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Poker strategy essays

Playing Blackjack with Stu Ungar

By Fredrik Thomson
December 2016

Mike Sexton is one of the most famous and appreciated poker players in the world. Not only does Sexton have a stellar live tournament record, he's also a fantastic ambassador for the game of poker. His role in the surge in popularity in live and online poker can't be questioned. He has worked as a poker commentator for decades and was an important figure in the rise of WPT, (World Poker Tour).

Mike Sexton has been around. The always so polite Sexton was born in 1947 and is a Las Vegas gambling veteran. During his lifetime he has collected many unforgettable memories. Some of these memories he shares with interested bystanders. For example when he hung around the legendary Stu Ungar when he tried to book some action in blackjack. Ungar was of course the notorious mastermind gambler with an uncanny ability to find an edge in any game.

The story goes, as told by Mike Sexton, that Stu wanted to play some blackjack. The problem though was that he was barred all over town due to card counting. Nevertheless Stu and Mike went to Bob Stupak's casino in order to play some blackjack. Bob Stupak himself wasn't too happy with the idea of having Stu playing blackjack in his casino and didn't want to book his action. But even though Stupak declined Stu's request to play blackjack, he couldn't resist to propose an interesting $10,000 bet. Stupak said to Stu:

"I'll get a deck of cards out and I'll turn the cards over one card at a time. And I'm going to bet you $10,000 that you can't tell me the bottom card of the deck."

Stu told him that the bet was on and Stupak started to turn over the cards one by one. Stu sat still and counted the cards as Stupak turned them over. When they got to the bottom card Stu immediately said, "the ten of diamonds". Stupak turned over the last card and of course Stu had it right. Stupak wasn't happy to lose the bet and said that Stu definitely couldn't play a hand of blackjack after that amazing performance.

As Mike and Stu left the casino, Mike asked him how he could do what he just did. Stu said that it wasn't that hard. He explained that all you had to do is assign a unique number for every card in the deck, from 1-52. When you total all that number up it adds up to 1378 (1+2+3+4+5...). Stu continued to explain that all he was doing was adding the cards up and at the last card he subtracted it from 1378. That gave him 38 which was the number assigned to the ten of diamonds.

It's easy to understand why Stu Ungar was barred from every casino in Las Vegas to play blackjack. And back then you didn't have the luxury to play blackjack online.



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