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Player Profile - Dan Harrington

Dan Harrington’s face is recognisable to all poker players from the covers of his successful poker strategy books, and his name from the money lists of a succession of big buy-in tournaments spanning 20 years, including the final tables of not one, but three WSOP $10,000 main event final tables. Actually, now with the widespread televisation of poker, you might recognise his face from the coverage of said events, but there’s no wondering why people who’ve seen him play are curious to read his advice, and wary of starting a tournament with him on their table.

Born in 1945 in Massachusetts, he gained a law degree from Boston’s Suffolk Law School and presumably the same analytical ability gave him a head start in becoming a student not only of poker, but of skilled games in general. An all-rounder, with state victories in chess and the World Cup of Backgammon (1980) under his belt before he took on the world of tournament poker, it is clear that he takes playing seriously. He was also part of the infamous MIT roulette team.

He started off playing with students, Paul Allen and Bill Gates among others, before heading to put his theories into practice, tackling the high-end tournaments with the iron discipline and patient thoroughness for which he’s famous. I was once in a tournament with a guy who was only ever perceived to play premium hands. The player to his left called him a rock, to which he replied, “Yeah, just call me Action Dan.” So well-known is Dan Harrington for his conservative style of play, it is perhaps easy to forget that you don’t win two bracelets in no limit hold’em in the same year without knowing a thing or two about changing gears.

And he shares at least a bit of that insight with the world in his books, ‘Harrington On Hold’em: Expert Strategy for No Limit tournaments’ Volumes 1 (Strategic Play) and 2 (The Endgame). Both together form probably the most respected no limit tournament handbook around. Aimed at those who already have some poker knowledge, or ambitious beginners, these books explain concepts peculiar to this kind of tournament. The deep-stack multitable event especially requires different and complex ways of thinking depending on, for example, whether you’re just starting out, or you’re halfway through a final table. The latter is the point at which most people just discovering poker tune in on the TV, and Dan Harrington has been there more than most. In the world outside of poker, he is an investor and trained bankruptcy lawyer, residing in California. With two careers, it is tempting to say that he regards the stock market and the poker table with the same regard for the intricacies of the game.
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