Dan Harrington is an American professional poker player known for his impressive tournament career. He won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1995 and picked up another bracelet the same year. 

Harrington also has one World Poker Tour title, which some consider poker’s second most prestigious tournament series after the WSOP. He has over $6 million in tournament earnings and is a Poker Hall of Fame member. Outside his tournament career, he also authored a few books on poker strategy, giving us the Harrington on Hold’em series. 

In one book, he coined the small ball poker strategy popularized by the renowned modern-day pro, Daniel Negreanu.

Playstyle and Personality

Many poker players are brash and flamboyant at the table, with the audience’s entertainment as their number one priority. While this may be true for many players, Dan Harrington is the opposite. He’s quiet and reserved at the felt, with his playstyle reflecting that. He embraces the nickname “Action Dan,” albeit ironically, since his playstyle is incredibly tight and conservative.

“Dan’s an interesting guy,” said Howard Lederer, one of Harrington’s closest friends in the poker community. “He might be one of the toughest gamblers I’ve ever met. He just refuses to not do the right thing at the table. I mean, I almost think he doesn’t have to fight tilt. Dan just gets that part of poker is variance. Thinking about variance or being unlucky is a waste of mental energy. There’s no value in it, so he doesn’t do it. If you knew him and played for years with him, you’d ask, ‘Have I ever seen him upset at the table?’ He just has a wonderful, rational understanding of what he does and he executes it with a devastating approach where he won’t let anything get in the way.”

Early Life

Dan Harrington was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 6th, 1945. As a child, he was particularly fond of chess and backgammon. He was also incredibly skilled at those games, winning the 1971 Massachusetts State Chess Championship. 

Harrington was even more fond of chess than poker but ultimately chose to play the latter. “To be profitable in chess though, you need to be top five or six players in the world and I wasn’t good enough. Then I went to backgammon and that was more for financial reasons than competitive ones, but there really wasn’t enough money there either, so I made it to poker, which I liked a lot and had a lot of money. I was happy to be part of that endeavor,” he explained in an interview with ESPN.

Harrington learned how to play poker while attending Suffolk University. He traveled to other universities to play poker, frequently visiting Harvard. There, he once played against Bill Gates, one of the co-founders of Microsoft. Harrington then took his game to the Mayfair Club, a prestigious New York City poker club that has hosted numerous pros over the years. The club’s regulars included Erik Seidel, Stu Ungar, Jay Heimowitz, and Steve Zolotow, among others. Harrington didn’t immediately turn to poker as a career, unlike most poker legends. He had a Juris Doctorate and spent ten years as a bankruptcy lawyer in Boston. After a while, he felt drained from all the paperwork, so he turned to poker because it was what he truly enjoyed.

Poker Career

Harrington’s career began at the 1986 Grand Prix of Poker, snagging 4th place despite being his first live tournament. That same year, he finished 24th at his WSOP debut. The following year, he finished sixth at the WSOP Main Event, battling seasoned players like Johnny Chan. From there, he honed his skills through constant tournaments and reaped the rewards in 1995. 

He won his first WSOP bracelet at the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em Event, along with $249,000. Four days later, he won the WSOP Main Event for a whopping $1,000,000. After the WSOP, Harrington’s winning streak continued, with two more wins at the London Festival of Poker and the Las Vegas Poker Classic for $321,250 in total.

Harrington took a few years off from playing professional poker for his business ventures. He returned dominantly with a third-place finish in the 2003 WSOP Main Event for $650,000. A year later, he finished fourth at the Main Event, claiming $1,500,000 thanks to a significant increase in the number of participants as a direct result of the ‘Moneymaker Effect’. Around this time, Harrington began playing in the World Poker Tour (WPT). 

In 2007, he took down the WPT in Los Angeles, earning $1,635,365 and becoming one of the few poker pros to hold both a WSOP bracelet and a WPT title. For all his achievements, he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame alongside Erik Seidel in 2010.

Life Outside Poker

Harrington co-founded the fix-and-flip lender company Anchor Loans with fellow poker players Jeff Lipton and Stephen Pollack. The three used their poker earnings to provide quick bridge funding to real estate rehabbers. 

Poker proved to be a good training ground for real estate investing because consistently winning at either required a strict reliance on numbers and a keen ability to analyze all available data. Serving as CEO and later on the Board of Directors, he used his profits to invest in the stock market and acquire real estate. 

Anchor Loans has been profitable every year since it began, funding over $5.3 billion in loans. While Harrington retired from the company in 2010, he remains a majority stakeholder.