The old adage that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life rings true for some. Just ask two Parsippany brothers.
As teenagers, Arash and Bahbak (aka Bobby) Oboodi started playing poker for fun with their buddies and in online games. In time, both started winning what they considered unbelievable sums of money. And today, Arash is developing into one of the top online players in the nation while big brother Bobby, who plays in casinos, has earned more than a million dollars from the game.
"I can't really think of playing poker as a job—it's something I enjoy doing," Arash Oboodi said. "But technically, yes, it's my job. And I know how lucky we are to be where we are."
The brothers got their start in poker when Arash was a junior at Parsippany High School and Bobby was in college.
"We started playing poker a lot with our friends and [with strangers] online," Arash Oboodi recalled. "Technically, I was underage, because you have to be 18 to play. Anyway, we started having a decent amount of success."
Arash Oboodi said that over one two-day period of playing the game, he ended up winning $10,000.
"I thought, 'wow, that was really cool' and thought that maybe poker was what I could do" as a career. At that time, I didn't have a definite idea as to what I wanted to do with my life. So I figured, this is fun, I enjoy playing poker, and I can make some decent scratch."
From that time on, Arash Oboodi said he saw himself as a professional poker player, and took pride in the fact that he started out as "a not very good player" and evolved into a successful one. But he said his big brother showed a natural talent for the game from the start.
"Bobby was always really good," Arash Oboodi said. "When we would play with friends, he would always win. So I tried to emulate him."
Individuality will rear its head though.
"As we played more and more, my style started to differentiate from my brother's," he said.
Their venues of choice turned out to be different too.
"I play only online; my brother plays at casinos," Arash Oboodi, now 23, explained. "I don't really like the atmosphere of casinos; too many depressed people are there. ... I don't play every day, just whenever there is a good tournament or a good game going. It's about three or four days a week, and always on Sunday."
"I like the human interaction part of it," said 25-year-old Bobby Oboodi, explaining his love for playing in casinos and in private games. "I'm a people person."
Bobby Oboodi said he played online primarily when he was between the ages of 19 and 22.
"When I was 19 and still in college. I had about $1,000 to my name and ended up winning about $20,000," he said. "That made me think that maybe I could do this as a career. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. It was pretty wild to be making that kind of money."
And it has been lucrative for both brothers.
Arash Oboodi won't specify how much money he has amassed since turning pro six years ago, but he will say that his total earnings come to more than $1 million.
"In February two years ago, I played in a tournament and won just under $200,000," he remembered. "By that time, I think I was close to a million total. I think it was the middle of 2010 that I finally broke the barrier."
Though he's racked up impressive wins over the years, Bobby made his biggest score—$1 million—in just one tournament. He earned $922,441 as the winner of the World Series of Poker's Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City last September.
"That was his first really big win," Arash Oboodi said. "That was surreal."
His brother agreed.
"It was amazing," he said. "There are no words."
The wins help ease the way with their parents. Arash Oboodi said their parents weren't particularly ecstatic about their sons' unusual career choice.
"Our mother was just horrified at first," he recalled. "When we were playing online, she would walk into the room and we would have to hide the screen and say we were doing homework.
"But this is something we really liked and when we started to have success, she started to get a little warmer to the idea. Now, they're fans."
The trick, for Arash Oboodi, is to play in tournaments with a lot of amateur players.
"Your stock really goes up, then, and a lot of the game is having and showing confidence," he said. "That's easier when you're playing amateurs. But it's really fun to test yourself against the cream of the crop."
For Bobby Oboodi, it's about focusing and taking the work seriously.
"It's amazing to think how rare it is to win something like the Borgata," he said. "When you consider that everything has to go right for you for five or six days in a row... and the competition is tough. When you win, it really is an incredible feeling."
Also incredible, he said, is getting to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the sport.
"I've played with just about everyone you can think of, either online or live," Bobby Oboodi said. "I've been going to Vegas every year since I was 22 for the World Series of Poker and I've met a lot of people who have been playing forever."
According to Bobby Oboodi, technology is helping turn professional poker into more of a young person's game.
"We're taking over," he joked. "The veterans are still there, but more and more, it's the young people having the biggest success."
Bobby Oboodi said he would like to see his success last a long time.
"I definitely want to leave my mark on the poker world," he said. "Ideally, I want to save my money while I'm young, so I can live comfortably and start my own business. Then I can play poker as a hobby."
Arash Oboodi said that, while he is content to play poker for as long as it remains enjoyable, he is also investing in real estate and considering other business ideas.
"At the end of the day, no matter how well you play, you can lose," Arash Oboodi said. "We both know that. So we want to have some things to create positive income growth lined up, just in case."