Mel Judah Talks About His WSOP Main Event Final Table With Stu Ungar

Mel Judah is a poker pro who has been a regular at the WSOP since its early years, winning two WSOP bracelets at seven card stud, and a WPT title at the Legends of Poker tournament. In addition to this, he also finished 3rd in the 1997 Main Event, which was made famous due to the extraordinary moment in poker history when Stu Ungar won his third Main Event title. It was sixteen years after he had won his second, and shortly before his sad passing.

In this interview, Mel Judah shares his insight into poker, and what it felt like to play against the genius of Ungar, and be a part of that unique moment of world series history.

Mel Judah
Mel Judah (Photo Poker Asia Pacific)

1) Can you tell us more about yourself as a poker player at that time?

Before Moneymaker won the WSOP, the world series events were limited between 100- 500 players. That meant the same players met very often. Generally the fields were stronger with less players. As there was no TV or internet players at that time, players did not share their knowledge. Now players are well informed.

2) What did this final table represent for you?

The final table at the Main Event was good experience for me, especially playing against Stu Ungar. I learnt a great deal and it helped my career.

3) Can you tell us more about how the final table played?

Stu Ungar was an amazing player. The turning point on the final table was when he bluffed Ron Stanley and showed him his hand which put him on tilt.

4) On that day, all eyes were on Stu Ungar.  Can you tell us more about the way he played during the event?

First let me say it was great playing against him more than once at different events. He was ahead of his time, he had more knowledge, could read his opponents well and executed the hands better than most.

5) What was your personal relationship with him? Any anecdotes about him?

We did not have a personal relationship but we did meet on the green felt more often as the fields were smaller at that time. You had to be at your best because he always thought 2 moves ahead and I don’t know many players that can do that, especially in No Limit.

6) Generally , how was the Las Vegas poker scene and the WSOP compared to nowadays?

You cannot compare poker from yester-years as it has gone to another level with bigger fields. The internet and TV has taken it to a higher level, which has made poker much tougher and the young guns are a lot smarter, are more tuned in and discuss everything openly via FB and Twitter forums etc.

7) One of the biggest changes that followed this period was the emergence of online poker. What is your personal view on online poker?

Online poker made a lot of young players better at the game because they play a lot of hands. Some players can get very rich if they survive online, as they cannot earn that sort of money in their lifetime. The sites make a lot more money.

8) What are your current goals as a poker player?

My personal goals going forward are to still win major events.

9) You are also deeply involved in the poker scene in New Caledonia. Can you tell us more about your current projects in this location?

As a tournament director, I set up events (NCPO has been running for 3 years) and they have been extremely successful. We will be holding the APT event in November this year for the first time.

Somuchpoker delves more deeply into the remarkable return of Stu Ungar in 1997, and his towering performance at the Main Event final table that year in this video:



Avatar photo

Louis Hartwell

Graduated in Media Communication at the University of Lausanne, Louis Hartman is a co-founder of He began his career in Cambodia as freelance journalist. In same time he was making his living by playing poker every night at that time. Intense learner, he read dozens of poker strategy books to improve his skills during many years. With a strong interest about poker "behind the scene" in Asia and his communication skills, Louis launched Somuchpoker in 2014.

More Posts

Follow Me:
Special EmailTwitterFacebookFlickrYouTube