In 1990, Stu Ungar had a chance to become the only player in history to win three Main Event titles in freezeout format (Johnny Moss won the first ever Main Event by a vote taken between the 7 players). Having already been crowned champion in 1980 and 1981, Ungar held a commanding chiplead as the tournament neared its conclusion in 1990, but having gone back to his hotel room at the end of the second day, his bad habits got the best of him. Ungar spent the night snorting cocaine and overdosed, ending up in hospital. As a result, he missed the final day of the tournament, ultimately finishing 9th place for $25,050 simply by being blinded off.
Mansour Matloubi won the Main Event that year, but once he had recovered, Stu Ungar was keen to prove a point to the new world champion, and the rest of the world.
The $50,000 duel
Ungar claimed that, if he had been able to play the final day of the tournament, he would have easily defeated Matloubi and the rest of the remaining field to become world champion. To prove this, he challenged Matloubi to a $50,000 heads-up freezeout match.
Given Ungar’s reputation as one of the most gifted poker players of all time, it was perhaps not wise of Matloubi to accept the challenge, but he did just that. During the match, an infamous hand came along which demonstrated the reading abilities of Stu Ungar.
“You have 4-5 or 5-6, I call”
With blinds of 200/400 and Ungar holding 60,000 to Matloubi’s 40,000, the players were dealt 10-9 offsuit and 4-5 offsuit respectively. Ungar opened 4x from the small blind, as was fairly standard at that time, and Matloubi called.
The flop was a rainbow board of . Ungar was known for using overbets sometimes, but on this flop, he chose an unusual moment to utilise this play, betting 6,000 into a pot of 3,200. Matloubi, with just a gutshot draw, made what is a terrible call, assuming he didn’t have a read that Ungar was light, and a plan. Both players checked the king on the turn, with the board remaining rainbow, before a queen fell on the river. At this point, Matloubi overbet shoved all-in, for more than double the size of the pot.
After only a few seconds, Ungar called out his opponent’s hand and ended the match with a stroke of genius by saying, “You have 4-5 or 5-6, I call”. Ungar flipped up his ten high to the astonishment of those watching, winning the match and proving his point to the world.
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