It was nice to see the players who won on the WPT over the last six seasons receive such
deserved recognition. After all, the gauntlet they navigated to become a WPT champion is one of
poker's finest achievements. Yes, there are some very famous players who have won on the
WPT, such as Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty
Nguyen, Joe Hachem, Carlos Mortensen, Layne Flack, Gavin Smith, Erick Lindgren, Dan
Harrington, Phil Gordon, Erik Seidel, Howard Lederer and many others. What struck me was that
over half of the winners that were on stage might walk right by me down the hall, and I wouldn't
know that they had won a title on the popular TV show, the World Poker Tour. Having such a
first-class ceremony was not only a good tribute for the players, but also for a poker audience that
loves to see new stars shine!
|Sexton's Corner, Vol. 42:
The WPT Ceremony of Champions
Steve Lipscomb appropriately welcomed everyone, with a special thank-you to his staff and to the WPT participants these first six years. He gave a
special tribute to Lyle Berman, as the man who had the vision to financially make it possible to create the WPT, as well as thank him for being his
Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patton were at their best, hosting the gala event all night with their humor and personal chemistry in sync as usual. Each
group of WPT champions for the first six seasons were brought up on stage to receive their beautiful Tiffany WPT bracelets, with some inspirational
clips on the movie screen of many of the WPT's best moments, including hilarious outtakes by Mike, Vince, and the five female hosts of the show.
The most touching moment of the evening was when Doyle Brunson was asked to say a few words about his close friend Chip Reese on stage. I was
in the front row and could see Doyle was tearing up reflecting on what Chip had meant to him, as well as the poker world. Doyle revealed that each
member of Chip's family was given a cross necklace with some of Chip's ashes inside it, symbolic of his being close to them forever. Doyle told us the
family gave him one, too, and he wasn't able to wear it just yet, but will one day. I found myself tearing up at this point as well. It was a very special
moment that put life and poker into crystallized perspective!
The "Ceremony of Champions" the WPT put on was a grand slam for everyone who attended, and it set up two big events for later in the week: The
first Ladies WPT Championship ($1,500 buy-in) and the $25,000 buy-in WPT Championship event. These two televised events were held back to
back on Friday, April 25th and Saturday, April 26th. For the WPT staff, including Mike and Vince, to work and commentate almost 14 hours in
succession is no easy task!
The day after the first ladies event was held, I called Mike to get some inside tidbits about the winner. Mike said, "Her name is Nancy Todd Tyner,
and she is an amazing lady. She attended two WPT boot camps that I taught myself. I remember she asked a lot of questions about how one would
handle this situation or that one. She is good at everything she does in life, and approaches poker the same way. She wants to be the best. She has
been involved in 196 political campaigns in 42 states and six countries, and has won 98% of them!" I could tell Mike was very impressed by her
studious approach to the game. She also had on quite the collection of jewelry, which will make for great television. The ring on her hand was 33
carats; her 260-carat necklace rivaled the one in the movie, Titanic; and her matching ring of 165 carats must have blinded a few opponents
occasionally! From being a two-time student of the WPT Boot Camp to finding instant TV fame and winning the first WPT Ladies Championship is
simply one of the year's best poker stories.
here was quite a poker ceremony held at the Bellagio last Monday, April 21st, in the
Vegas showroom that hosts the "O" show six nights each week. The occasion was
special, as it honored all the World Poker Tour's individual champions from the first six
seasons. It was hosted by poker's funniest and most dynamic announcers,
Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten. Besides the individual champions from each season, being
brought onstage in groups to receive their beautiful Tiffany silver WPT bracelets, there were some
great moments shown on a huge screen that highlighted victories and special moments from season
I've always been proud of my brother for his dedication to the game of poker, and this event was no exception. His performance, as well as
Vince Van Patten's, was excellent, but Mike was playing in the Main Event himself, and had to leave his table not once, but twice, for the rehearsal at
the "O" Showroom. Mike is too modest to say so, but he lost about 25,000 in blinds and antes during this. I happened to go with him to rehearsal both
times behind the scenes, and first ran into Vince there. Vince asked me how things were going and I responded that Mike is over there talking to
Robin Moder about the rehearsal and how long it might take, as he is getting anted out in the tournament.
I happen to know Vince and Mike are very close friends and it has come across on the TV screen every week for six straight years. Vince is a poker
player himself, and offered to suggest that he and Mike walk down to the stage to go over their lines while there was a 20-minute break for the players
going on. When Mike saw how involved the production was, with page after page of lines he had to do with Vince and various positions on stage he
was expected to know with two speaking stands, he appreciated Robin's strong encouragement to be there for the rehearsal. Robin is the best, and is
Steve Lipscomb's right arm for all of the TV productions, having been there from the start.
I saw Robin take Mike to the side and explain just how needed and important the rehearsal time would be. She handled the situation like a true
professional, which is precisely why Steve has so much confidence in her abilities. To Mike's credit, he acted like a professional too, quietly accepting
his loss of about 25,000 in chips to do the right thing. Mike has always put the game ahead of himself, which is why he has been such an outstanding
ambassador. One can only guess how many of the players, in the biggest event of the year, would handle it the same way as Mike did. I might add that
Mike had a tough situation happen to him during the last hour of play, before he had to co-host the ceremony. He had pocket sixes and the flop was
8-6-3 rainbow. The turn was an eight, making Mike a full house. His opponent then went all in with pocket aces. They both turned their hands over
before the river, and his opponent caught an ace on the river for a two-outer in a 200,000 pot! Mike was still alive with about 135,000 left in chips,
but had to go host the show like a trooper, and that is exactly what he did.
From 8:30 PM to 10:30 PM the WPT had a first-class reception party for the players. With cocktails and hors d'oeuvres being served, there were
also some cast members of the "O" show in the mix. Affairs like this are wonderful for the players, to be able to socially meet and talk away from the
tables. On the left side of the room there were huge banners on the wall covering all six seasons and including pictures of every player who has won a
WPT event. It was fun to watch some of the players find their images and have pictures taken in front of the banners or conduct filmed interviews with
the press. By 10:30 PM, the cordial atmosphere for the players set the stage to start the show in the adjoining showroom.
|Karen and Mike Sexton at the WPT Ceremony
of Champions. The couple are expecting their
first child - a boy - later this year.
|(Left) Matt Savage, Dewey Tomko And Tom Sexton
|(Left) Scotty Nguyen & his Wife With Tom Sexton
As I talked to Mike the morning of the WPT Championship event, it was interesting to hear his view of the final. Mike said, "The bottom three players
in chips are good, but it will be a major upset if one of the three top chip leaders doesn't win tonight. The chip leader is Gus Hansen with about 8.5
million, and this could be his fourth WPT title, which will double anyone else. Corey Carroll, in second chip position with $6,670,000, is very
formidable and a very tough player. David Chiu, with $6,050,000 in third position, has won four WSOP bracelets, while his five opponents have
never won one! David became famous by winning the first 1999 'Tournament of Champions' as well, where his amazing reads on opponents were
illustrated when he laid down pocket kings pre-flop in one hand, and guessed right as his opponent did have pocket aces. A little later he called,
winning a big pot on the river, when he only had a K-high! The three top leaders are very experienced and used to the TV lights. It will definitely be a
major upset if one of the three leaders doesn't win tonight!"
Mike's prediction was right, as experience won out with David Chiu capturing the WPT Championship. I first sat down behind the John Roveto family
in the stands, who were the most vocal rooters in the house. He would come over to the rail to huddle with his fans and give his pregnant wife a kiss,
and ask, "How is the baby doing?" as he climbed from $263,815 (the expected sixth-place payout) to over $900,000 in prize money with three
players left, while Gus Hansen mowed down the others. John ended up in third place winning $923,355. He used to be the field goal kicker for the
Chicago Bears a few years back in the 80's.
The tournament started out like none other I've ever witnessed, as Gus Hansen knocked out the first four opponents in the first 22 hands! Wait till you
see this incredible feat on TV. Hansen knocked Jeff King out in sixth on hand #12 with versus when he spiked a ten on the river.
He then eliminated Tommy Le in 5th place on hand #15 with a set of tens over fives on the flop. Hansen then knocked out Cory Carroll on hand #16
with versus after a flop of , , turn and a river to catch a flush for a 15,000,000-chip pot.
Gus seemed to have that magical Midas touch, as he held versus John Roveto's pocket kings on hand #22. The flop was ,
with the turn the and the river the to fill the straight.
Four eliminated in the first 22 hands! This set a record that may never be broken in a major championship!
This led us into heads-up play between Hansen with 22,905,000 in chips and David Chiu with 4,360,000. Gus had a 5.25-to-1 chip lead, holding
84% of the chips on the table! It was like David verses Goliath! The very first hand heads-up Gus went all in. David thought about calling, but decided
to wait and be patient. David chose his spots to battle Gus until he had the chip lead, with surgeon-like precision. The last hand with a pot over
20,000,000 turned the tables on Gus. There is an old saying in poker: "Live by the river, die by the river."
The flop was . Gus finally flopped the best hand with his making two pair. David had the of spades, and had flopped a pair
of aces against Gus's two pair. The turn was the giving David a flush draw.
The audience was buzzing and on their feet when the river brought the ! David Chui did it! He hit a four outer on the river. He needed one of
two eights or two aces left in the deck. This final table was one wild ride on the river!
David Chiu jumped up out of his seat to celebrate with his catch on the river… trip aces! He quickly grabbed a huge Chinese flag to wrap himself up
in, as he had made one of the greatest comebacks in poker history against the ever-aggressive legend, Gus Hansen, to win the prestigious WPT
Championship. At the award ceremony, Gus found it hard to say anything, as he was still shell-shocked from coming in second.
|(Left) Cindy Violette With Tom Sexton
|Tom With Men "The Master" Nguyen & his wife Van.
When David Chiu pulled out the victory, I found myself going down memory lane
almost ten years ago, as Mike was in his tuxedo, handing Chiu the winner's
trophy, $214,543, and the keys to a new Lincoln Town Car in the 1999 TOC,
held at the Orleans in Las Vegas. My, how tournament poker has grown, as first
place here was $3,389,140! With six bracelets now in major tournaments -- four
WSOP bracelets, the 1999 Tournament of Champions, and now the 2008 WPT
Championship -- David Chiu deserves to be recognized as one of poker's
genuine superstars. I might add that David has been super successful in high-
stakes cash games for over 20 years as well, which only adds to his legend in the
poker world. His modesty and congenial personality gives him the whole package
of what a great champion should truly be like. Congratulations, David Chiu… you
are a champion of champions!
The Cab is Parked,
|(Left) Dan Harrington, Tom & Phil Gordon
Note From Author:
Congratulations to my brother Mike and his lovely wife Karen, expecting their first child later this year. I couldn't be
more happy for you both! With all my love, Tom.
|The party held at the Bellagio for the WPT Ceremony of Champions, was a lot of fun!
Tom Sexton is the featured columnist on www.SextonsCorner.com, which has become one of poker's most popular and unique online web sites
around. It offers poker's most colorful stories with amazing photos and film clips to enjoy, with easy navigational capabilities. A new story appears
every Monday for the readers to look forward to. Check out the multiple home pages, the Archives, the Las Vegas Poker Rooms,
Poker's Trivia pages, and the Poker Store, where unique poker products are available for purchase. Tom was the official WSOP photographer for
Binion's Horseshoe from 1999 thru 2002, and is well known in the poker world for his world class artistic collages of poker's biggest stars with Poker
Masterpieces! Tom was an Ohio High School State All-Around gymnastic's champion as well as the 1st NCAA All-American and Big Eight
gymnastic's champion in history at the University of Oklahoma. He went on to teach High School and coached the gymnastic's team to several State
Championships. His brother, Mike Sexton, found TV fame as host for the World Poker Tour, now entering it's seventh remarkable season, and was
voted by his peers as Poker's Ambassador for his contributions to the industry. Tom welcomes your thoughts and comments about any of his articles.
His email is: Tom@SextonsCorner.com