Iconic partypoker ambassador and 2016 WPT Montreal winner impresses in 90-minute audio interview with Joey Ingram.
On Tuesday November 22nd, longtime partypoker ambassador and World Poker Tour final table announcer Mike Sexton called in to the Poker Life Podcast for an audio Q&A session with Joey Ingram. Sexton, who played poker professionally from 1977 up until an impromptu meeting with PartyGaming founder Ruth Parasol some 23 years later, would go on to become one of the most recognizable faces in the game. His WPT final table commentary alongside Vince Van Patten has been a staple of the industry since debuting in 2002 on the North American-based Travel Channel.
Sexton, who will turn 70 next year, made headlines earlier this month upon winning the WPT Montreal Main Event for a USD equivalent of roughly $317,000. His career live poker tournament cashes total $6.2 million according to The Hendon Mob, with tracked tournament results dating all the way back to February 1981. Tuesday’s call-in with Joey Ingram contained a healthy dose of Mike’s experiences, all relayed personally by the master storyteller himself. Podcast viewers who would like to read/hear more from the Poker Hall of Fame inductee are encouraged to purchase Sexton’s new Life’s a Gamble hardcover and/or audiobook which is currently on sale at Amazon.
Following is a summarized TIMESTAMP review of this week’s Poker Life Podcast conversation between Joey and Mike, which includes direct quotes from the former protégé of legendary players Danny Robinson, Chip Reese and Stu Ungar.
Poker Life Podcast with Mike Sexton (TIMESTAMPS)
(1:30) Mike Sexton autobiography
MIKE SEXTON: My whole career has been poker. I started as a pro back in 1977. For probably 20-something years I lust literally played poker for a living. I never had a paycheck and then towards the end of the 90s… the late 90s I put on a big event called the Tournament of Champions of poker and sort of transitioned over to the business side of poker. Putting that event on led me to my job with PartyPoker and the World Poker Tour. Those two things actually changed the poker world forever honestly. Online poker got big and we know what the World Poker Tour has done in terms of global expansion of poker and changing the game as we know it. I mean before the World Poker Tour came around, you couldn’t find a No Limit Hold’em game in any casino in the world on a regular basis.
Then, because that was the event that was played on television, everybody started playing No Limit Hold’em and now that’s the primary game in every casino. So it’s a big difference in terms of what the World Poker Tour has done for poker and obviously it caused the poker explosion.
(2:43) Mike Sexton turned pro in 1977
MIKE SEXTON: In 1977 was when I quit my job. I had a sales job for about three and a half years, and I quit that job after I got divorced. I probably played too much poker, but… after I got divorced I was playing all these home games at night and making more money than I was making on my job. I loved playing, never got tired of playing. And I said, “You know, I’m single again. I’m just going to quit the job and just play poker, and if I get broke I’ll just go get another job.” So literally that’s what I did and I didn’t ever have another job or another paycheck for twenty-something years.
(3:47) I lived in North Carolina and just played in home games. I ran a game two days a week and went to games the other days of the week and traveled around North Carolina. I went up to Virginia Beach a little bit, and Roanoke Rapids and all throughout North Carolina and it was fantastic. I just loved those games. Then finally in 1984 I went out to the World Series for the first time, played three events (because the events were only once every other day back in those days — so in a week’s time you’d only end up playing three tournaments) and I made two final tables and I said, “You know, if I want to be a poker player, probably it’s time for me to move to Las Vegas.” So in January of ’85 I moved to Las Vegas and I’ve been there ever since.
(4:50) How do Mike find North Carolina home games in 1977?
(6:40) Why poker pros should learn various games
(8:20) 1970s poker training resources
(10:58) 2016 WPT Montreal Main Event victory
(13:38) Mike & Vince Van Patten playing in WPT events
(16:50) Mike explains the Tournament of Champions concept
MIKE SEXTON: The process for me was simple. Back in the day I always looked at golf, and the Tournament of Champions of golf… where you had to win a PGA Tour event to get into the ToC during that calendar year. So I wanted to put the same thing on for poker where you couldn’t just come up and buy-in like you do every other tournament in the poker world. You had to earn you way in. You had to qualify. And to do that, I set a pre-requisite that you had to win a $200 buy-in or higher at some point during the calendar year that had at least 40 players in it. So I put on this Tournament of Champions and I wanted it to be multiple games… not just a No Limit Hold’em tournament like every other event was.
So that’s what I did, and everybody said, “Oh, you’ll never get that on. People won’t play the multiple games.” But I knew in my heart that if they qualified for my ToC, they’d want to play in it (A), and (B) if they didn’t know how to play the other games they’d learn them before the Tournament of Champions took place and that was the case. I look back on it now and I think we had like 685 players the first year that I put it on; which might not seem like a big number in today’s terms but back then to give you an idea — two months earlier than my ToC the Main Event at the WSOP (in 1999) had 398 players in it. So I nearly doubled the size of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker with my ToC so I was always proud of that.
(20:30) When did Mike get into high stakes poker & gambling?
(21:45) Mike Sexton’s old-school networking skills
(23:20) The pitfalls of being staked (Joey’s insights)
(24:02) Mike Sexton’s battles with sports betting
(28:40) Mike’s history as a historic poker figure and personality
(31:44) The benefits of being staked
(33:30) Mike’s biggest degen story (making & spending millions from PartyPoker)
(35:49) How did Mike become involved in PartyPoker and meet Ruth Parasol?
(47:08) How did U.S. departure affect PartyPoker in 2006?
(48:38) Mike loves direction partypoker is currently taking — 20% growth in past year
(49:30) partypoker’s cross-promotion of live & online poker tournaments
(51:20) Mike’s loyalty to and responsibilities with partypoker
(52:38) Can any site threaten PokerStars’ market dominance?
(53:40) Mike’s thoughts on legalized onlien poker in the U.S.
(57:30) Gamblers must learn to take responsibility for their actions
(1:03:13) Should the community blame operators for maximizing profits?
(1:05:04) More on regulated online poker in the United States
(1:05:30) The damage Full Tilt Poker did to the online poker world
(1:09:05) Stu Ungar stories & Gin Rummy dominance
(1:11:30) What makes the Playground Poker Club (Canada) such a great poker room
(1:15:10) Confirmed — a hot dog is indeed a sandwich
(1:15:48) Mike’s extensive knowledge about the poker world
(1:17:05) Mike’s favorite WPT broadcast of all-time
(1:20:25) Mike and Vince’s unique WPT commentary is 100% unscripted
(1:21:20) WPT has been great for poker
(1:22:30) Mike Sexton’s parting thoughts
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David Huber (known as “dhubermex” online) has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade. He currently assists several poker and gaming entities as a researcher, writer, and consultant. Former Editor-in-Chief & Head Moderator of online tournament rankings site PocketFives (2006-2011).