December 29, 2005
Last year, NBC made major waves with its broadcast of "The National Heads-Up PartyPoker Championship." The one-on-one tournament featured a college basketball-like, single elimination format and was held at the famous Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.
Ratings were solid for the inaugural partypoker tournament and sponsors were pleased with the hotly contested action on the felt. Although the six episodes were broadcast over the course of six weeks, there was no shortage of viewers as the grueling elimination matches reached on average, over four million viewers per broadcast.
No longer the sole domain of cigar-toting men with a gambling habit to support, today's partypoker 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 partypoker student at Boston's Suffolk University, Harrington played partypoker 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.
But things have changed for the now annual event, as it moves location and sets up shop in Caesar's Palace's new partypoker room. This year's event features a total prize 100% up to $500 bonus and $100 Million freeroll! pool of $1.5 million, paying out $500,000 to the first place winner.
According to Harrah's Entertainment vice president of sports and entertainment marketing, Jeffery Pollack, the move made sense for the recently added venue. "This is a terrific addition to our portfolio of sports ventures. We're thrilled Caesar's Palace has joined with NBC Sports to showcase this increasingly popular event in Caesar's new partypoker room."
This year's coverage will expand to 10 hours, broadcast in six shows which will be telecasted on Sundays in April and May. Things are sure to be hotter this time around when "The Brat," Phil Hellmuth looks to repeat his first-place finish of a year ago. Hellmuth will have his work cut out for him as he takes on a field of 63 other top flight competitors like the legendary Doyle Brunson, the ever-intriguing Gus Hansen, and the man Hellmuth bested last year for the big cash, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.
When he's playing, "Action" Dan Harrington can be found, his signature composed style intact, at the final table of a Texas Hold 'Em tournament. "Action Dan" being his ironic nickname, of course.
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 partypoker.
His mind constantly working, the Boston native was playing partypoker 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 PartyPoker 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 partypoker 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.