Poker’s history went through Mike Sexton
The poker community lost a dear friend on Sunday, as “The Ambassador of Poker,” Mike Sexton, passed away at the age of 72. Close friend and fellow Poker Hall of Famer Linda Johnson broke the news of his battle with prostate cancer last week and then of his death yesterday.
“He appreciated all the wonderful comments and farewells from poker players all over the world,” she said, referring to the outpouring of love from around the poker community last week as his condition became known.
arguably the most important person in poker history
Mike Sexton was arguably the most important person in poker history. He was at the epicenter of the poker boom in the early part of the century, seated at the juncture of televised poker and online poker, as well as serving as a link between the “old school” and “new school.” As the face and voice of the World Poker Tour – along with Vince Van Patten – from its first broadcast in 2002 until 2017, he welcomed many a newcomer to the game with his genuine excitement for poker.
Sexton was also on the ground floor with PartyPoker.com, helping grow the site into the behemoth it became during the poker boom (he also came up with the name). Mike O’Malley, who started PartyPoker.com with Sexton and a few others in 2001, told a story on Twitter about how Sexton convinced executives to forge ahead with another PartyPoker.com Million after the first lost the company $500,000. They reluctantly did, eventually partnering with the World Poker Tour, and the site took off.
“Mike Sexton is likely, in my opinion, most responsible for the poker boom, and the success of PartyPoker.com,” O’Malley concluded.
As was the case last week, the poker community has flooded the internet with love for Sexton and sorrow for poker’s loss.
Famed tournament director Matt Savage, who worked with Sexton for years, said: “I haven’t dealt with the illness and passing of Mike Sexton as well as I should have. There comes a time in everyone’s life when more people we love pass away but this one really hurts. I loved him like a brother. #ThankYouMike.”
Poker pro David Williams reflected: “You changed my life and I’m sure most poker players would say the same.”
may all of your cards be live and your pots be monsters.”
He concluded with a tribute to Sexton’s traditional WPT broadcast signoff: “Hopefully you find a good game whenever you are now and may all of your cards be live and your pots be monsters.”
“He has always found a way to bring our community together and make us stronger,” tweeted Maria Ho. “When I think about what it means to be a great representative for the game we love, nobody personifies it more.”
Champion on the felt
You may notice that Mike Sexton’s prowess at the poker tables has yet to be mentioned. That is not because he was a weak player; just the opposite – he was one of the best around. But his importance to poker was in what he was as a person. There is a reason he was called “The Ambassador of Poker.”
As Jeff Platt said: “His accomplishments in the poker world are only surpassed by his kindness.”
But Sexton certainly had accomplishments at the table. He had over $6.7m in live tournament earnings in his career. He won one World Series of Poker bracelet in 1989 in the $1,500 Limit Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event and had 18 other final table appearances, including a ninth place finish in the first Big One for One Drop.
Sexton famously won the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions after a 12-hour heads-up battle with Daniel Negreanu. His victory might be remembered best for two other things, though: a) Sexton donated half of his $1m prize to charity, and b) his pickoff of Mike Matusow’s bluff with just bottom pair.
The highlight of Mike Sexton’s poker playing career, though, was when he finally won a World Poker Title, taking down the WPT Montreal Main Event in 2016, after nearly a decade and a half as a WPT announcer.
In July, the WPT renamed its championship trophy after Sexton, calling it the “Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.”