Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


A Poker Life -- Allen Bari

A Poker Life -- Allen Bari

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Jul 13, 2011


Allen BariAllen Bari has one of poker’s sharpest minds. The problem is that he knows it. Bari has been described by his peers as cocky, brash and even angry. He’s well aware of his reputation… he just doesn’t care.

The recent World Series of Poker bracelet winner has nearly $3 million in tournament earnings, but he feels deserves more. In fact, the 26-year-old estimates that he’s missed out on nearly $1.8 million in additional winnings thanks to what he labels as “bad luck and idiots.”

Indeed, many might feel that Bari just has a case of little man syndrome, or that he’s a pessimist who always views the glass as half empty, but Bari insists that he’s not overcompensating. According to him, it’s not trash talk if you can back it up. So far this summer, he has. This is his story.

Early Life

Bari grew up modestly in Jersey City, New Jersey with his mom and older brother. It wasn’t until high school that his mom remarried and his family relocated to the much more affluent city of West Orange. Unsurprisingly, Bari was fiercely competitive as a child, excelling at soccer and hockey. Some would say that he was a little too competitive.

“During each season, I wouldn’t think of anything else other than competing and winning,” said Bari. “On my hockey team, they used to call me ‘A Squared’ for ‘Angry Allen.’ Drinking and partying didn’t matter to me.”

Bari also played baseball as a child, but was forced into early retirement after getting into a disagreement in eighth grade with his coach. “He was an idiot,” Bari said simply. Needless to say, Bari had a major problem with authority and frequently challenged it.

Bari had no problem excelling in the classroom. As a high school student, he took mostly honors and advanced placement courses and got good grades. He was even a member of the school math and biology teams and graduated near the top of his class. That being said, his teachers described him as being too smart for his own good and Bari agreed.

“I guess you could say that I was a bad, smart kid,” he admitted. “I recognized really early on that I was smarter than most of my teachers and that obviously got me into some trouble along the way.”

Poker Beginnings

Allen BariBari enrolled in Rutgers University, double majoring in Finance and Economics. Thanks to the 28 credits he brought with him from high school, he had a lot of free time to explore his passion for poker, a game he had learned with friends as a child.

“I started playing in middle school with friends,” he remembered. “In high school, it was mostly limit hold’em with blinds of .50-$1. I was by far the worst player at the time and would routinely dust off $100 bills. I was way too aggressive, playing nearly every hand all the way to the end. It wasn’t until college that I found no-limit hold’em and started to turn it around.”

Bari fine tuned his game during his years at Rutgers and after graduation, took a job in finance at AIG in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. Bari explained that it was mainly accounting for the insurance department, but once again, he found himself bored and unchallenged by the gig.

“I would spend my days watching the Lost or episodes of The Office,” he admitted. “My boss was really cool, but even he told me to knock it off because it was making him look bad. Eventually, I went to a recruiter who found me a better paying job with Morgan Stanley in New York City.”

Bari spent his days at Morgan Stanley doing expense analysis for the Human Resources department, but found the job too easy. At one point, he even developed a computer macro, so that he could come in, push a button and have his work done for him.

“It was a great job, because I really didn’t have to do anything difficult,” he said. “It was just a bunch of budgeting and forecasting. I called it spreadsheet nonsense. My days were over by five, so I found myself heading down to the underground games.”

A Quick Start, Then A Long Drought

Just like finance, Bari had more or less solved his local poker game. He quickly graduated from $1-$2 to $2-$5 and eventually moved on to $5-$10. Then, his company laid him off due to downsizing. He was the last one to come in, so they made him the first one out.

“I was doing well playing poker, so I took my severance package and called my mom to tell her that I was going to try and make a career out of it. Within a few weeks, I got a backer and wound up nailing a six-figure score at the Venetian. After a couple more cashes, I won the Borgata Summer Open main event for $500,000.”

Bari kept on making final tables and racking up six-figure scores, but the winner’s circle eluded him. After several close calls, making deep runs on both the EPT and WPT, Bari began to get frustrated. Some choice words for his opponents wound up earning him a reputation as a trash talker, and even a sore loser.

“I honestly don’t know what happened to me as a child to make me so angry,” he said. “I wake up each day and tell myself to be positive, but by noon, I just want to smash something. It’s really hard to stay positive when you keep seeing idiots win over and over again. They’re obviously good for the game, but it makes me furious.”

Allen BariBari is aware that bad players have a positive effect his bottom line, but he still can’t help himself. “Here’s the honest truth. When you have an elite level of understanding of the game like I do, and you sit back and watch these morons who know absolutely nothing, it’s near impossible to stay quiet, especially when their stupidity costs me chips or my tournament life. I completely understand that these are the people who fuel this industry and allow me to make a living playing poker, but I just can’t stop myself. It’s a catch 22. You need the bad players, but sometimes you just want them to go away.”

Earlier this year, at the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown, Bari boiled over after finishing in a disappointing fifth place for $211,000. “I got some TV time. Who cares? It was one of the softest WPT final tables in history and I was by far the best player at the table. I wound up losing $180,000 in equity. It was a decent score, but I don’t take pleasure in my near misses.”

“People ask me why I’m so angry all the time,” he said. “They say that it takes more energy to be angry. I completely disagree with that. I find it exhausting to be happy all the time. Outside of poker, I’m a goofball and easy to get along with. But when I’m playing, it takes every ounce of strength I have not to call someone an idiot.”

Closing It Out

When asked if he subscribed to Phil Hellmuth’s belief that if luck weren’t involved, he’d win every time, Bari immediately pointed out that he will never subscribe to anything Hellmuth says.

“I think that idea is ridiculous,” he said. “There is way too much variance involved in tournament poker to say that I would win every time if bad luck didn’t repeatedly punch me in the face. Don’t forget, there are other good players out there besides myself. There aren’t many, but they’re out there.”

At this summer’s WSOP, Bari realized what it would take to find success. He needed to stay aggressive and find a way to chip up easily so that he could fade the bad beats.

“The key to tournament poker is getting ahead of the beats,” he explained. “Someone tells me a bad beat story and I just tell them that if they had spent more time accumulating chips earlier, they’d still be in the tournament. Get ahead of the field, so that when those beats happen, you’re still in the game. Then you can tell them they’re an idiot to their face rather than saying it under your breath as you walk away from the table.”

Bari cruised through a field of 865 in the $5,000 no-limit hold’em event to pick up his first bracelet, but he needed some good fortune and some amazing reads just to get to the final table. At one point, he called all in for his tournament life holding pocket queens against former champion Brian Lemke on a board reading A-K-9-K-6. Lemke was bluffing and Bari found himself with a much healthier stack.

Despite earning the victory, Bari was more relieved than overjoyed after the final hand had been dealt. “I went into that final table with a massive chip lead. Anything other than first place would have been awful. If I had finished second and someone had congratulated me on winning $500,000, I’d probably have told them to go f**k themselves.”

Comfortable With Himself

Allen Bari Wins His BraceletSome notables in the poker community are delusional about their abilities and more importantly, about the way they are viewed by their peers, but Bari has a heightened sense of self awareness.

“Look, I know people think I’m an asshole. They’re probably right to think so. But this is just the way I am and I’m comfortable with it. I’d rather my peers respect my game than my mouth and I’m happy to say that the right people in poker know the truth. They know that I’m one of the best in the game.”

Now that he has a bracelet, you’d think that Bari would feel vindicated for all of the beats and bad players he’s had to endure over the years, but he doesn’t buy into that theory.

“I’m not content,” he stated. “It’s nice to have a bracelet, but my expectations haven’t yet been met. People say that I’m cocky, but I’m cocky for a reason. I’ve worked really hard at this and I feel that the poker world still owes me something. It keeps me hungry."