For people who grew up watching the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel, Mike Sexton is and always will be the “voice” of poker.
And rightly so. For the 15 years Sexton was the lead commentator for the WPT, Sexton’s joyful, thoughtful poker commentary and expressions (“May all your cards be live and all your pots be monsters!”) served as the soundtrack for players of all ages glued to final table after final table coverage.
It’s also no exaggeration to say that Mike Sexton is one of poker's finest ambassadors to the world. For years he envisioned corporate endorsements and sponsorships of poker tournaments could work as a means of introducing poker into the mainstream -- as a hobby to be enjoyed by everybody.
It worked. He discussed his ideas with anybody who would listen and the success of the World Poker Tour can largely be chalked up to his credit.
Mike is known as a hard-working ideas man with a passion for what he does. And in his role on the WPT that passion turned him into "the face of poker" to the greater public.
He seems to posses an ingrained talent for on-air commentary; with no prior broadcasting experience he distinguished himself by being able to discuss and explain poker in a manner that non-players understand and that pros can appreciate and learn from.
He is also famous for having coined an oft-repeated phrase regarding No-Limit Hold'em:
"It takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master."
Mike Sexton: Early Years in Poker
Mike learned poker in the school of hard knocks. As a 12-year-old newspaper delivery boy in his native Dayton, Ohio, he would regularly lose his week's pay to no less a figure than Danny Robison.
In the late 1980's he got serious about tournament play; witness his gold bracelet from the 1989 World Series of Poker. As he says:
"It was Eight-or-Better Stud, which was the game I was playing everyday for a living at the time. I sincerely felt I played perfect poker that day, which made my victory that much more satisfying. To this day, it was the best tournament I have ever played."
After that victory Mike went on cash dozens of times at the WSOP including a career-best 12th in the 200 WSOP Main Event won by Chris “Jesus” Ferguson.
If you see or hear Mike claim that he is solely involved in the promotional and broadcasting sides of poker these days, take those claims with a grain of salt. His list of cashes over the years are quietly among the best in the game highlighted by his 9th-place finish in the first-ever $1m Big One for One Drop in 2014.
His $6.6m in career live tournament earnings came full circle in November of 2016 when he won his first-ever WPT title at the Playground Poker Club in Montreal – a place where he had final-tabled earlier in the same year.
Mike Sexton, Chairman of partypoker
On May 22, 2017, Sexton announced he had called his last tournament on the World Poker Tour. After 15 years Sexton was returning to his roots and was accepting a position as Chairman at partypoker.com – a poker site he helped to found in 2001.
Sexton announced the move on Twitter:
According to a press release Sexton’s mandate will go far beyond just continuing his role as poker’s most popular brand ambassador.
Among his new responsibilities will be investing in software development, improving customer service and loyalty programs, creating a friendly environment for amateur players and overseeing the growth of the partypoker Live tour (alongside founder of the European Poker Tour John Duthie).
The return to partypoker makes for an interesting twist to Sexton’s career as that was where he began his poker career. An early investor in PartyPoker.com, Sexton actually sold his shares in the company prior to its initial public offering.
As he recounted during a podcast in 2017, Sexton says he held out for $15 million over the $10 million PartyPoker originally offered. As it turns out, though, Sexton says those shares turned out to be worth closer to $500 million.
Sexton Wins First WPT Event
After 15 years as the voice of the WPT Sexton had still managed to accumulate 14 career cashes in WPT tournaments and 3 final tables over the years.
He added one more of each and crossed a significant milestone off his bucket list when he finally won his first WPT event at the Partypoker.net sponsored WPT Montreal in November 2016.
Sexton bested a field of 648 entries to win a $317,896 USD first prize. Sexton defeated Canadian Benny Chen - winner of the first-ever WSOP Millionaire Maker event heads-up. The WPT's first-ever open-field female champion, Ema Zajmovic, was also at the final table.
Mike Sexton, Poker Hall of Famer
In 2009 Sexton became the only player elected to that year’s Poker Hall of Fame class. He was the only nominee who collected the 75% of the votes needed for induction and so entered the Hall alone.
While his tournament record of course contributed to his selection it was Sexton’s off-the-felt contributions that clearly pushed him overt he edge. Besides being one of the most vocal proponents of poker as a game of skill and a hobby to be shared by all, Sexton has also been very generous when it comes to charities.
Not only did he donate half of his $1 million payday in the 2006 Tournament of Champions, Sexton also co-founded pokergives.org, an organization that helps poker players give to worthy charities.
In 2017 Sexton released his autobiography, Life's a Gamble, to high praise both within and outside of the poker world.