Still, as the chips seesawed back and forth between Harrington and runner-up David Pham when play reached heads-up at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles tonight, at any given time either man seemed equally capable of taking the title.
Action Dan is, of course, the acclaimed poker author of the Harrington on Hold'em series, the 1995 World Series of Poker champion, an experienced WPT final tablist and the proud wearer of that Gumby-green Boston Red Sox hat.
David Pham, though perhaps not as recognizable, is just as feared on the felt after making the 2007 Legends event his fifth WPT final table. He also has two gold bracelets, four WSOP final tables, $5.4 million in tournament winnings and one of poker's most menacing nicknames.
The men were definitely in the same weight class, as evidenced by their mutual inability to maintain a chip lead throughout the nearly three-hour heads-up battle. Key hands ferried some huge stacks of the pair's chips back and forth across the felt but the majority of the one-on-one play saw plenty of checks and very few turn cards.
In the final hand of the day - after Pham lost all but $1 million of his chips to Harrington and then went on to double up through the champion twice - the Dragon called and Action Dan checked coming into the T♠ 5♠ 4♥ flop. Harrington bet $400,000 and landed a call from Pham to see an A♦ on the turn. Looking for the call, Harrington bet $1 million and Pham moved all-in, risking his significant stack on a pair of fives stemming from his 7♣ 5♥ hole cards.
But alas, the Dragon learned he was drawing dead when Harrington flipped up the T♥ 5♣ hole cards that ensured his victory.
The win was a $1.6 million payday for poker pro, who also works a day job as a mortgage broker. His plans for the cash? According to reports, the money is going in the bank. According to other reports, it's most definitely not going toward gratuities for casino valets, one of whom asked PokerListings.com to guess how much the new WPT champion had tipped him after the tournament and then flashed two George Washingtons.
Pham wasn't hurting for cash either following the tournament, as he took home more than $800,000 for five days' work. Third-place finisher Thu Nguyen - a crowd favorite at the final table because of his local-player status - picked up $388,660.
After hardly tangling in any substantial pots, Pham knocked the hometown hero out of the tournament after Nguyen got all-in pre-flop with A♥ 5♥. Pham called with A♦ Q♠ to see the board run J♣ 7♦ 3♠ 7♦ K♦ and his A-Q hold up.
Not long before Nguyen's ousting, Pham gave Tom Schneider the boot from the tournament after the WSOP Player of the Year went all-in with A♦ 9♥ against the Dragon's pocket kings. The board rolled out J♣ T♦ 9♣ T♦ 6♦ and the Donkey Bomber - who was chip leader coming into Day 5 but couldn't seem to get comfortable at the final table - went to the rail.
He joined fifth-place finisher Mike McClain who was bumped from the tournament after calling Nguyen's all-in move with A♣ Q♣. Nguyen, as it turned out, had pocket jacks and when the turn delivered a set and the river a full house, McClain was on his way home.
But the day's first casualty was Shi jia Liu, who met with the tournament's champion early in the day and didn't live to tell about it. Liu held A♦ J♥ to Harrington's pocket ladies. The flop paired his jack, but it wouldn't be enough to catch Action Dan, eliminating the young player from the event.
Just like that, folks, the Legends of Poker champion has broken free from the original field of 485 and won his title - and as it happens, it's a designation that Dan Harrington has earned.