One normally doesn’t think of poker as a game with memorabilia.
After all, poker isn’t like football or baseball — where balls, bats, uniform jerseys and other rare artifacts can sometimes fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. No matter how rare or unusual the item, it’s hard to imagine any poker artifact being worth much to a collector or viewed in the public eye as a cherished national treasure.
Some notable exceptions could be old decks of cards used in the old World Series of Poker championships dating back to the 1970s, and other keepsakes like table felts, chips, and various items which are exceptionally rare and have a unique story behind them. Too bad most of them are long gone now. For instance, if someone could dig up Doyle Brunson’s famous 10-2 off-suit, and by that I mean the actual cards that won world poker championships back-to-back in 1976 and 1977, one presumes they would attract significant interest at Christie’s Auction. However, most items which may have ultimately become collectible were either tossed away or destroyed — except for poker chips, which is now a cottage industry all its own (see some of Andy Hughes postings on Facebook about chip collecting, which are history lessons in themselves).
One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘the Kid’ Ungar was released nine years ago this week, in May of 2005.
As a first-time author, finishing that book provided relief more than any sense of personal accomplishment. To this day, I’d like to go back and re-do the entire process all over again. I’d be especially eager to repeat my one-on-one interviews with Stuey, if that were possible. I just think they could have been done better.
Not that I have regrets about how the biography turned out. But had it not been for my former agents at Venture Literary, Greg Dinkin and Frank R. Scatoni, and most certainly had Peter Alson not ridden to the rescue (who deserves a lot more credit on this project than he’s been given), the dusty manuscript of that would-be book might still be sitting on my desk somewhere, buried along with countless other unfinished masterpieces.
Executive Producer Graham King at the 2007 Academy Awards, accepting the Best Picture Oscar
If you don’t know the name Graham King, you most certainly know his movies.
He’s produced many of the most widely acclaimed films of the last decade including — Traffic, Ali, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Blood Diamond, The Young Victoria, The Tourist, Rango, The Rum Diary, Hugo, Argo, World War Z, and more.
That’s a stunning list. In fact, two of those movies won the Academy Award for “Best Picture” — The Departed (2006) and Argo (2012).
When The Departed won Best Picture, it wasn’t Martin Scorsese, the film’s legendary director who accepted the year’s most prestigious Oscar. It was Graham King himself upon the stage alone — the mastermind behind the movie’s creation. He accepted the golden statue and then gave a rousing victory speech.
So, what does this have to do with Stu Ungar?
I’m about tell you the story.
As September nears a close, I’d be remiss were I not to acknowledge what would have been the 60th birthday of the late Stu Ungar.
The gin and poker savant was born September 8, 1953. Also worth remembering — in a few months, it will be the 15th anniversary of his death.
Over the years, much has been written about the man-myth-legend, some by my hand in One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘the Kid’ Ungar, his biography and swan song.
During the many interviews I’ve done since, I’m most frequently asked how Stuey would fare in today’s poker world. Certainly, the game is much different now than when the three-time world champion was at his very best. This is a complex question,, which calls purely upon speculation. No one really knows the answer. I suppose it’s the universal question asked of all past greats who die too early — from Marilyn Monroe to James Dean to Jimmy Hendrix.
Sometime around 9 pm last night, the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event played down to its final 100 players.
Let’s put this into perspective.
This year’s world championship began ten days ago with 6,352 entrants. Hence, those who made it this far represent about 1/63rd of the starting field. Practically speaking, this means that for every seven poker tables full of players when the tournament started, just one player out of that entire group is still alive.
But making the “Top 100” is even more special than that.
Let’s say you’re an average poker player relative to all those who enter the WSOP Main Event. In other words, you have about an equal chance of anyone in the middle of the pack – skill wise. Expressed in years, how often would you expect to make the Top 100?