Poker Legend Dan Harrington Back In Action at the 2024 WSOP

The first days of the 2024 World Series of Poker featured a surprise appearance by poker legend Dan Harrington.

Jeff Walsh
May 29, 2024
1995 WSOP Main Event champion Dan Harrington showed up at for the first event of the 2024 WSOP.

It’s day 2 of the 2024 World Series of Poker and some of the biggest names in the game of poker are already on the grind. This year’s official opening event, the $5,000 Champions Reunion, is speeding to the money, and in a section of the room full of current and future legends, perhaps table 572 was the toughest.

Up-and-comer Jeremy Becker, online and live beast Chris ‘Big Huni’ Hunichen, the always-animated Ren Lin, and last year’s entry into the Poker Hall of Fame Brian Rast are all battling for a piece of the more than $2 million prize pool. But even with all that star power at the table, one man sits, unassuming, arguably the biggest name of them all, a bonafide legend in the game – Dan Harrington is back in action at the WSOP.

Harrington, the 1995 WSOP Main Event Champion, two-time WSOP bracelet winner, World Poker Tour Champions Club member, and renowned original author of one of the first advanced tournament strategy books with his famous Harrington on Hold’em series has emerged from his comfortable Southern California confines to play for what would be his first WSOP cash in 10 years. With Harrington making public poker appearances less and less over the past decade, you’d be in the right to be surprised to see him here. You’re not the only one.

“I just happened to be across the street and checking into the Bellagio – here for the jewelry show,” Harrington said. “Someone said to me ‘Oh, you’re here for the No Limit freeroll?’ I said ‘What No Limit freeroll?’ It was across the street, $5,000 for past [WSOP] Champions and so I said ‘Well, I guess I’m here for that now.’ And that’s the reason I’m in this tournament.”

In a tournament designed to showcase past Main Event champions, Harrington says, essentially, he stumbled into it. Typically, he says he “basically does nothing” outside of looking at, buying and selling stocks. When he’s not at home, he’s on the high seas – spending his time on cruises for up to 100 days a year.

But today, he’s battling against some of the best. Becker, the emerging star sitting to Harrington’s direct right and Hunichen making it tough on him to his left. Right across from Harrington in Seat 1 is Rast, a fellow Hall of Famer, who took a second to talk about playing with the guy who’s strategy books he used to read.

“I never played a lot with Dan in my years playing poker, but his books on tournament poker were seminal back in the day,” Rast said. “Friendly at the table and in terms of actually playing, I mean, he won a lot of pots with no showdown at the table. I’m pretty shire I covered him initially and then an hour into the day, no one covered him at the table.

“I’m glad to see him back at the WSOP competing. It’s always good to see that.”

Inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2010, Harrington has more than $6.6 million in life tournament earnings including cashing in the WSOP Main Event six times, making the final table in that event four times including in back-to-back fashion in 2003 and 2004, at the start of the poker boom. That was 20 years ago though, but he says that while plenty has changed, some things in poker remain the same.

“I mean, it was that same as before,” he said. “The faces change and they employ new strategies.”

Today though, Harrington’s tried and true strategy is about to pay off. Just over an hour into the day, Harrington continued to chip up and sailed through the money bubble rather effortlessly. When, at his very table, Rast eliminated Ren Lin, making it official that “Action Dan” would end his decade-long drought of WSOP cashes, Harrington let out a laugh at the antics surrounding his table.

He was having fun at the poker table again, something he values both for himself and for those he plays with.

“Well, I want people at the game to at least enjoy themselves,” he said. “Quite frankly, only two or three percent of the people are going to make any serious money out of this and the rest are going to be contributing. Make it enjoyable for everyone because there’s a premium to enjoying this…to playing. And if you don’t let it be fun for the people contributing, well, what are you doing? I mean, it’s as simple as that.”

Later in the day, Harrington’s return run came to an end. He busted the Champions Reunion in 36th for just over $11,000, likely to head back to the Bellagio for the jewelry show and back into his life of happily doing nothing.