|Nickname(s)||The Polish Maverick|
April 6, 1942|
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||September 25, 2009
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|World Series of Poker|
Main Event finish
|World Poker Tour|
Robert E. "Bob" Stupak (April 6, 1942 – September 25, 2009) was a Las Vegas casino owner and entrepreneur. He was also a poker player, winning titles at the World Series of Poker and the Super Bowl of Poker. He also competed on the World Poker Tour, and various other tournaments, as well as cash games, including High Stakes Poker on GSN. He once played a computer for half a million dollars and won.
Early Years and Family
Bob Stupak was the son of Chester and Florence Stupak. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Chester Stupak ran a dice game called the Lotus Club in Pittsburgh for over 50 years. Bob as a teenager was mainly interested in motorcycle racing, and once ranked 3rd in the world after breaking a speed record.
When barely out of his teens, Bob moved to Australia to try to find his fortune.
While in Australia, Stupak was briefly married to Annette Suna, and they had a daughter, Nicole. From 1971 to 1985, Stupak was married to Sandra Joyce Wilkinson, and had two more children, Nevada and Summer.
In Las Vegas
Stupak moved to Las Vegas in 1971. His first venture into gaming came when he bought the Vault casino downtown and changed its name to Glitter Gultch. He also created a cowgirl sign named Vegas Vicki for his casino to compete with the iconic Vegas Vic sign across Fremont Street at the Pioneer Club. Bob eventually raised enough money to acquire a small, 1.5 acres (0.61 ha) parcel north of Sahara Avenue at Las Vegas Boulevard South. On March 31, 1974, Bob Stupak's World Famous Historic Gambling Museum opened for business. "The name was about 10 ft (3.0 m) longer than the casino," Stupak recalled years later. On May 21, an air conditioner caught fire and the building burned down.
After a two year loan process, a hand shake agreement with Vally Bank's Perry Thomas netted Bob a million dollar loan to build the original Vegas World on the site of his former gambling museum. In 1979 Stupak opened Bob Stupak's Vegas World hotel and casino, a place known for its promotions, the world's largest sign (which later blew down in a wind storm), and new twists on games including the world's first quarter million and million dollar jackpot. At its peak in the mid-1980s, Vegas World grossed in excess of $100 million per year. In the meantime, Bob donated $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund in exchange for a chance to play with the Harlem Globetrotters. He got his wish, and his appearance on the court in a Globetrotters uniform during one of their games shooting hoops made international news.
Then, taking a page from Donald Trump with his "Trump" board game, Bob came up with his own board game he called "Stupak" after Trump declined his million dollar challenge for charity playing "Trump" the game.
In the mid-1990s, Bob Stupak was inducted into the Gambling Hall of Fame.
Stupak's unique promotions included the world's first one quarter million dollar jackpot followed shortly thereafter by the world's first million dollar jackpot. He also was wildly successful with his direct-mail marketing called the "Vegas Vacation Club" that enticed vacationers to Vegas World with what was almost a cost-free vacation package including room, meals, and vouchers for casino play. Participants returned year after year and spread the word until hotel occupancy was 100% year round.
In 1989, Stupak won a widely publicized million dollar wager on Super Bowl XXIII. Later that year, he won the Deuce to Seven Lowball championship bracelet at the World Series of Poker and the Super Bowl of poker at Caesars Palace. Both times edging out world-renowned lowball poker legend Billy Baxter for the championship. One of Bob's most talked about promotions came when he paid a daredevil one million dollars to jump off the top of Vegas World, then charged him a $990,000 landing fee.
In 1990, Bob Stupak approached the mayor and city council with a plan to build the largest free standing sign in the world. His plan was for an 1,800 foot tall neon sign that would tower over Las Vegas. Then-Councilman Steve Miller, an airline instructor pilot, convinced Stupak to redesign the structure to include an observation deck. Miller took Stupak for a flight over Vegas World in Miller's private plane. There they circled for over an hour at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet watching the sun set. Stupak told Miller that to not share such a beautiful sight would be a sin, and he immediately went to work revising his plans to include a restaurant and amusement rides at the top of what was then to be called the "Stupak Tower." Soon, Bob held a press conference and announced his plan with the caveat that his tower would be the icon of Las Vegas, and Steve Wynn's Mirage would be two miles from him, not the other way around. Within a year of Stupak's announcement, the tower construction began.
In 1995, Stupak suffered a motorcycle accident, breaking every bone in his face and going into a coma. Although the initial prognosis was that he would not survive, Stupak’s next of kin, son Nevada Stupak, approved a non-FDA-approved experimental drug to reduce the swelling to his head and brain. Stupak recovered, although with lingering health problems.
At the time of his motorcycle crash, Stupak was at work developing what had become known as Stratosphere Las Vegas, the largest structure west of the Mississippi and top 10 tallest structure in the world. The accident was only three weeks after Stupak agreed to bring in fellow poker player buddy Lyle Berman and his company Grand Casinos in as investors in the project, in large part due to the $550 million in capital they agreed to invest. This was Grand Casinos' big opportunity to enter the Las Vegas market due in large part to the overwhelming success in the Indian gaming market. Stupak called this the most difficult decision of his life as he had never had a partner and was always sole owner. The tower opened in late April 1996, making it the third most expensive casino development in history at the time; within a year Stupak was out as Chairman of the Board and the project ultimately ended as a financial disaster. Stupak lost nearly $200 million personally. Stupak continued to plan Vegas projects, including a purchase of the Moulin Rouge Hotel and a huge hotel shaped like the RMS Titanic, but these endeavors never bore fruit.
As of 2008, his total live tournament winnings exceeded $865,000. With his World Series of Poker Bracelet in the Deuce to Seven Championship and his wife Sandy in the Casino Owner’s Championship at Binion's Horseshoe, they were the first husband and wife combo to hold WSOP bracelets.
Campaign for Mayor of Las Vegas
In 1987, Bob Stupak almost succeeded in being elected Mayor of Las Vegas. After defeating a dozen other candidates in the primary, Bob forced an incumbent city council member into a runoff general election contest. Following what many believed was a tampered vote count, Bob lost the election. The day after the election, the Las Vegas City Clerk apprised her boss the City Manager of her and her staff's concerns that the computer results were skewed and Bob had actually won the election. The Clerk was immediately terminated after serving as the Chief Elections Officer of the City of Las Vegas for over 17 years. Based on the Clerk's statements, Stupak paid $17,000 to have the punch card ballots recounted. During the weeks leading up to the recount, the Registrar of Voters purchased thousands of new ballots from the out of state printer and had them delivered to a county warehouse in East Las Vegas. Reporters staked out the warehouse and one evening photographed a dozen women enter the building at dusk and exit at dawn. Pizzas were delivered. Several days later, the recount took place and the punch card ballots exactly matched the final vote tally from the computer. Two days after the recount, thousands of ballots were illegally shredded then discarded in garbage bags on the loading dock of the Registrar's warehouse. Several bags were recovered by reporters and dozens of ballots taped back together. Those ballots bore the date of the 1987 municipal general election Stupak lost. The shredding violated state and federal laws that require all voted ballots be preserved for two years in the Registrar's vault. When the story made front page news, the Clark County District Attorney launched an investigation followed immediately by the resignation of the Registrar of Voters. After his cursory investigation, the DA found no probable cause to prosecute, so the case was closed. However, the ousted City Clerk sued the city for wrongful termination and won. During years of litigation in US Federal Court, the former Clerk and several of her Deputy Clerks testified about irregularities they observed during the 1987 mayoral vote tabulation. Their allegations were never proven.
Campaign for Lieutenant Governor
Stupak died of leukemia on September 25, 2009, at the age of 67.
- Koch, Ed (26 September 2009). "Brash huckster and visionary Bob Stupak dies at 67: One of a kind made his mark as gambler, developer of Vegas World, Stratosphere". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- Curtis, Lynette (26 September 2009). "Las Vegas icon Bob Stupak defied the odds". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
- Smith, John L. 1997. No Limit: The Rise and Fall of Bob Stupak and Las Vegas' Stratosphere Tower. Huntington Press. ISBN 0-929712-18-8
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