About Bob Stupak

Bob Stupak
Bob Stupak

John Smith, author of No Limit: The Rise and Fall of Bob Stupak and Las Vegas' Stratosphere Tower, summed up Bob Stupak best when he said this in his book:

"If P.T. Barnum had a hedonistic twin, Bob Stupak might be the guy. He's one of the last of the great Las Vegas wild men. In an era in which corporations have placed their publicly traded USDA Grade A stamp on the city, at a time in which gaming's most notorious party animals have begun posturing as elder statesmen of Las Vegas casino society, Bob Stupak is still tearing up the neon-lighted streets with his big ideas, big bets and big mouth."

Born in 1942 in Pittsburgh, Pa., Stupak grew up watching his father Chester Stupak run the gaming and mob boys on the south side of town. Chester was a major player in Pittsburgh's gambling rackets from the beginning of World War II until his death in 1991, and his son picked up the gambling bug too.

Stupak dropped out of school after the eighth grade and worked street jobs selling cheap watches. He also worked as a small-time loan shark and sometimes set up card games, but his most unusual attempts at legitimate jobs may have been when he became a singer and then a drag racer.

He didn't have much for talent, but under the name Bobby Star, Stupak signed a recording contract and cut eight singles before people realized his star wasn't going to rise very far. He had better luck as a motorcycle drag racer, winning some trophies, but ended up breaking both of his knees.

Stupak eventually found a business that could bring in the fast cash he needed to support his gambling habits when he started making and selling two-for-one coupon books. He took his coupon book operation to Australia where he got married twice and turned his coupons into a successful telemarketing business.

It wasn't just money Stupak was looking for, though. It was his dream to someday open a casino, and the only place he could do that back home in the United States was in Nevada. Scrounging up every cent he had, and even borrowing a little from his dad's friends, he bought a 1.5 acre piece of land in Las Vegas that was once a car lot and turned it into Bob Stupak's World Famous Historic Gambling Museum in 1974.

Less than two months after opening, though, an air conditioner caught fire and the place burned down. In its place Stupak built the 20-story Vegas World.

All the experts said Vegas World would never succeed. It was too far off the strip, surrounded by crime and drug ridden apartments and had very little money for a bankroll, but Stupak had a gift for promotion and marketing. He developed quirky angles on traditional games such as blackjack and craps, coming up with Double Exposure 21, Experto, Crapless Craps and Polish Roulette. The casino accepted high-limit wagers at the tables and in the sports book, where the odds were sometimes recklessly shifted in order to generate action.

He even returned to his first successful venture, coupons, to help promote the casino. His coupon promotions brought tens of thousands of customers to town for Bob Stupak's Vegas World Vacation; they also brought him big fines and reprimands from the Nevada gaming regulators - and the Missouri attorney general's office - as people discovered the "deals" offered weren't so great.

In the early 1980s, while in the midst of running a successful casino, Stupak decided he should be a poker player and got Puggy Pearson to teach him the basics. After much practice he became a pretty good player, and in 1989 he won a World Series of Poker bracelet in the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw event; he's also placed in the money in several tournaments since, including a recent final table appearance at the Word Poker Tour's L.A. Poker Classic.

In 1983, Stupak used his poker prowess as a means of generating buzz around himself and his operations. That year, Vegas World hosted its own tournament - the America's Cup - in which Stupak offered the winner a chance to win his Rolls-Royce in a heads-up match against him. It took him less than an hour to beat the winner and keep his car. He also accepted a $500,000 challenge to play ORAC, a poker-playing computer, and won.

Realizing his dream of owning a casino and having a poker career on the side wasn't enough for Stupak. The self proclaimed "Polish Maverick" wanted to really make his mark in Vegas and his plan to do that involved the construction of the Stratosphere Tower.

Though it was his idea, Stupak struck a deal with the Grand Casino that made him a mere investor in the project while the Grand took on the job of turning the Stratosphere into a reality. The Stratosphere opened to huge crowds but ended up a dismal failure as tourists came to see it, but not many stayed to gamble.

Shortly before the Stratosphere opened in 1995, Stupak was involved in a motorcycle accident that by all accounts should have left him dead. All the bones in his face were broken and he was in a coma for five weeks.

Not one to let disappointment or a near-death experience hold him back, Stupak recovered from his injuries and continued planning Vegas projects. He's made proposals to purchase the Moulin Rouge casino and brought up plans to construct a huge casino shaped like the Titanic. So far none of his ideas have come to fruition, but it's a safe bet Stupak will continue to make a mark in Vegas and the poker world in the years to come.

Tournament Placing

Place Winnings Tournament
91 $39,570.00 WPT Season 6 - WPT World Championship
56 $22,020.00 WPT Season 6 - L.A. Poker Classic
99 $15,490.00 WPT Season 6 - Bellagio Cup III
69 $46,410.00 WPT Season 5 - WPT World Championship
32 $6,930.00 2005 WSOP - Event 6, $2,500 Short-handed no-limit Hold'em
6 $46,715.00 WPT Season 1 - L.A. Poker Classic
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