hands-on that I’ve seen.”
At that class, Bari introduced Chan,
then faded into the background to help
the chef’s assistants fetch ice buckets for
the wine brought by many of the dozen
participants (mostly in their 20s and 30s).
Bari pitched in to wash utensils, clear and
wipe prep tables and, for the celebratory
meal, push the prep tables together and set
them with white china and candles.
Bari says his most valuable skill at
poker, “the ability to read people,” helps
ensure that his clients “get the experi-
ence they want and have a good night.”
His facility with numbers also helps. “I
know my pricing, my break-even points,”
he says. “In poker, I’m making on-the-
spot decisions every two minutes, and
business is very similar to that.”
Careers in poker and food were never
in the cards for Bari. Born in Jersey City,
he grew up speaking Russian as well
as English and eating fast food and his
mother’s bland Russian cooking. His
family had emigrated from Belarus, his
mother and brother’s homeland; his
father, an engineer originally from Ban-
gladesh, died shortly after Bari was born.
The family moved to West Orange
when Bari was five. His mother, a comput-
er scientist for Western Union, eventually
remarried and had another son, Neil. (Now
a programmer with a Princeton startup,
Neil has been refining hudsontable.com.)
At West Orange High School, Bari played
hockey and soccer; his mother attended
every game. He loved math and science.
“I did well at school because it came
easy to me,” he says. Though ranked near
the top of his class of 450, he was kept out
of the National Honor Society because he
was a smart aleck who thought he knew
more than most of his teachers.
“Financial security was a big thing
in my family,” Bari relates, accounting
for his decision to follow his big brother
into business. He majored in economics
and finance at Rutgers, which gave him a
scholarship. Bari excelled academically,
joined a frat and played rec sports. He
also played lots of poker in the dorms and
in what he calls “underground games.”
He soon realized he was good enough
at poker to make money at it. His winnings enabled him to graduate from
campus grease trucks to restaurants like
the Frog & the Peach in New Brunswick.
BARI’S FIRST JOB AFTER college, with insurance giant AIG in Berkeley Heights in
2006, proved so easy that his boss let him
split for Atlantic City at 11 AM on Fridays.
“I was making more playing on weekends
than I was at my job,” he says.
He left for a better-paying job at Mor-
gan Stanley in Manhattan, but hating the
“painful commute" from West Orange, he
moved to Hoboken, full of food shops and
restaurants. “Even back then,” he says, “I
was thinking of new businesses.”
After being laid off from Morgan Stan-
ley in 2007 and going all in with poker,
he scored his first big win, $96,000, at the
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