Stu Ungar is widely regarded as one of the best poker players who ever lived. The American wasn’t just adept at Texas Hold’em, though. He was also an expert blackjack and gin rummy card shark. The late player’s life has already been adapted into a feature film in 2003. This was High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story, and it detailed the life of the Comeback Kid.
The picture was released just as the poker boom was starting. Since then, online gambling has grown massively. It could be argued that now would be a much better time to make and release a picture about Ungar.
Michael Imperioli Starred as Ungar
As the poker boom was taking hold of the western world in the 2000s, it was no surprise that filmmakers wanted to create content about some of the greatest players of all time. Ungar was one of only two people to win the World Series of Poker Main event twice, and he was also the only player to win the Super Bowl of Poker on three occasions.
In the picture directed by A. W. Vidmer, Michael Imperioli played the lead role. The Sopranos actor was one of the hottest talents on the planet at the time, and he should have been as a major draw for the picture. However, the film was released by New Line Home Video and never hit cinema screens.
Entertainment Industry Crying Out for Blackjack Content
The problem with the Ungar biopic was that it was released at the wrong time. In 2003, the online gambling industry was just getting going. Now, on the other hand, it’s a titanic sector worth more than $63.53 billion according to Grand View Research.
The online casino industry has made blackjack the most popular card game in the world, with it outdoing poker by some margin. At sites like Casino777, there are countless blackjack options for players to choose from, such as Blackjack Multihand and Blackjack VIP. The sheer range of choice highlights how many people are interested in the game.
Back in 2003, filmmakers focused more on Ungar’s poker exploits and his incredible achievements at the felt. However, if a new offering was made for modern viewers, it would arguably be wiser to centre on Ungar’s blackjack skills. There’s a large gap in the market for blackjack-themed entertainment options, and a biopic about one of the greatest players ever would fill it well.
Rerelease the Original or Make a New Offering
Aside from dropping during the wrong era of the gambling industry, the 2003 Ungar biopic also pre-empted the streaming age. Back then, when movies went straight to video they didn’t get anywhere near the same kind of exposure as modern content released straight to platforms like Netflix.
One of the major services could find success by rereleasing the 2003 picture, perhaps. Another alternative would be to make a brand-new version with a greater focus on blackjack. There’s an argument to suggest that Imperioli could return to the role, as people will want to see more of him after his performance in the White Lotus. His appearance in the series was described as part of his “zenaissance” by GQ.
There is a strong argument to say that the Ungar biopic was released at completely the wrong time. If it had dropped after the online gambling boom and in the Netflix era, it could have been so much more successful. These factors may encourage filmmakers to revisit the project.