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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Dan Harrington

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

Dan Harrington is very good at games.  He is very good at chess.  He is very good at backgammon.  And he is very good at the stock market and real estate, two other things he considers games.  Oh yeah, and he’s also very good at the reason you are even visiting PokerWorks today - poker.

Harrington was born in Cambridge, MA in 1945.  As a kid he had very little interest in poker, outside of occasionally playing with friends and family.  Instead, most of his early years were spent playing chess.  Harrington won various local championships throughout his school years, and even as a young man he won the 1971 Massachusetts State Championship, which deemed him a chess master.

Harrington had very good grades during school, and as he was nearing college, he decided he wanted to do something with law.  Harrington was accepted to Suffolk University, but would spend a lot of his time at M.I.T, where he would become a member of a roulette team at first, then a blackjack team, decades before the movie “21” was even thought of.  Harrington doesn’t like to speak about his younger days, other than saying a lot of the times were “wild and crazy.”  In both roulette and blackjack the group had found a way to give themselves a decided advantage in these games.  In Roulette it has been said they had a strategy that gave them a 40 percent greater chance of winning than the average player.  For obvious reasons, Harrington hasn’t expounded on these details.

After completing Suffolk University, he went to Harvard Law School.  At Harvard he began to play poker more regularly.  In one of his regular games he played with two of the richest men in the world.  Unfortunately for Harrington they weren’t two of the richest men in the world when he was playing them.  Microsoft founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates were lucky enough to get away from Harrington when they were just poor college students like everyone else.

After college, Harrington still wasn’t ready to turn his attention to poker.  On top of chess, he also began playing backgammon.  Before too long, Harrington was making enough money at the game to make a living from it.  However, after winning a backgammon championship where the event organizers were unable to come up with the first prize of $27,000, he quickly turned sour to the game.  In poker, Harrington realized the money was right there to be had, and he had also never heard of the players not getting paid.

Harrington began studying the game while keeping a job as a bankruptcy lawyer in Massachusetts.  He would often go down to NYC because it had some of the better underground poker clubs on the east coast.  His club of choice would be the Mayfair because of the level of play.  Among the players that have gone on to “graduate” from there are Howard Lederer, Erik Seidel, and Al Krux.  If Harrington was trying to learn the game at an accelerated pace, he certainly found the right group of people to do it against.  In the mid-1980’s a few of the players would start heading over to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas to try their luck in the “big leagues.”

Harrington first went in 1986, and finished fourth in a non-WSOP event for $13,050 dollars and finished high enough in a $1,500 buy-in event at the WSOP to get his buy-in back.  The very next year he signed up for his very first WSOP Main Event and finished sixth for over $43,000, a sign of things to come.

A criticism of Dan Harrington has been that is he is has failed to take chances.  Despite being a highly competitive person, Harrington has always been more concerned with making “some” money instead of winning all of it, or none.  His nickname, “Action” was a name he gave himself as a way to induce action from other players.  Throughout his poker tournament history he has been known to be the first to try to make deals that give all the players around the same amount, as opposed to playing it out for the highest prize.  Very rarely people take Harrington up on his “chop” deals, but one example of when people might have wished they had taken was during the 1995 WSOP Main Event .

Harrington had already won a bracelet in the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em event, and came into the Main Event tired.  When he made the final table he explained to the other eight players that he would like to make a chop, and told them that they would all get enough money to invest and Harrington would help them invest it, as his resume in that department was top notch.  It’s been said that most of players agreed with Harrington, but eventually they decided against it.  Of course, Harrington would go on to win the championship, and a cool million dollars.

While this might be his single greatest victory, it’s not considered his greatest accomplishment.  Of course, in 2003 the internet made poker a very popular game, and in return the fields grew exceptionally large.  In both 2003 (839 entrants) and 2004 (2,576 entrants) Harrington reached the final table both years.  In 2003 he finished in 3rd for $650,000 and in 2004 he finished 4th for 1.5 million dollars.  It’s been predicted that if the fields continue to stay this large, or grow, which they have, that nobody will ever make a run like this again.  In the eyes of many poker historians, this is the greatest achievement in the history of the WSOP.

For a person whose face you can make an argument to be on the “Mount Rushmore” of tournament poker, Harrington sure doesn’t play a lot.  Since his WSOP Main Event win in 1995 he has only placed in around 30 events, but at the same time has had a series of years where he didn’t even play tournaments.  It wasn’t until 2003, the “poker boom” that he started to become more of a regular.  Quite simply, he has other interests.  His loan company is a highly successful business, and as the CEO, it takes up a lot of his time.  Harrington has also said that tournament poker is exhausting to him, and has predicted that someone over the age of 45 will never win a Main Event as long as the fields remain in the thousands.  Despite the slowing down of his poker schedule, you can bet that you don’t want to be at the table with him and his “lucky green Red Sox hat.”  While he might not play as much as he once did, his secrets and strategies are readily available in his wildly popular “Harrington On Hold’em and Cash Games,” series.

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