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Madeline Unger can’t believe it has been 10 years. Time can be tricky that way.

“I know he’s dead,” she said earlier this week. “When you’re gone, you’re gone. It’s over. It’s done. But not a day goes by when someone doesn’t mention him to me. Nobody forgets what he meant to poker.

“It seems more like five years. You say 10 and I can’t believe it. It has gone by so fast. It just blows me away.”

The anniversary is Nov. 22, a decade from when arguably the best poker and gin rummy player to ever sit at a table of cards was found dead in a Las Vegas motel room. Stu Unger lived a sometimes exhilarating and yet mostly tragic life, finally succumbing to a heart condition that was brought on by years of drug abuse.

The World Series of Poker returns to the Rio on Sunday when the Main Event’s final table begins play. The November Nine earned their seats in July and will now play for the top prize of $9.2 million.

The pot wasn’t as golden when Unger won three Main Event titles, but that didn’t stop his legend from forming. Still, he died broke.

It is his former wife’s and daughter’s hope that the foundation they began in 2005 will help keep Stu’s name alive in poker circles while also bringing awareness to the kind of addictive nature that ultimately took his life.

The two are also inspired to help others in the memory of Stu and Madeline’s son, Richie, who committed suicide shortly after his high school prom.

“Stu was never the same after Richie took his life,” Madeline said. “It took such a heavy toll on him … I just want to keep Stu’s name alive, to keep the message out there and there is help for those who suffer from the same problems as he did.

“Our foundation is about the living, not the dead. We want people not to be afraid to talk about addiction and drug abuse. Unfortunately, it got the best of Stu. But it doesn’t have to for others.”

For information on the foundation, go to www.ungerfoundation.org.

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