Mike Sexton is, without question, one of poker's greatest-ever ambassadors and a big reason for its proliferation around the globe.
That's why he surprised many when he took aim at the WSOP and the November Nine in a recent blog post.
A long-time proponent of a shot clock in poker he also took a few shots at tanking and bullying in today's game.
So why did the world-renowned voice of the WPT decide to take issue with it now? And why, while we're asking questions, did he fly all the way over the pond for a single poker tournament?
Sexton: Nov. 9 Not Necessary
PokerListings caught up with Sexton at the Irish Poker Open last week to talk about clock wars, tanking and what would happen if Doyle Brunson made the November Nine but didn't make it to November.
Loves the craic.
Mike Sexton: I came to the Irish Open a couple of years ago for the first time, after Padraig Parkinson had invited me. After that, I just kept coming back.
Also I’m travelling for the World Poker Tour so much that I’m also going to Europe more and more.
I love the Irish Open because it’s so much more than a poker tournament.
It’s also a social event, people are chatting away at the bar, and I enjoy seeing old friends, the good-natured needling that is always going on.
PL: Does you being here also mean that we are looking at a WPT Dublin in the near future?
MS: Well, anything is possible. The World Poker Tour is continuing to expand and it’s now going everywhere. So, I wouldn’t rule it out.
PL: Everywhere is the right word for it. Last year, we went to the WPT Kazakhstan. It was the most amazing trip.
MS: Right. The last couple of years I’ve also been to South Africa, the Philippines and China – we’re going to Korea now, so there’s just more and more.
Of course I think it’s good that the World Poker Tour will keep on expanding because poker has become so much of a global phenomenon now.
PL: Following-up on your blog entry about the November Nine and Ty Stewart’s reply, it didn’t look like you changed your mind at that panel discussion two days ago.
MS: I’m not against the World Series handing out bracelets in Europe or Australia. I’m unbiased there. I just think about the November Nine that the negatives outweigh the positives.
What if Doyle didn't make it?
The fact that the final table takes place four months after you get there, that people can train and become someone else before the final table starts, is just wrong in my mind.
And although they pay out the money for ninth place in July, it makes a big difference if you win three or five or eight million. Over the summer, the lives of these guys could change completely.
And then there’s the possibility that someone dies. Let’s say Doyle Brunson makes the final table and then dies before November, what happens then?
What kind of a tragic, morbid event that would be. And the winner would always be stained with that he wouldn’t have won it had that other guy been there.
Also, if a guy from Finland or South Africa or Australia makes the final table with two or three big blinds left. He has to fly halfway around the world and might be out in the first couple of hands without getting any more money.
I’m just saying that all these negatives outweigh the positives, and I’m a pretty positive guy when it comes to trying out new things in poker.
The WSOP tried this out, and that’s fine, but I’ve come to think that it’s simply not necessary. It would be enough to give the finalists two days to fly over their families and get the room jam-packed.
I understand the TV aspect and how they want to show the whole tournament down to the end, but I don’t think that’s worth the counterarguments.
TV's a big deal, but poker is bigger.
PL: Who do you think is really in charge about this – the WSOP or ESPN?
MS: Good question. I guess in general TV rules, but I would think that here poker is in charge.
But again, it’s a tricky one. I can’t really answer that. I’m a TV guy and I know that TV has a lot of power.
A lot of people think that it must be tough for me to make that call against TV but I’m just thinking about it as a poker player.
PL: Can you explain a term that you used during the panel discussion: clock wars?
MS: If you call the clock on a guy, he may be offended and in the next hand call the clock on you to get back at you.
So then they call the clock on each other all the time and get in a feud, and that’s a clock war.
Generally, you shouldn’t have to call the clock on anyone at any time. You shouldn’t be put in the position where you have to do that.
The shot clock is going to end all that, and I’m telling you it will come, no doubt about it.
And I promise you, once it’s there, people will say, man why didn’t we do that 10 years ago!
PL: But there are spots where you need more than 30 seconds for a decision.
MS: Let’s give them an extra button for an extra minute, or maybe two, so you can make a tough decision. That’s all the time you need.
Some things are non-negotiable.
PL: You think there's no decision that takes more than two-and-a-half minutes?
MS: That’s what I think, yes. I know some people will disagree with me, but nonetheless.
You know, nothing’s written in stone. We could say you get an extra minute if someone shoves in on you, or if your decision is about all your chips. All that’s negotiable.
But there are also things that are not negotiable. Look at Allen Kessler’s idea. He said that everybody who needs more than 30 seconds has to show if he folds, so everyone would see if he was bullshitting.
But he could always say ‘I was thinking about raising it. The other guy couldn’t call if I shoved.’ And that you could do with any two cards, so that’s what he was thinking about.
Kessler’s idea doesn’t hold up. One thing is certain: we need to stop the stalling and the bullying.