Harrington, who is 59, is best known for the success his unassuming, conservative play has brought him, as well as making him a favorite among those who appreciate strategy in poker.
His mind constantly working, the Boston native was playing poker long before its current wave of popularity. A chess champion growing up, he also excelled at backgammon and won state championships in both.
He parlayed his skill at numbers and strategy into winning the World Series of Poker in 1995, and ended up in third and fourth place in 2003 and 2004, respectively. He is currently ranked the 14th player in the world and has won over $3.5 million in poker alone.
Not bad for a guy who estimates he spends only about a third of his time playing, as he also founded Anchor Loans, a Santa Monica-based mortgage company.
“I’m not on the circuit as much as the other players are,” he said.
No longer the sole domain of cigar-toting men with a gambling habit to support, today’s poker players are increasingly becoming superstars in their own right. They have agents, entourages and make paid appearances.
Dan Harrington is not immune to the attention, but has taken it in stride.
“I liked it at first,” he said, “but now it’s hard, when you see people who know you and you don’t know who they are.”
As a student at Boston’s Suffolk University, Harrington played poker with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, students from the Ivy League school the river over.
He is currently in the process of writing the next volumes of his book, “Harrington on Hold ‘Em: Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments.” It was written with the help of author and friend of over 40 years, Bill Robertie.
“He’s good at everything I’m not,” Harrington said, laughing. “He’s organized, and a good writer.”
The first volume is currently perched in the top 100 on Amazon.com’s sales rankings, and has been lauded as the “true” poker bible.
Harrington said Hold ‘Em is a game that one can always learn more about.
“Most people think its see and play,” he said. “But it’s a lot to do with the powers of observation, along with some grammar school math,” he said. “That’s all it is. It’s a skill-based game.”
Harrington is pleased by the surge in popularity Hold ’em has experienced, and credits it to a combination of the right things at the right time, such as televised tournaments that show what cards the players have.
“Television shares with the viewing audience what’s going on,” he said. “People can put themselves in the player’s shoes. If you watch golf, there is no way you know what Tiger Woods is thinking, and you can’t play along with him.”
Technology, in addition poker’s synergy with other popular mediums, “had a mushroom effect. Viewers can identify with the players.”
“People see the cards on television,” he continued. “They think, ‘Hey, I would have called there.'”
With origins in Ireland, the Harrington stock is clearly a successful one. Harrington’s cousins Joey and Padraig have made their mark on the sporting world. Joey Harrington is the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Detroit Lions, and Irish golfer Padraig Harrington is currently ranked eighth in the world.
Harrington has never spoken to either of them, but has heard from family that Padraig is the grandson of one of his father’s siblings. Padraig and Joey have met and confirmed their relation, so it seems that the three are indeed one big happy, if extended, family.
While he may have relatives lighting up the sports world, Harrington’s heart belongs to his home team, easily seen by the flat-brimmed green Red Sox cap that has become his trademark at the poker table.