PartyPoker chairman and famous voice of poker dead at 72
The poker world is in mourning after one of its most popular players, Mike Sexton, lost his battle with cancer and passed away September 6 while surrounded by friends and family.
Aside from being a famed tournament player with over $6 million in live cashes, Sexton is probably known to most players as the voice of the WPT, and many other televised poker tournaments. His smooth voice, knowledgeable commentary and many famous catch phrases endeared him to poker players and fans of the game alike.
May all your cards be live and may all of your pots be monsters. – Mike Sexton
Sexton had been quietly battling Stage 4 prostate cancer for the past year before it was announced to the public in early September that cancer had spread to other parts of his body. Long time friend and fellow, poker commentator Linda Johnson shared the sad news on Twitter Sunday evening.
Mike Sexton passed away peacefully at home earlier today surrounded by family members. He appreciated all the wonderful comments and farewells from poker players all over the world. Service details are forthcoming. For now, please keep his family in your thoughts as they grieve.
— Linda Johnson (@FirstLadyPoker) September 7, 2020
A man of many talents beyond the felt
Poker wasn’t always in the cards for Sexton as he attended Ohio State University earning a degree in public recreation while competing as a gymnast – not the typical start for many poker players and perhaps foreshadowing how varied his career would be.
After college, Sexton enrolled in the US Army where he spent two years as a paratrooper, all while teaching ballroom dancing on the side. After a few years in sales, Sexton made the jump to full-time poker professional in 1977.
Sexton became friendly with many of the legends of the game around this time forming a close relationship with Stu Ungar, considered by many to be one of the games greatest, even serving as a pallbearer at his funeral. Ungar was known for his aggressive style, particularly in Seven Card Stud where he was a WSOP bracelet winner. Sexton may have picked up a few tips here as he earned his first and only WSOP bracelet in the $1500 Seven-Card Stud Split event in 1989.
Growing the game of poker world-wide
Not content with being just a poker player, Sexton worked tirelessly to help grow the game of poker – both online and in live events. While Chris Moneymaker and his WSOP Main Event victory in 2003 are often cited as the reason for online poker’s boom, Sexton played as significant a role as he transitioned to the commentator role in the early 2000s. With his co-host, Vince Van Patten, you could hardly turn on a televised poker match without seeing Vince and Mike share their fun commentary on both the cards, and often the stories beyond the cards. The World Poker Tour (WPT) owes much of its success at becoming a household name from the duo’s commentary.
Sexton was also a celebrated poker author with two books published that are must reads for players and fans of the game alike. Shuffle Up and Deal was the bridge for many poker players from watching the game on TV to actually becoming successful when sitting down themselves. Sexton followed that book up with Life’s a Gamble published in 2016. Covering his nearly 50 years in the poker industry, Life’s a Gamble takes readers into the inside world of poker with plenty of entertaining personal anecdotes along the way.
Poker Hall of Fame invitation and WPT Champion
Sexton finally got the call many poker players dream of when he was enrolled in the Poker Hall of Fame in 2008. This allowed him to be in the same ranks as many of his contemporary friends and playing partners, such as Ungar, Doyle Brunson and David “Devilfish” Ulliott. Sexton though is a special entry to the Hall of Fame, qualifying both as a player and a global ambassador for the game.
While Sexton was delighting many with his WPT banter, the one bucket list item always missing for him was a win in the series. After making a few final tables but never managing to clinch the title, Sexton finally shook the monkey off his back with a win at the 2016 WPT Montreal Main Event. With his old broadcast booth partner, Van Patten, beside newcomer Tony Dunst, the entire WPT crew seemed to be on his side sweating the last couple cards as can be seen in the video below.
From the broadcast booth to the boardroom
Having accomplished everything he set out to down on the tables, Sexton continued his role as the global ambassador of poker with a trip to the partypoker executive offices in 2017. As Chairman for partypoker, Sexton was influential in putting together a player’s council to get feedback from other professional poker players. This council has been a driving factor behind partypoker’s growth over the past few years.
WPT also recognized him earlier this summer for his 15 years of service in expanding the game of poker by renaming their signature piece of silverware listing the names of all previous WPT winners as the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup. Coming at a time he was bravely (and quietly) battling his cancer diagnosis, Sexton was his ever-pleasant self describing the renaming as, “the highest honor I could ever receive in poker. Thank You (to) WPT for this truly incredible recognition.”
Charity and giving back to others were a vital element of Sexton’s life. Starting with his WSOP Tournament of Champions victory in 2006, Sexton regularly donated 50 percent of his winnings to charitable causes. Along with a number of other poker celebrities, he started pokergives.org as an easy way for poker players to direct their charitable giving and help others in need.
Sexton is survived by his son, Ty, as well as, a number of his siblings. YourPokerDream.com extends our condolences to the family of Mike Sexton and wishes him well in the great poker game in the sky.