women. The reader is thrown in to a life (Ungar’s) that few, if any, could survive.

It starts with Ungar’s childhood. The son of a New York bookie, Ungar had gambling in his blood. By the time he was eight, he was keeping the books for his fathers business. Is there any question as to how he chose his career? By his mid teens, school was no longer in the cards for Ungar, and he could be seen at any one of New York’s underground card clubs at any given time of the day. While most teens are trying to scrape together enough money to go on a date, Ungar was already gambling with thousands of dollars a day; dollars that weren’t always his own. In and out of debt with New York’s bookies throughout his teenage years, at the tender age of 21 Ungar moved to Sin City: Las Vegas. With his eyes set on the World Series of Poker, it was here that his legend would only grow.

By the time Ungar reaches Las Vegas, the stories of this fresh-faced kid, who had been beating up on the New York gin and poker games, had already preceded him by years. In 1980, Ungar entered his very first World Series of Poker. Defeating the legendary Doyle Brunson, heads up, Ungar captured his first world championship bracelet. It would not be his last. Ungar, now financially secure for the first time, went on shopping sprees that the rest of us can only dream about.

The authors take the reader deeper into young Stuey’s life, a life that would bring about a daughter, Stephanie. It was Stephanie who was the only hope of keeping Ungar clean, but his addictions may just be too strong for even her to stop.

You are drawing dead, of course, if you think I’m going to give away the ending. But I will leave you with this - with colorful descriptions that would rival any picture, One of a Kind, is truly one of a kind.

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