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Allen Bari wins WSOP bracelet, $874,116

5 June 2011

It’s been said that if you can back something up, it’s not bragging.

“I’m the best,” Allen Bari barked out just moments after his thrilling World Series of Poker victory at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. “I do not think my swagger is undeserved. I’ve been playing poker a long time and have been working hard at it. I’ve been putting in the hours and learning. I am not arrogant in terms of everything — just poker, because I’m really good at poker. I do not lie. I am just better than most people.”

Allen Bari sure backed up his braggadocios bravado at the poker table. He won the biggest cash prize of any poker champion so far in 2011, by overcoming a huge field size in the $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship. The 26-year-old New Jersey poker pro earned a whopping $874,116 in first-place prize money.

Anyone who watched the closing stages of the tournament would likely agree that Bari dominated play. He was never in any danger of going bust at the final table. When play became four-handed, Bari had possession of two-thirds of the total chips in play. Indeed, if the final table were a city, Bari’s chip stack resembled an iron skyscraper surrounded by three wooden shacks.

Although he made things look easy, the reality was that Bari earned this victory through commitment and dedication. He cashed five times at last year’s WSOP. Bari now has 11 WSOP cashes and more than $1 million in earnings. Bari’s first major tournament victory took place on the WSOP Circuit in 2008. He won the Main Event Championship, held at Caesars Atlantic City.

Bari attended and graduated from Rutgers University. Prior to playing poker for a living, Bari worked on Wall Street, in New York. He spent two years with two well-known companies – Morgan-Stanley and A.I.G. Bari became unemployed during the economic downturn. By that time he had already begun to make more money playing poker, so he decided to pursue the vocation full-time.

Bari started out playing poker while in high school and later in college. He mostly play stud and draw games. He still prefers to play in mixed games, rather than Hold’em. Despite his victory, Bari is not a big fan of poker tournaments. He prefers to play in cash games, insisting there is simply too much variance in tournaments.

“I would say if you play 150 tournaments over eight years, you are going to win a bracelet," said Bari. "The variance is absurd. I have come close to winning a million dollars four times in the past year. So, to get this is the best feeling in the world.”

“The bracelet means a lot, but I do not really think the bracelet should validate you as a player," he continued. "For example, Eugene Katchalov just won a bracelet. He should probably have four, because he’s the illest (sic). And, I’m the illest because I should
have four. But I only have one. And stinkers like Phil Hellmuth have eleven. So, it’s all meaningless."

The runner up was Maria Ho of Arcadia, Calif., who enjoyed her best career WSOP finish. The popular poker pro from Los Angeles collected a nice consolation prize amounting to $540,020.

“This is my sixth year as a professional poker player. I am getting kind of choked up here,” Ho stated afterward. “You visualize moments like these and all you want to do is win. It’s a disappointment and I feel bad for saying that, because I won a lot of money and I should be proud. But there is a point in every poker player’s career where you want that bracelet. It’s so tough to get here.”

Ho was the top female finisher in the 2007 WSOP Main Event (38th). She has since gone on to become one of the game’s most popular ambassadors. She appeared as a contestant on a CBS reality show called “The Amazing Race.”

The prize money she received, $540,020, represents the second-highest cash figure ever won by a female player in WSOP history. Only Annette Obrestad, the WSOP Europe Main Event champion (2007), had a bigger payout.

The third-place finisher was Sean LeFort, from Bowmanville, Ontario (Canada). The 26-year-old poker pro won $348,128. Nicholas Blumenthal, a 25-year old poker pro from Madison, Wisc., was fourth for $255,028. Thomas Ross, a 40-year-old craftsman from Brooklyn, N.Y., won $189,574 for his fifth-place finish. Ricky Fohrenbach, a 24-year-old college student from Milford, Conn., won $142,821 in sixth, while 25-year-old student Jesse Chinni from Ellicott City, Md. Won $108,914 in seventh.

Mikhail Lakhitov, a 30-year-old poker pro from Cheboksary, Russia was eighth, and three-time gold bracelet winner, Farzad Bonyadi, from Beverly Hills, Calif., was ninth.

This was one of the few WSOP final tables in history that included a break in the action. Once play reached four-handed, players stopped play and returned the following day. This was due to a new WSOP policy this year, which mandates that play end after ten full levels (per day). The final table began late on Day Three and ended on Day Four. It was originally scheduled as a four-day tournament.

The tournament attracted 865 entries – which was up significantly from last year’s attendance of 792 entrants. The top 81 finishers collected prize money. Among those who cashed were former gold bracelet winners Bonyadi, Brian Lemke (winner of this event in 2009), Carlos Mortensen, J.C. Tran, Scott Montgomery, and Mike Wattel.

Tournament summary by Nolan Dalla, WSOP Media Director, reprinted by permission.

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