Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Prodigies Heads Up

Phil Ivey and Stuey Ungar. Recognizable names to anyone who knows anything about Poker. Two of the greatest poker minds within their own time. But just how exactly do these two players compare and contrast. And who would come out on top in a series of Heads Up matches amongst the two prodigies?

Let’s first take a look at just how each player’s accomplishments compare to each other:

Phil Ivey

WSOP Bracelets: 5

Main Event Bracelets: 0

WSOP Cashes: 26

Total Tournament Earnings: $7,889,408

Total Tournament Wins: 15

Stu Ungar

WSOP Bracelets: 5

Main Event Bracelets: 3

WSOP Cashes: 13

Total Tournament Earnings: $3,318,796

Total Tournament Wins: 11

Undoubtedly, both players clearly possess an impressive résumé of tournament wins and cashes and although Ivey surpasses Ungar in total tournament victories, Stu holds the upper hand in Main Event Bracelets.

Then again, Stuey wasn’t facing the massive tournament field that’s become the Main Event in recent years. His last Main Event victory in 1997 came against a field of 312 entrants. Compare that to last years field of 6,358 and it’s clear to see why even the top Pros such as Ivey are a slim 200-1 shot at best to win the whole thing.

But regardless of how these two compare in bracelets and cashes, they’ve both become legends of the poker world. Ungar was a living legend all the way up to his unfortunate death in 1998 as is Ivey today. Event their style of play has been found to be very similar.

Top pros who had the chance to play Stu in his days of glory are quick to note the similarities displayed between Stu and Phil’s game. Chip Reese, who recently passed away and was considered by many to be the top cash game player in the world, said in an interview,

I think Phil and Stuey have some similar styles. They’re both aggressive players, they both play a lot of hands; they play more than the average amount of hands. Both of them aren’t afraid to bluff.” Erik Seidel another top Pro, added “Stuey was very good at reading people and he had incredible card sense, obviously, because he was the best gin player ever. I think Ivey is very similar. I think he is very good at analyzing the psychology, he thinks extremely well at the table.”

Yet even though their styles might be similar, they aren’t completely identical.

I think Stuey was really an active player, but I don’t know if he had as many gears as Ivey. Phil’s presence at the poker table is very stable and focused, where Stuey had the focus but I don’t think he had the same table stability that Ivey has.” said Seidel.

What they do have in common, without a doubt, however is their hunger for action. Both have been described by fellow poker players as “action junkies” although with a key element: Ivey knows how to apply the breaks. Stuey? Not so much. Mike Sexton, a good friend of Ungar’s, said

I would say ‘addicted to action’ is a very good description of both of them. I’m not sure Ivey is as addicted as Ungar was, but I don’t think anyone was. Certainly Phil is an action-oriented guy. Whether he’s betting on a prize fight, whether he’s playing golf, whether he’s playing in the pit, he definitely likes action and big time. The same could be said of Stuey. Both were very high stakes gamblers.

Ok, so the guys are different, but the same. But just who would win a series of Heads Up matches between the two? Here’s what a few pros had to say in the matter as published in a recent article in All In magazine:

Erik Seidel

That’s a tough one. In Stuey’s prime and with Ivey playing well, I would go with Ivey for the stability factor.

Mike Sexton

If you’re talking about No Limit Hold ‘Em, I don’t think anybody in the world would come out on top playing against Stu Ungar.”

Chip Reese

Either one of them could win because playing heads-up No-Limit Hold ‘Em is a very volatile game. I think in general Phil has more character than Stuey does at the poker table. Phil’s character alone, he would out-manage Stuey and figure out a way to beat him

Yosh Nakano

If all things are equal, then I think Stuey would be a better player.”

David Grey

Well, heads-up so often comes down to one big cold deck. I guess though, I would have to say Phil

Verdict: 3-2 decision in favor of Mr. Phil Ivey.

But all in all it really is a shame Stuey Ungar passed way before Phil Ivey ever hit the poker scene, because a heads up match between these two, is something you wouldn’t want to miss.


The Hero said...

Great read. A head's up match would be tight to watch.

vtn said...

no disrespect to my man ivey but i'd have to go with ungar! that guy just looks crazy!