Frank Funaro piled into the frame for the winner’s 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 winner’s photo was not actually for Frank. In fact, Frank wasn’t 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 didn’t even have a piece,” Frank laughed, talking about Nick’s Borgata Winter Poker Open $420,484 score. “I didn’t 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 poker’s most successful siblings are now joined by The Funaro’s – 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 wouldn’t 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 didn’t 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.
That’s 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 don’t have a big poker circle. We’re not from Vegas, we’re a little bit detached over here. So a lot of what I’ve picked up, just my ascension in the game, I’ve translated to him. The mistakes I’ve 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 he’s got a very good start and now he’s 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 other’s orbits. Frank described their situation growing up as “a big lot of friends…lots 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 there’s a friendly game here and there but when he went to take the game seriously, Frank was on an island.
“I wasn’t 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 us…I guess now [after Nick’s victory] it’s back on the up and up.”
In the years that the brothers have been working and studying together, their mutual results have flourished. Frank’s live career has skyrocketed since 2021 with three six-figure scores outside of his WPT World Championship result. He’s 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, he’s claimed an online WSOP Circuit ring and made a run in the WSOP Paradise $5,300 Main Event.
They work, push, and learn from each other. For Nick, Frank’s 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.
“Frank’s a better player, honestly,” Nick said. “So I take a backseat and see what he’s doing and just try to absorb as much information as I can.
“But I think I’ll be here for a while. It’s what I’ve been wanting…to get rolled, to get to the high roller scene and start battling with them. That’s been the goal for a few years now. Playing $10Ks with the best players would be fun for me…just 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 it’s Saturday night and he’s on the computer playing online. All of his friends are out, drinking, doing whatever. I would have been out drinking and doing whatever, but he’s just so dedicated. He’s just working. I love it…it’s 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, he’s 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 don’t have many big live first places,” Frank said. “I’ve had a lot of runs and I feel like I’m kind of getting close. Six-figure scores are amazing but it’s just I feel like maybe there’s still more to be done on the winning side of closing one of these out. Live is hard…these fields are huge and you don’t get to play that many. It’s tough.”
It is tough, but maybe it’s 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. We’re both dedicated and committed and just doing the best we can by putting in work,” he said. “I don’t like setting expectations or pushing…whatever comes, comes and we’re just going to work hard and hopefully bink off some more scores and have fun with it.”