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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Dan Harrington Officially Becomes a Legend

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Each year, the Bicycle Casino holds its Legends of Poker series of tournaments with events that range from $300 all the way up to the $10k main event that is co-hosted by the World Poker Tour. Not only do poker players from all over Southern California descend upon the Bike, as it's known throughout the poker community, but players come from all over the country for reasonable buy-ins and the chance to be a part of poker history. The Legends main event has become one of the most well attended on the tournament circuit because, well, is there any better title to have than "Legend of Poker"?

The 2007 main event broke all records from previous years, though only by a small number, with 485 participants, thereby creating a record prize pool of $4,607,500. Some of the biggest names in poker entered the tournament, such as Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein, Phil Hellmuth, Erick Lindgren, Scotty Nguyen, and Dan Harrington. Former WSOP champions like Jerry Yang and Jamie Gold participated, as well as internet pros like Jared Hamby and young up-and-coming stars like Scott Clements. It was the usual star-studded event.

At times during the first few days, there was a somewhat festive atmosphere in the tournament room - a ballroom in the rear of the casino - with players like Burt Boutin and Raymond Davis prop betting on everything from the horse races on the TV screens to the colors of the cards dealt on the table. Phil Hellmuth was in entertainment mode and flitting around the room between his penalty rounds for use of an electronic device and the "F" word. And many of the players were simply glad to see each other after the grueling weeks of the World Series of Poker and enjoyed catching up on recent goings-on.

For the media, it was a different story. There was tension in the air before the tournament even began, and it escalated as the event progressed.

This was the first tournament at which the new WPT media rules came into play since their recent exclusive tournament reporting agreement with Card Player went into effect. Since those two media outlets were the official reporters of the event, they were allowed to set up their computers and equipment inside the tournament room and access the tables and the players at all times, getting interviews, chip counts, and hand accounts throughout the event.

Other media outlets were forced to set up in the sushi bar/restaurant down the hall, and reporters were only allowed access to the tournament room in 15-minute increments, once per hour for pictures and walk-throughs. They would only be allowed to take down the details of one hand during that time, and they were forbidden to do chip counts. Needless to say, there were numerous conversations about the enforcement of the rules, the details of what coverage was acceptable by non-WPT and non-Card Player media, and why other media would even be inclined to cover future WPT events.

Meanwhile, the players were only concerned with the tournament itself, and the game was played without interruption by media discussions and disagreements. Many of them had opinions about the new rules, but they rightfully concentrated on the game in efforts to make that coveted WPT final table.

The Four-Day Battle at the Bike

Day 1 was split into two flights, Saturday and Sunday, August 18th and 19th. While both days were stacked with recognizable names in the poker world, the first flight seemed to have more amateurs interspersed at the tables. But whether a player had a year or thirty years of experience, the level of play was high and everyone was forced to step up to that bar. This was a $10k buy-in event and it played out accordingly.

There were some amateur moments when those with less experience certainly stood out from the crowd. At one point, Steve Sung made a full house on another player who didn't realize that his pocket Aces were no longer good enough to win the pot. When the dealer informed the player, he grabbed the Aces and stormed out with them until a security guard tracked him down to snatch the cards back.

In another instance, at the end of Day 1A, some of the amateur players were stalling in order to slow down play and ensure that they would survive until Day 2. It was so obvious that David "Dragon" Pham and Ted Lawson brought it to the attention of the tournament director and complained vigorously until a ruling was made that the "stalling" table would play five more hands after the clock stopped for the day while everyone else was free to go. Sometimes, amateur players must learn lessons the hard way.

The end of Day 1A saw only a handful of players over the 100k chip mark. Jerome Mangum led with 157,800 but Steve Sung was close behind with 147,200. Others in that range were Brian Powell, Nick Cassavetes, Peter Neff, Raymond Davis and Anna Wroblewski. Day 1B ended with eleven players over 100k in chips, with Francois Safieddine at 165,400 and others in the 100k+ category such as Tom Schneider, Jordan Morgan, and Tuan Le.

As the tournament went on, some of the potential big stories faded. There were a number of players with something to prove and a record to set, though none of those particular players fulfilled that goal.

Joe Pelton was the 2006 defending champion and sincerely wanted to make another final table. Though he proved in other finishes at WPT and WSOP events that he was no young fluke, he was eliminated on Day 1A of Legends this year. Frankie O'Dell was the runner-up in 2006 and wanted to show that he could do as well at no-limit hold'em as with Omaha, the game that brought him another WSOP bracelet in 2007. It wasn't meant to be, however, as he was let go on Day 1A also.

Kevin O'Donnell had found his way to Legends of Poker final tables in 2005 and 2006, and a third one would have been a record. Though he looked strong going into Day 2, he couldn't make it through that second day. Danny Won was also going for a record of three consecutive WPT final tables, as he had just recently appeared at the finals of Mandalay Bay and Bellagio Cup main events. His run was over as well, as he was sent to the proverbial rail on Day 2.

At the completion of Day 2, the field had diminished from 191 to only 53 players. The third day of play was exciting as the money bubble would hit at the 45-player level. A gentleman by the name of Steve Kerman was kind enough to bubble in 46th place, courtesy of Joe Sebok.

Others who cashed were Josh Arieh, Steve Brecher, Dutch Boyd, Jordan Morgan, "Miami" John Cernuto, and the last woman standing Anna Wroblewski. Barry Greenstein was sent home by Gavin Griffin, and by sheer coincidence - or maybe revenge - Joe Sebok sent Griffin packing later that day.

Day 4 started with eighteen players and would play to the final six who would sit at the WPT final table. Joe Sebok and David Pham were the only players with more than a million chips, but Lee Markholt, Peter Feldman, and Tom Schneider were not far behind.

The first players to leave were Wayne Chang, Mike Jung, and Frank Brunetti, then Robert Goldfarb and Don Zewin. Tom Schneider took the chip lead by eliminating Peter Feldman in 13th place, a chip lead that would remain under his control throughout the rest of the night. Next to go were Sean McCabe, Brian Powell, Raymond Davis, Lee Markholt, and Billy Pilossoph. And on the TV bubble was Joe Sebok, who was sent home by Tom Schneider.

The Final Table Finale

When the final six players returned on Day 5, they took their seats at the final table under the lights and cameras of the WPT production set. In order of seating, the players were Shi Jia "Jack" Liu with 1,305k, Dan Harrington with 2,230k, Tom Schneider with 3,495k, Thu Nguyen with 1,475k, David Pham with 470k, and Mike McClain at 725k. It would be a battle between the amateurs and the pros from the start.

Liu took some hits early on when McClain and Pham both doubled through him. He then came up against Dan Harrington - Liu with A-J and Harrington with pocket Q's. The board brought J-5-5-6-4, and Liu was out in 6th place for a payday of $137,175. Not bad for a recent college graduate who is just making his foray into the poker world.

Though McClain doubled early, he couldn't make anything else happen so he took a chance with his A-Q against Nguyen's pocket J's. The dealer put K-J-2-2-4 on the board to eliminate McClain in 5th place for $182,900.

Schneider came to the final table with a massive chip lead but slowly lost much of it with missed flops and other players coming over the top of him in various situations. He lost a few key pots, one sizable one to Pham, and though he did double through Harrington with a full house, he was down to 1.7 million with only four players at the table. He moved it all-in pre-flop with A-9, but Pham woke up with pocket K's and called him. The board was J-10-9-10-6, and Schneider was sent home in 4th place with $228,625.

Next to go was Nguyen when his A-5 ran into Pham's A-Q. Nguyen was eliminated in 3rd place for $388,660.

The heads-up match was set, and it was pro versus pro in a battle that would last nearly three hours. David "Dragon" Pham had made numerous WPT final tables and wanted the title more than he could put into English words, and Dan Harrington had been revered in the poker world for so many years because of his "Harrington on Hold'em" series of books that a title would be a feather in his green baseball cap. Play began with Pham at 5.805k and Harrington at 3.895k.

Harrington took the chip lead at one point with Q-10 on a board of Q-7-3-7-4, and Pham mucked his cards without showing. There was more than 5 million in that single pot, and it gave Harrington a bit of an edge. Even so, Pham was not about to give up and doubled up twice to build his stacks up again.

Finally, after 1am in the morning, the hand happened that would decide it all. Pham limped in for 300k, and Harrington checked his big blind option. The flop was 10-5-4, upon which Harrington bet 400k and Pham called. The turn brought an Ace. Harrington bet 1 million even, and Pham came over the top all-in. Harrington called to show his 10-5 for two pair, and Pham turned over the 7-5 for one pair. The river was a 3, and Pham was officially the runner-up. His second place finish was good for $800,185.

After one of the toughest heads-up matches between two consummate pros, Dan Harrington came out on top to win $1,634,865, a seat into the 2008 Legends of Poker $10k event, a seat into the $25k WPT World Championship, and the apt title of 2007 Legend of Poker.

*Photos courtesy of WPT*

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