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There's a Reason We Should Listen to Mike Sexton: He's Always Right
Mike Sexton has done a lot of talking on TV over the years.
As the voice of the World Poker Tour those words are designed, polished and chosen after 20 takes.
Those words are pretty useless to a poker aficionado or someone trying to learn the game.
In fact, I haven't even watched a whole WPT episode for that matter -- even though I have to admit I have a man crush on Mr. Sexton's drawling accent.
But when Mike Sexton speaks up outside the TV box, I always listen. So should you.
The Ambassador of Poker
There's a reason why the Hall of Famer (inducted in 2009) is called “The Ambassador of Poker."
So far, he has always been right. When he says that shot clocks will be a reality in the future, I believe him. It's inevitable I suppose.
Did you know that Mike was a poker pro? He has 21 final tables at the WSOP and 1 bracelet.
As you can imagine his style was “solid," which back then meant “tight and winning." He has over $1m in tournament winnings to his name.
When I started playing in the late 90s he was a well respected pro who already had stood the test of time.
He was not one of the stars, but nobody was happy to see him sit down at the table.
After the game was a different story. Everybody was happy when he sat his American behind down on a bar stool next to you.
Always in a good mood, always smiling, and always hauling up good stories from his deep well.
Mike had opinions about everything and everyone. Not that he was a gossiper; he just stood his ground when asked.
He's a bit more polished today but still the same guy.
Thought About the Game When No One Else Did
Most of all he was a visionary. He thought about the game and the industry when nobody else did.
He had this idea of a tournament for the best of the best. His vision became reality in 1999 when the Tournament of Champions was played.
It was a great success in every way, except economically.
Sexton moved on. He had a new vision of a massive tournament where people could qualify online and play against the best in the world.
Party Poker put up the guarantee of a prize pool of $1m. Party Poker had to add a lot of money the first year, but not the next year.
The tournament became a great party on the cruise ship where they played the Party Poker Million.
It was the beginning of a great success for both Party Poker and Sexton.
Those who think Chris Moneymaker was the key person to poker's explosion don't know the whole history. Mike Sexton is the man.
Ahead of His Time
The Tournament of Champions in 1999 was something different and new. I recall that it was played out with alternating rounds of Omaha 8/B, Stud and Holdem, all Limit. The final table was No-Limit Hold'em.
You had to have a tournament win under your belt to be able to play, but Mike Sexton was also a businessman so if you really wanted to play he would find a way to define you as a “champion."
David Chiu won after an amazing fold of Kings six-handed as the chipleader with 65 bb from the button versus a three-bet from the small blind of 30 bb.
It helped that the all-in came from Louis Asmo, one of the tightest players on the tour, who had indeed taken off with American Airlines. But it is still one of the greatest folds in poker history.
The French became the best nation after USA. The Irish, English and Swedes did not agree, but the French took it as absolute proof of the fact they already knew, that they were number two.
The tournament was held at the only place that could organize such a massive field – The Orleans in Vegas. It held two massive tournaments a day back then, and still do today.
Mike Sexton was ahead of his time and it never took off. But a lot of his ideas did.
Democracy in Poker
The Tournament of Champions had a stricter rule of conduct, corporate sponsorship (very modest, but still), and player voting.
Democracy in poker, that was really something new. And it would still be today.
The players voted on the prize structure and if the tables should be divided into smoking and non-smoking tables, like at the Aviation Club in Paris.
Special non-smoking tables were voted down.
One of the most inconsiderate smokers in the history of poker, chain smoker T.J. Cloutier, summed it up best:
“It would be too much smoke at the table if everybody smoked.”
About Ken Lennaárd:
Sweden's most controversial poker blogger Ken Lennaárd has been around the professional poker circuit for almost 20 years. Among his numerous accomplishments are Swedish Championships both live and online, three WSOP final tables and over $1.5m in live earnings. He's now bringing his singular poker voice to the English world via PokerListings.com. Look for new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Note: Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent the views of PokerListings.com.