Borgata Victory Signifies Arrival of The Funaro Brothers

Borgata Victory Signifies Arrival of The Funaro Brothers

Frank Funaro piled into the frame for the winners photo. The former #1-ranked U.S. online pro is no stranger to winning – with nearly $2.8 million in live scores and another $3.3 million in online earnings, the 28-year-old knows what it takes to get to the top. However, this particular winners photo was not actually for Frank. In fact, Frank wasnt even the featured Funaro in the shot. That honor belonged to his youngest brother, Nick, who, just after turning 21, marched his way through a field of thousands of players to capture his first live poker title and an enormous six-figure score.

I didnt even have a piece, Frank laughed, talking about Nicks Borgata Winter Poker Open $420,484 score. I didnt care. I was still so happy.

It was a big moment for both of them – the arrival of The Funaro Brothers.

The Mizrachis. The Greenwoods. The Staples brothers and the Morenos. Some of pokers most successful siblings are now joined by The Funaros – Frank and Nick – brothers with their sights set on making their mark on the game of poker.

When I was a kid, my dad and uncles used to play poker and drink every once in a while, Frank said. But they wouldnt let me play and I wanted to play. So then in high school, my friends and I started having home games and Nick, probably at 12 years old at the time, was always hopping in there playing with the high school kids.

I didnt really know how to play, Nick added. I was just doing random stuff back then. I only started learning from Frank probably two years ago.

Frank is a decade into his poker career. After years of grinding online, he has now found success at nearly every level from breaking into the Top 100 of the PocketFives Online Poker Rankings in 2020 to winning his first online World Series of Poker gold bracelet in 2022, and making the final table of the 2022 WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas where he finished in fifth place for a career-high $1.3 million score.

Thats to say that Frank has seen a lot en route to nearly $6 million in earnings. And that entire time, Nick has seen Frank. The ups and downs, the work, and the rewards made an impression on Nick. And that was something that appealed to him.

I just saw what he was doing, Nick said. He paved a good path and it seemed like a good option. I had a good person to study with, a very smart person who knew the game really well and it seemed good.

I went through it all on my own, Frank said. We dont have a big poker circle. Were not from Vegas, were a little bit detached over here. So a lot of what Ive picked up, just my ascension in the game, Ive translated to him. The mistakes Ive made, how to conduct yourself, how to study, how to manage your bankroll, how to schedule your day-to-day online, and whatever. I kind of impressed upon him the mistakes I made and instilled the way you go about playing as a professional. So hes got a very good start and now hes like a machine.

Despite a seven-year gap between them, Frank and Nick are close. The oldest and youngest of four brothers, the pair are part of a big New Jersey family ecosystem that consistently kept them in each others orbits. Frank described their situation growing up as a big lot of friendslots of people providing the imagery of a bustling house with plenty of sports and competition amongst the boys as they grew up.

However, poker was not one of those competitions. Sure, nowadays, maybe theres a friendly game here and there but when he went to take the game seriously, Frank was on an island.

I wasnt the favorite person around town, Frank said. Speaking about his parent’s initial reaction to his career of choice. But after I started doing well, it cooled off and they were more supportive. Then when Nick kind of fell into the same boat it kind of when back down on usI guess now after Nicks victory its back on the up and up.

In the years that the brothers have been working and studying together, their mutual results have flourished. Franks live career has skyrocketed since 2021 with three six-figure scores outside of his WPT World Championship result. Hes made final tables in the PokerGO Studio and the WSOP and has come incredibly close to notching a resume-topping title. For Nick, outside of his Borgata title, hes claimed an online WSOP Circuit ring and made a run in the WSOP Paradise $5,300 Main Event.

Were better

— Franky Funk (@FrankFunaro1) January 7, 2024

They work, push, and learn from each other. For Nick, Franks experience continues to be a North Star for where he wants his career to go and how long he hopes to be in the game.

Franks a better player, honestly, Nick said. So I take a backseat and see what hes doing and just try to absorb as much information as I can.

But I think Ill be here for a while. Its what Ive been wantingto get rolled, to get to the high roller scene and start battling with them. Thats been the goal for a few years now. Playing $10Ks with the best players would be fun for mejust all the guys I watch on TV. I think that would just be the coolest route.

For Frank, having Nick on his team has been eye-opening as well.

I will say he inspires me with his work ethic, Frank beamed. He just turned 21 and its Saturday night and hes on the computer playing online. All of his friends are out, drinking, doing whatever. I would have been out drinking and doing whatever, but hes just so dedicated. Hes just working. I love itits impressive stuff.

In 2024, Funaro brothers are ready to take the show on the road. The next stop: EPT Paris where both plan on playing the 5,300 Main Event, splash around in some side events, and eat some good food and drink some wine. Past that they are eyeing the World Series of Poker this summer and World Poker Tour stops in Florida all while keeping up the online grind in their home state of New Jersey.

The next challenge for Nick will see him move up in stakes and test himself while taking on most of his own action. For Frank, hes also fueled by taking the next step in his career.

Live poker has been hit or miss for me. I feel like the WPT World Championship was a validating score but I dont have many big live first places, Frank said. Ive had a lot of runs and I feel like Im kind of getting close. Six-figure scores are amazing but its just I feel like maybe theres still more to be done on the winning side of closing one of these out. Live is hard…these fields ae huge and you dont get to play that many. Its tough.

It is tough, but maybe its made a little easier when you have family to fall back on and one gets the sense that these two brothers may just have some staying power in the game. When thinking about how far the game of poker can take the pair, Frank takes the lead and answers for both of them.

Pretty far. Were both dedicated and committed and just doing the best we can by putting in work, he said. I dont like setting expectations or pushingwhatever comes, comes and were just going to work hard and hopefully bink off some more scores and have fun with it.

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