The Movie Waffler High Roller Tells the Tale of a Poker Great | The Movie Waffler

High Roller Tells the Tale of a Poker Great

Actor Michael Imperioli is best known for his memorable supporting roles in films like Goodfellas and TV shows like The Sopranos, but in 2003 he was awarded the lead role in High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story.

As its title implies, High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story is a biopic of Stu Ungar, a professional poker player who was considered one of the world's greatest gamblers before his untimely death in 1998 at the young age of 45.

Ungar's story is one of highs and lows, told by writer/director A. W. Vidmer in a series of flashbacks as Ungar narrates his life story to a stranger (played by Michael Pasternak) on the final night of his life. We see Ungar's childhood, growing up as a bookmaker's son; his early career playing tournament gin; his transition into the world of professional poker; marriage and subsequent fatherhood; and his cocaine addiction, which leads to the end of his marriage. It all culminates in Ungar's historic third victory at the World Series of Poker during the 1997 edition of the prestigious tournament.

Known by the nicknames "The Kid" and "The Comeback Kid", Ungar proved his talent early in life. Before his 18th birthday he had earned a reputation playing in high stakes games in his native New York. However, by his early twenties he was in debt to dangerous criminals, and fled New York for Las Vegas. In Sin City he won a fortune in a gin rummy tournament and was able to pay off his debts, saving his life in the process. In 1980, Ungar entered the World Series of Poker and won the coveted No Limit Hold'em World Championship on his first attempt, a title he would retain the following year, before reclaiming the title in '97. Had he lived longer, maybe Ungar would have gone on to win big on online poker sites like Situs IDN POKER.

All of these momentous events are documented in Vidmer's film, and Imperioli is convincing in the role of Ungar. Adding to the authenticity are appearances by real life poker celebs like Vince Van Patten, Andy Glazer and Al Bernstein.