Allen Bari once proclaimed himself “the best” in the world after winning the $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event at the 2011 World Series of Poker. The brash player from New Jersey is known as one of the cockiest and most confident personalities in the game, and perhaps rightfully so with over $2.8 million in live tournament winnings and a reputation for doing exceptionally well in live cash games on the East Coast. Fellow players have recognized Bari’s talent and acknowledged his sharp mind within the game.
But after nearly a decade of playing both recreationally and professionally, Bari decided to call it quits in August 2012 and move on from life as a poker player. He tweeted last November that he would be going to culinary school and taking a restaurant management course with hopes of opening his own restaurant.
Bari attended culinary school for four days before contracting a severe case of food poisoning, which ended up putting him in the hospital. It was during that time that he decided not to attend culinary school, resulting in him dropping out of culinary academics.
“For what I plan on doing I don’t need to be a chef,” Bari told PokerNews this week. “So I went to restaurant management instead. I attended French Culinary Institute and just graduated in May.”
“Without being specific, I’m hoping to open a food-related business in Hoboken, N.J., by March 2014.”
Bari made an appearance at the WSOP in Las Vegas this week and found some success, finishing ninth in Event #32: $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em (Six Handed). But he told PokerNews that his plans to pursue ventures outside of poker have not changed.
“The game is just really stressful,” Bari said. “There is just too much variance in tournament poker. When you play you go home and just think, ‘oh gosh, this sucks,’ unless you win the tournament. So then you just end up being unhappy like 99.99% of the time. And for the most part I don’t like the average poker player. I just think there are a lot of scummy people in the poker world.”
“I think once you get into the poker industry you lose a sense of the value of money," he said when asked if poker changes people. "Especially in tournaments when you see people win $500,000, it becomes tough to appreciate a $4,000 or $5,000 winning session in cash games. That’s the reason why I wanted to stop traveling because I wanted to appreciate money again and I do now. Now if I win $5,000 or $6,000 in cash games I am thankful and appreciative.”
In regard to the choice he made about leaving the poker world, Bari said, “I wanted to do something positive in the world. Poker is cool and it gives you a sense of freedom, but ultimately you are just taking money from people. With what I intend on doing, I will be making people happy. I will be able to go home every day and say, ‘I did something good today.’”
Despite taking time off from poker, Bari defended his previous claim that he's one of the best cash-game players in the world.
“I still think I’m good, but now I just think that everyone else has gotten really good,” said Bari. “I think no-limit hold’em tournaments are really tough and the style people play has increased the variance. I think I am probably one of the top 10 cash-game players in the world but it doesn’t really matter in tournaments. Now, you have to run good. Playing good poker can only get you so far; you need luck.”
Seeing Bari back on the tournament grind this week didn’t come as a surprise. Bari said on the PokerNews Podcast last month that he's a huge poker fan and watches it all the time on television. He continues to play live cash games throughout the year, but has limited his time to just one day a week. You can find him playing $75/$150 H.O.E. every Tuesday at Parx Casino in Philadelphia, or $150/$300 and even $300/$600 or higher if the games are running.
He plans to be at the WSOP until July 3 and says he will try to "play everything possible" before he leaves. "I’m not sure which events I will play, but I am excited for the $50,000 Poker Players Championship."
Once he returns to New Jersey, though, Bari will resume his regular schedule. "I truly love poker, but I just don’t want to rely on it as my only source of income,” he said.
As a poker pro, Bari looked upon Jason Mercier as a mentor and backer for tournaments. Now that he has branched into a whole new part of his life, he does have a chef he looks up to for inspiration. “Michael Symon is a chef and restaurant owner. You can watch him on Iron Chef and on Chew. He’s not really a restaurateur because he only has maybe two restaurants, but I like his style of cooking and really look up to him.”