Where Are They Now: Ron “The Carolina Express” Stanley Battled Stu Ungar at 1997 WSOP
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Ron “The Carolina Express” Stanley, 70, was one of the most feared players in the game. In fact, he even went toe-to-toe with the legendary Stu Ungar at the final table of the 1997 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. It was there that Stanley donned a tuxedo while playing in the intense Las Vegas heat on Fremont Street.
Stanley, who has been playing poker for a living for “at least 50 years,” was recently spotted at the 2022 WSOP and was kind enough to chat with PokerNews.
“My dad used to play poker and he’d take me to the games when I was a kid,” he said about how he learned poker in the first place. “I was watching and it got pretty interesting. He was pretty good at it and I picked it up from him. It’s in my blood I guess.”
While he hasn’t had any major tournament scores since before the Poker Boom, Stanley is still on the grind.
“I play poker 5-6 days a week at least, mostly cash games,” he said. “In Vegas, I mostly play at South Point, but I’ve been in South Carolina for six months playing a lot of home games.”
Stanley is originally from South Carolina, and that’s how he got the nickname “The Carolina Express.”
“I moved here in 1986 and Johnny Chan was hot at that time,” Stanley explained. “He was the Orient Express, and here I was from South Carolina, so I became the Carolina Express.”
Speaking of the old days, Stanley reflected on playing with two kids who have since gone on to become two of the biggest superstars in the game.
“I’ve played many times with Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu before Negreanu got hot anyways. They were super aggressive. If you could catch a break you could get there. Phil has always been the brat. It’s not for TV, that’s what I was telling my girlfriend. He’s making money because of it but he’s not acting.”
So, what does an old-school legend from the Binion’s Horseshoe days think about the WSOP’s new home at Bally’s and Paris?
“So far, I like it better here over the Rio, but there was nothing like Binion’s, it was the best,” he explained. “There were a lot fewer players, but I mean you knew everybody. Even the foreigners who may have flown in, we still knew everybody. But now I barely run into people I know.”
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Bracelet Win & Battling Stu Ungar
Stanley’s first WSOP cash came in 1990, and just a year later he topped a 202-player field to win his first and only gold bracelet in the 1991 WSOP Event #5: $2,500 Limit Hold’em for $203,000.
“I just bought a house before I won that thing,” he told PokerNews. “We needed the money to furnish the house, so we went an spent a ton on that. Right away it went to something useful.”
Stanley made another bracelet run at the 2006 WSOP, ultimately finishing seventh in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament for $107,614. Brandon Cantu won that particular event for $757,839.
As of 2022, Stanley had 20 WSOP cashes totaling $721,867 with his last cash of $5,597 coming back in 2006 when he finished 86th in Event #31: $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em. According to the Hendon Mob, Stanley has just over $1.6 million in lifetime earnings including a career-best $212,000 for finishing fourth in the 1997 WSOP Main Event.
At that storied final table, Ungar couldn’t be beaten, but most in attendance agreed that if anyone was going to stop him, it was going to be Stanley. At one point, the latter even got close to overtaking the chip lead before the two big stacks clashed.
The hand, which has been immortalized in several books including One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey 'The Kid' Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player by Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson, began with Stanley limping the small blind with the and Ungar checking his option with the , which brought about a flop of .
Stanley checked second pair and Ungar checked behind to bring the on the turn. Stanley bet 25,000 and Ungar, who had picked up a gutshot straight draw, raised to 60,000. Stanley called and the river was the .
Stanley checked and Ungar bluffed at it by firing out 220,000.
“Stanley just did not believe his pair of nines was good. He must have thought Stu was slow playing the ace once again. Stanley folded,” Mark Rogers wrote in 52 Greatest Moments World Series of Poker. “To please the crowd and tilt Stanley (and the rest of the table for that matter), Stu Ungar show his bluff. Chuckles came from the gallery when Ron Stanley displayed what would have been the winning hand.”
Had Stanley found a call, poker history may be very different. Instead, he would soon have kings cracked by John Strzemp, who made trip tens on the turn, and then get the rest of his chips in with jack-eight only to have Strzemp wake up with pocket aces.
“Stu Ungar had demoralized the once rushing Ron Stanley. The bluff was pure brilliance and would go down as one of the best the Main Event has ever seen,” Rogers added.
Despite not winning the 1997 WSOP Main Event, Stanley showed he had the qualities of a champion, a player not afraid to get in there and mix it up. Now, 25 years later, he’s still at the World Series doing what he’s always done – playing poker!
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.
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- 1 Officials Offer First Look at 2022 WSOP; Answer Several Lingering Questions
- 2 Bally's & Paris: Your Guide to the New Home of the World Series of Poker (WSOP)
- 3 Negreanu, Deeb (as Expected) Highest Bids in $25k WSOP Fantasy Draft
- 4 WSOP Transportation Guide: Riding the Las Vegas Strip Monorail
- 5 Let the Games Begin: 2022 WSOP is Officially Underway
- 6 Phil Hellmuth Misses 2022 WSOP Opener After Bout of Traveler's Diarrhea
- 7 Kenney, Schindler & Imsirovic Arrive at 2022 WSOP Despite Recent Cheating Allegations
- 8 Phil Ivey is Back! Poker G.O.A.T. Cashes First 2022 WSOP Event
- 9 Baltimore Raven Calais Campbell at WSOP: "We Have Super Bowl Potential"
- 10 2022 WSOP Featured Females: Katie Kopp Becomes Bally's First-Ever Bracelet Winner
- 11 WSOP Player of the Year Race One Week In: Defending Champ Arieh Off and Running
- 12 ClubGG Offers Bubble Protection For Eight 2022 WSOP Events
- 13 Doyle Brunson Skipping 2022 WSOP Due to COVID-19 Concerns
- 14 Retired NBA Star Paul Pierce Allegedly Won't Pay His Poker Debts
- 15 Scott Seiver Pays $43k to Enter $1k WSOP Event, Fails to Cash
- 16 2022 WSOP Featured Females: Lara Eisenberg Talks Poker's Impact on Dementia
- 17 2022 WSOP Hands of the Week: Depaulo vs. Hellmuth, a Pure One Outer & a Royal Flush
- 18 Reigning World Champ Koray Aldemir Quietly Crushing it at 2022 WSOP
- 19 2022 WSOP Player of the Week 2: Jeremy Ausmus Wins Third Bracelet in 9 Months
- 20 Hellmuth Controversy at WSOP: Poker Brat's Chips Swiped on Break
- 21 Security Mistakenly Tries to Kick Out Neymar Jr. After He Cashes First WSOP Event
- 22 Breaking News: Phil Ivey Closing in on Elusive 11th WSOP Bracelet Tonight
- 23 Doyle Brunson Becomes a WPT Ambassador, Might Play WSOP Main Event
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- 25 WSOP $250,000 Super High Roller Kicks Off; Ivey, Negreanu and Kenney All Enter
- 26 Ali Imsirovic Busts WSOP $250K Super High Roller on Brutal Cooler
- 27 Cruising in the $250k, Is 2022 One of Phil Ivey's Best WSOP's Ever?
- 28 Runner-Runner Bad Beat Tilts Negreanu; Poker Star Out of WSOP $250k
- 29 Navy Vet Reps Military Charity During WSOP Salute to Warriors Event
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- 31 Dan Zack Still Leads WSOP POY Race; Ivey, Deeb within Striking Distance
- 32 888poker Pro Ian Simpson Gears Up for 2022 WSOP Main Event
- 33 Poker Players Who Have Defended Their WSOP Bracelet
- 34 How to Make Day 2 of the Million Dollar Bounty
- 35 Poker Player Wins WSOP Main Event Satty in His Sleep...Literally
- 36 Josh Arieh Flushed Out of WSOP Main Event Early; Four Past Champs in Day 1a
- 37 2022 WSOP Hands of the Week: Yuvee Loses $50K to Pair of Deuces; Ivey Hits Ace from Space
- 38 BREAKING: Phil Hellmuth at 2022 WSOP $3,000 NLH Final Table, Chasing 17th Bracelet
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- 40 Barstool Sports' Cracking Aces Podcast Hosts Crush it on Main Event Day 1
- 41 WSOP Main Event Railbird Pays Back Daniel Negreanu Four-Year "Debt"
- 42 Matt Glantz Finds the $1 Million WSOP Bounty
- 43 BREAKING: WSOP Main Event Day 2 Schedule Altered
- 44 Aces Bust Kings 15 Minutes into Day 1b of WSOP Main Event
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- 46 2022 WSOP Player of the Week 5: Jessica Teusl Wins First Bracelet at First WSOP
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- 51 Koray Aldemir: Back-to-Back WSOP Main Event Runs "A Privilege"
- 52 Brutal River! Aces, Queens, & Jacks All In Preflop in WSOP Main Event
- 53 Former World Champ Tom McEvoy Shares his Poker Samadhi Wisdom
- 54 Did Alejandro Lococo Pull Off Best WSOP Main Event Bluff Since Moneymaker?
- 55 The Muck: Did Mike Matusow Really Have a Blow Up in the WSOP Main Event?
- 56 Dan Zack Claims 2022 WSOP Player of the Year Honors
- 57 How Much Money Players at 2022 WSOP Main Event Final Table Really Made
- 58 Espen Jorstad Wins 2022 World Series of Poker Main Event for $10,000,000
- 59 Las Vegas Active Shooter Rumors Spark Panic; WSOP Impacted, Negreanu Injured
- 60 Quads Dooms Asher Conniff at WSOP Main Event Final Table
- 61 Aces Cracked! Souki Busts from WSOP Main Event Final Table
- 62 Espen Jorstad Holds Commanding Lead in Pursuit of WSOP Main Event Title
- 63 Not Su's Day: From Chip Leader to Out in 9th Place
- 64 A Look at All the 2022 WSOP Online Michigan Bracelet Winners
- 65 Five Memorable Hands from the 2021 WSOP Main Event Final Table
- 66 Where Are They Now: Ron “The Carolina Express” Stanley Battled Stu Ungar at 1997 WSOP
- 67 WATCH: One of the Best Folds in WSOP Main Event History?
- 68 Adrian Attenborough Just Made Two of the Gutsiest Plays of the 2022 WSOP
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- 70 Cool, Calm & Collected Efthymia Litsou is WSOP Main Event's Last Woman Standing
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- 73 Daniel Negreanu Wraps 2022 World Series of Poker Down $1.1 Million
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- 75 PN Podcast: 2022 WSOP Main Event Final Thoughts; Interviews w/ Main Event Final Three