I remember the days when I was in my early teens when Mansour Matloubi used to tell me about his heads up battles against Stu Ungar and I found this interesting story on Phil Hellmuth’s website of all places. I often wander if I would have been playing poker if it wasn’t for Mansour. I did have a naturally tendency to gamble so I think I would have found it in the end. My dad buying me a gambling machine for my 12th birthday to try and get me bored of gambling probably says it all.
Mansour Quits Stuey forever!
Back in 1992 at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), World Champions Mansour Matloubi and Stuey Ungar faced off in a series of $50,000 buy-in heads-up freeze outs. Mansour tells me he was at the top of his game at this point in his poker career, having just won the WSOP in 1990. The game they were playing that day was no-limit Hold'em, and the blinds were $200-$400 when the following hand came up. Stuey opened for $1600 in the small blind, and Mansour called with 4-5 off suit. After a flop of 3-3-7 rainbow (no suits), Stuey bet $6,000--he started the hand with $60,000 to Mansour's $40,000--and Mansour called the $6,000 bet. On fourth-street a K came off and both players checked. On the river a Q came off to make a board of 3-3-7-K-Q, and Mansour, smelling weakness in Stuey, bet his last $32,000 or so. Stuey looked "right through" Mansour, and within ten seconds he said, "You have 4-5 or 5-6, I'm gonna call you with this." Stuey then flipped up 10-9, and called the $32,000 bet with merely ten-high! Wow, what an unbelievable call! Stuey can't even beat a jack-high-bluff with his hand, never mind any pair. In fact, Stuey could only beat 4-5, 4-6 or 5-6 in this scenario.
Give Mansour some credit. He did read Stuey right and made a great bluff. But Stuey deserves even more credit! He not only read Mansour right, he then made an amazing call. After Stuey called, Mansour looked up at the ceiling thinking, "I feel so crushed, it's almost like a bulldozer just ran over me. I still love Stuey, but what the heck is going on!" Mansour tells me now, "When a guy makes a call like that against you, you just give up. It's like he's taken all the steam out your sails. I decided that I couldn't play him anymore heads up no-limit Hold'em, at least on that day, if not forever." Indeed, it proved to be the last hand that Mansour ever played with Stuey heads-up.
Another day at that WSOP in 1992, Stuey was playing in a 5-handed $600-$1200 game with Mansour on table 59, while Bobby Baldwin and "Chip" Reese were playing gin at table 60. All of a sudden, Chip turns to Stuey at the other table and says, "How did you like the way I played that hand?" Stuey, who again, was busy playing $600-$1200 at the table next door, says, "I would have knocked four draws ago with five (points)." Chip then says, "Thanks" and rolls his eyes back in his head. Of course, Chip knew that Stuey was right, because Stuey was considered all but unbeatable in gin. In fact, he was so good at gin, that he couldn't even get a game from anyone anywhere for many years. But Chip didn't roll his eyes back in his head because Stuey was right, rather, he rolled his eyes back because he couldn't believe that Stuey was watching his every move while simultaneously playing high-stakes poker!
In the 1980's Stuey was considered the best in the world at gin (in fact he was the best for two decades), the best no-limit Hold'em player ever (by then he had won two World Championships, with one more to come), and one of the best backgammon players in the world as well. To be at the top in any of those games is quite a feat, but to be at or near the top in all three at once, was truly unbelievable. There are many other great stories about Stu Ungar and the amazing abilities that he had; soon there will be a book coming out about Stu; and a movie about Stu is currently being shot as well. I'm looking forward to both.