Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Was Stu Ungar a Blackjack Cheat?

The late legendary poker player Stu Ungar was many things, including a terrific blackjack card counter, but was he also a cheat? I, for one, had never heard about Ungar's 1982 run-in with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. That is until yesterday when I stumbled across the information on the Internet. Ungar was accused by an unnamed Atlantic City Casino of either "capping" a bet, which is adding chips to a bet at a point the cheat knows his hand has a high probability of winning, or outright pastposting, which is adding or switching chips after the bet has already won. Whichever the case, Ungar refused to admit to any gambling infraction and take a plea, which would have amounted to nothing more than a $500 fine.

But Stu Ungar would never admit to cheating. He insisted he was only a card counter whose memory and card counting skills were as good as his poker skills and he never needed to cheat or break casino blackjack rules in any way. He hired a top attorney and beat the case in court, which cost him $50,000 in legal and travel expenses back and forth from Las Vegas. In his biography, Ungar wrote that he was so wiped-out from travel and court proceedings that he was unable to defend his WSOP championship title that year.

Besides this alleged cheating incident, Stu Ungar was so feared as a blackjack player by casinos that he was often banned from playing in them. He often expressed frustration that he was unable to ply his blackjack acumen in Las Vegas or anywhere else in the world.

If anyone has more information about Stu Unger being involved in any form of poker or casino cheating, please let me know.