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WSOP: History -- 1980 Recap

Stu "The Kid" Ungar Wins the World Championship in his First Attempt


The Fowler Effect attracted 73 players to the 1980 World Series of Poker, which were 19 more than the year before (26 percent growth). Hal Fowler had proven that all you needed to become the world champion was $10,000 and the guts to put it on the line, as well as an ample dose of help from lady luck. Once you had chips and a chair though, you could compete with the best in the world. This was also the first year that ESPN taped the final table for an hour-long special. Thanks to the cameras presence, the now famous money presentation was added to the pageantry of the event for the benefit of the viewing public.

One player nestled in the field of 73 players was a 26-year-old from New York, named Stu "The Kid" Ungar. What he lacked in physical stature he more than made up for in intelligence (IQ 185) and supreme talent. It was Ungar’s first year at the WSOP, and he made the final table in his rookie campaign. He then stole the chip lead from Gabe Kaplan when he eliminated Richard Clayton in seventh place at the final table.

Ungar got involved in a large pot with Kaplan, Johnny Moss, and Doyle Brunson. He held A-Q and opted to check a flop of A A K. His opponents also checked and the turn card was dealt 3. Ungar fired out 30,000 and both Kaplan and Moss got out of the way. Brunson chose to make a stand, and he reraised all in for 176,000. Ungar went into the tank for several minutes and eventually made the call. The river brought the 8 and both players revealed their cards. Brunson also held A-Q and although they split the large pot, Ungar scored a mental victory by showing he could tangle with the legends of poker.

Moss had been on a strong run at the table that day, and continued it when he eliminated Kaplan in sixth place; this gave “The Grand Old Man of Poker” 163,000. After the exit of Kaplan, action wa stopped for the night, and Ungar still held the chip lead with 395,000. The players returned the next day and Charles Dunwoody was the next to hit the rail. Next, Brunson made quad aces against Moss to knock him down to 66,000, and Moss was eliminated a few hands later in fourth place by Ungar. Brunson helped Jay Heimowitz part ways with the tournament next in third place and action was set for the heads-up match.

Stu UngarThe two final players had chip stacks that were almost equal when things began, and the two most aggressive players on the planet wasted no time tossing them around. The battle was much more of a sprint than a marathon, and 15 minutes into play they tangled for the last time. Brunson bet 10,000 preflop with A 7, and Ungar made the call with 5 4. The flop was dealt A 7 2 and Brunson made a bet of 10,000 to test the waters. Ungar quickly called and the turn card fell 3. It was now Ungar who opened the action, reaching for 30,000 in an attempt to provoke Brunson. It worked, only better than Ungar had hoped. Brunson reraised all in and Ungar made the call with the nut straight to win the bracelet after an inconsequential 2 fell on the river. Ungar also won $365,000, which he spent fast and gambled away even quicker in what would become a life-long habit. The original poker phenom had begun an impressive and infamous career.

1980 WSOP Results

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Preludes - 1970 - 1971 - 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977 - 1978 - 1979