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Most people agreed that Dan Harrington was a worthy winner of the no-limit Hold 'em European championship, staged at the Victoria casino in Edgware Road, London, last weekend. Harrington, from Downey, California, showed himself a master of the game in all departments. He came to town after lifting the world championship in Las Vegas, worth $1,000,000. Naturally, everyone wanted to take him on. His reward in London was a more modest pounds 68,500.

"I feel that winning these two tournaments back-to-back, was something like Bobby Fischer wiping out his opponents in the candidates matches," a weary but elated Harrington confided. "It was my experience as a chess player which gave me the concentration to play through these events. The strain is intensely physical, more than anything else." At the age of 49, Harrington is the oldest man to win the Las Vegas world championship since the far-off days of Johnny Moss, who only had a couple of tables to contend with.

Harrington's quality in London was shown by his never being ruffled, his continual "moves" in the game, to take the initiative away from his opponents, by his outplaying everyone at the final table, and giving his opponents the mistaken impression that he was a rock-solid player who always had aces or kings in the hole. "Nothing is more important than to know your opponent's opinion of the way you play," he said.

Harrington does not believe in brilliance at poker. "Everyone knows the percentages and correct plays. What marks out the top players is how they handle themselves when they are losing. I do not think any of the European players I have seen are world- class," he says, adding the quick rider, "yet". There are nuances in the game, which the American pros know, he feels, that are still undeveloped here. It's hard to pin him down on this, but it is partly an ability to handle very high stakes.

The runner-up in the European championship was Mickey Finn, an Irish- American resident in Frankfurt. He made one of the greatest comebacks playing head-to-head against Harrington. With only a few thousand chips left he went all-in with 10-2 against Harrington's 10-6 and the flop came 6-7-10. It looked all over for Finn, but the next card dealt was a 2, followed by another 2 on the river! Hold 'em is a game of surprises but this was something else. As the impassive Finn re-built his stack, Harrington had to buckle down and win it all over again. When Finn went all in on 4K-7, he finally caught him with A-K. A great finale.

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