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'Action' Dan Harrington Stakes His Claim as a Legend

Harrington Defeats David 'The Dragon' Pham in an Exciting Heads-Up Battle at the Legends of Poker Championship

by Ryan Lucchesi |  Published: Oct 02, 2007

Great heads-up matches aren't scheduled on the tournament circuit; the perfect storm has to develop for them to happen. That is exactly what happened during the 2007 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker championship. It was an event that featured some heart-crushing defeats, a confirmation of greatness, and some lasting effects on the race for Card Player 2007 player of the year.

Days One (A and B) - Many Happy Returns and Many Quick Exits
The ballroom at The Bicycle Casino was secluded from railbirds, and that created an intimate atmosphere for the event that drew 485 players and created a first-place prize of $1,634,865. Joe Pelton, the 2006 Legends champion, failed in his quest to defend his title when he fell late on day one (A). Poker legend Phil Hellmuth busted out of the tournament in his day-one flight in the first hour, and day one was equally as unkind to newly minted World Series of Poker Champion Jerry Yang, who busted out early in his day-one flight, as well. Undisputed poker legend Doyle Brunson, who won the 2004 Legends of Poker championship, did advance to day two, as did 190 other players. Francois Safieddine held the chip lead with $165,400.

Days Two-Four - The Taming of the Field Ends With a Tough Elimination
The second day of play was marked by the departure of many top names, including Men "The Master" Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, Mike Matusow, Gavin Smith, and Doyle Brunson. It also was marked by the abrupt end to an unstoppable run that Tuan Le went on during the day with his hyperaggressive style of play. He got his money in the middle with pocket queens late in the day with the Q 10 7 6 on the board, but Adam Geyer called with the A K, and the 3 hit on the river with a thud. Geyer was catapulted to more than $400,000, and he parlayed this into $505,000 and the chip lead by the end of the day.

Fifty-three players made it to day three, but only 45 would get paid.

Joe Sebok grew his chip stack to $1.057 million and took the day's chip lead. He had come close to making a WPT final table before (he bubbled the final table of the 2006 Bay 101 Shooting Star), and it looked like he would make his first one here.

Two tables remained at the start of day four, and all eyes were on Sebok's chip stack, which was cut in half on the way to a final ninehanded table. This final lineup consisted of a sleeping dragon in David Pham, one of the hottest players in the game in Tom Schneider, 1995 World Champion Dan Harrington, and five other resilient and battled-tested players.

Lee Markholt was the first of the final nine to hit the rail, and he was followed by William Pilossoph. On the hand that determined the TV final table, Sebok raised $120,000 from middle position and was reraised by Schneider. Sebok then reraised all in and Schneider called. Sebok flipped up pocket queens and Schneider showed the A J. The board rolled out 6 5 2 A 10, and Sebok was sent home. After the hand, Schneider was in the chip lead with $3,495,000.

Final Table
Here were the chip counts going into the final table:

No. 1 - Shi Jia Liu - $1,305,000
No. 2 - Dan Harrington - $2,230,000
No. 3 - Tom Schneider - $3,495,000
No. 4 - Thu Nguyen - $1,475,000
No. 5 - David "The Dragon" Pham - $470,000
No. 6 - Mike McClain - $725,000

The early going was very unkind to Shi Jia Liu, who lost $1 million over the course of the first four hands, during which both Mike McClain and Pham doubled up through the young player. The 11th hour came for Liu on the 11th hand. He was sent to the rail by the pocket queens of Harrington and took home $137,175. McClain was the next to fall on hand No. 20 when he ran into a set of jacks that were held by Thu Nguyen. McClain took home $182,900 for his efforts. Sixty hands transpired before the next elimination took place, but there was no shortage of action during this stretch.

This was the point of the tournament when the two players vying for the Card Player 2007 Player of the Year (POY) award tangled early and often. Either one could take the lead from J.C. Tran with a win, and both seemed determined to go through each other to accomplish that feat. Pham won a huge pot off Schneider in their first skirmish and followed that up by making the call of the tournament. Both players checked a flop of 6 4 3 and the turn card paired the board with the 3. Both players checked again and the river card was the A. Schneider checked, Pham bet $200,000, and Schneider raised to $500,000. Pham went into the tank for about two minutes, but eventually made the call. Schneider showed down the 10 9 for 10 high, and Pham showed down the A 10 for a pair of aces. While Schneider was able to double up through Harrington after "The Dragon" picked off his bluff, he never fully recovered and was sent to the rail in fourth place by none other than Pham. Schneider took home $228,625 and added yet another impressive finish to his 2007 resume. This final-table appearance came on the heels of two bracelets and a fourth-place finish at the WSOP for Schneider. (Note: For a full breakdown of the POY implications from this final table, refer to the POY standings in the Inside Straight section of this issue.)

Nguyen followed Schneider to the rail a few hands later in third place; he took home $388,660 after his A-5 was bested by the A-Q of Pham. The heads-up battle was set, and it was the one everyone had come to watch: the hyperaggressive Pham against the solid, calculating game of Harrington.

Legendary Heads-Up Match
Here is how the chip stacks looked at the start:

Dan Harrington - $5,805,000
David "The Dragon" Pham - $3,895,000

The two players left had tremendous respect for one another, and Harrington's worst fears had come true at the final table.

"I told some friends that I hoped he didn't double up, because he was going to be a thorn in my side for the rest of the tournament. Sure enough, that's exactly what he did, and he just kept coming on like a runaway locomotive," said Harrington.

But the renowned player and author hung tight in his trademark green Boston Red Sox cap, and chose his spots wisely. He won a $5.5 million pot in the early going. Pham limped in from the button for $120,000, Harrington raised to $420,000, and Pham called. The flop came Q 7 3 and Harrington fired out $350,000. Pham again made the call, and the turn card was the 7. Harrington checked, Pham bet $450,000, and Harrington hesitated for a moment before calling. The river delivered the 4 and Harrington checked. Pham fired out $1.5 million and Harrington quickly called. Harrington showed down Q-10 and Pham mucked his hand. Pham quickly evened things back up, and even took the chip lead back with his constant aggression that chipped away at Harrington.

"He was pushing me around pretty good, but I felt toughness. I was just waiting for the blinds to get a little bit higher to make certain stands, and fortunately they worked out," said Harrington.

Harrington bided his time, and then scored another large pot off Pham, who held a $1 million lead at the time. Harrington limped in for $200,000 and Pham raised to $700,000. Harrington made the call, and a flop of J 9 3 hit the board. Pham checked, Harrington moved $700,000 into the middle of the table, and Pham raised all in. Harrington called, and Pham showed down the K Q. Harrington flipped up the 10 9. The turn and river cards were the A and 8, respectively, and Harrington took an 8-to-1 chip lead. Pham proved to be resilient once again, though, and after a few hands he had doubled up twice to bring things almost back to even. That was when the two got their money in the middle with comparable chip stacks once again, and this time Harrington had Pham covered, just barely. The two began to build the final pot when Pham limped in for $300,000 and Harrington checked. The flop brought the 10 5 4, and Harrington bet $400,000. Pham called, and the turn card was the A. Harrington bet $1 million and Pham pushed all in. Harrington had him covered, made the call, and eagerly turned up the 10 5. Pham showed down the 7 5, and the inconsequential river card was the 3. With that card, Harrington was the 2007 Legends of Poker champion.

For his win, Harrington took home $1,599,865 in first-place prize money, plus a $25,000 WPT Championship seat and a $10,000 seat in the 2008 Legends of Poker championship. He also joined a fraternity of legends who have won both the WSOP main event and a WPT title. The others in this revered club are Doyle Brunson, Scotty Nguyen, Carlos Mortensen, and Joseph Hachem. Pham won $800,185 for his second-place finish, and jumped into the lead in the Card Player 2007 Player of the Year race.

Harrington was happy but exhausted when things finally ended, stating, "Right now I'm actually pretty drained; it was a very tough match. I was playing against a very tough player, a world-class player - and he just pushed me around, and pushed me around, and pushed me around. Finally, I was able to survive long enough to get some hands and make a stand against him and get lucky in the draws, and was able to pull it out."