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The Scoop With Billy Baxter

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Dec 24, 2010


Billy Baxter is a seven-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner who was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2006, and he is widely thought of as being a legend of the game. Baxter stopped by the set of The Scoop to discuss his interesting relationship with another legend of the game, Stu Ungar.

Diego Cordovez: One thing I thought was interesting was that even though you play big and have a lot of heart, you have always been very serious and conservative as a person, paying your taxes and managing your bankroll. But you are also well-known because you backed Stuey Ungar when he won the World Series, and at other times, and he is almost the antithesis of your approach to life.

Billy Baxter: Absolutely.

Adam Schoenfeld: Oh, he is the opposite of you in many ways.

DC: You might be similar in playing styles, but away from the table, he could never hold on to a dollar. He was not disciplined, and, obviously, you are very disciplined. So, what was the relationship like? It must have been very frustrating.

BB: You know, I’m glad that you asked about that, because I had a lot of respect for Stuey in a lot of ways, and a lot of disrespect in a lot of ways. He was not a successful gambler. He tried to play in my big deuce-to-seven no-limit game, and was not too successful. He tried to play in it every time he had money. He used to say things like, “Goddamnit, what is it with this game?” He tried to learn, and was always picking my brain about it.

Anyway, one of the great stories of all time was that in one of the early World Series main events, he took a big lead early on. I had staked him, and he had like 70,000 at the end of the first day, which was an enormous stack.

AS: Back then, you started with 10,000 in chips and there were smaller fields.

BB: I wasn’t playing it this time; I didn’t play hold’em. I was at home betting on ballgames. So, anyway, he has 70,000, and the next day, the tournament director, Eric Drache, calls me and says, “Billy, where’s Stuey?” He knew that I was staking him. I told him that I didn’t know, and that he was staying at the Golden Nugget. Eric said that play was about to start without Stuey, who hadn’t shown up. I called the Nugget, and they rang his room. No answer. So, I called and got security to go up and check on him. Eric called me back 20 minutes later and said, “Billy, they just took Stuey out of the Nugget on a stretcher, and they’re taking him to the hospital.” Well, I asked if I could come and play those chips. He told me I couldn’t; one man to a chair.

AS: That might have been the only rule that was enforced back then.

BB: So, I get in my car and go to the hospital, and when I get there, he had been admitted, but they didn’t have a room for him. He was so small that they had him in a little bassinet, almost, and he had IVs and everything. So, I went over and tried to wake him up, and an attendant came over to ask me if I was a relative of his. I told him, “No, but I’m a good friend, and he is in a big poker tournament. He’s got to get out of here.” He told me the bad news that Stuey wouldn’t be getting up for a day or two. Well, Stuey’s stack lasted all that day, being anted off, and he came within one or two players of making the money. So, that was it; I was done with Stuey. For years, I would not mess with him at all.

AS: Did he apologize to you after this?

BB: No. When people do drugs, they can’t really help themselves. He said, “What can I tell you? I can’t help it. I am what I am.”

DC: He didn’t offer to reimburse the $10,000 buy-in.

BB: No. ♠