|Sexton's Corner, Vol.43:
Mike Sexton: Poker Visionary, Part 1
"1st Poker Ambassador"
ike Sexton has been a poker visionary and pioneer for many years. Just look where poker was in the
past and where it has come to today. Who would have ever dreamed such a big leap was going to
happen for all of us, who love to play poker?
The answer is very simple: My brother, Mike Sexton. Of course I'm very proud of him, for all he has done for the
poker world… what brother wouldn't be? When I play poker anywhere in the United States, and Mike's name is
mentioned, I'm proud for his fame and recognition. The respect he has earned as the "Poker Ambassador" is in my
opinion well deserved, and in these next two articles, you'll get some inside information and various tidbits about
Mike and why he is considered by many as a point guard or quarterback for the poker industry today.
This past week I dropped Mike off at the Las Vegas airport, as he was flying over to London, England to host the
sixth annual PartyPoker Million cruise-ship excursion. As I left the airport, I flashed back to the days I drove a cab,
and reflected just how much has happened to both of us these past ten years. Back in my very first column I related
where Mike phoned me and said to park the cab!
There are many components that have contributed to poker's boom, and the two biggest are TV coverage and online poker. Mike's role in these two
arenas is absolutely staggering. He was the right person in the right place. There is nobody who knows Mike better than me, and in spite of his
enormous success, he is very modest and down to earth with everyone, whether a beginning low-limit player or a major Hollywood star.
The night in 2005 that the poker world assembled for the Card Player Awards Gala, that some call poker's Oscars, Mike received the Poker
Ambassador Award. It was held at the Kodak theatre in Hollywood, and it truly was a night of Who's Who in the poker world. Mike's competition
that night was pretty tough: Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu. It was the poker players, Mike's colleagues, who voted for him, which made this
prestigious award extra special to him. They were the ones who recognized and appreciated what Mike has done for them over time, with his vision of
not only where the poker world could go in the future, but in how he could help that process.
On Steve Wynn's desk for many years has been a framed quotation by Jonathon Swift: "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible." What an
inspirational credo for Steve to follow throughout his life, as he has been afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa, causing him to lose most of his eyesight. Yet,
in spite of this, Steve has had the vision to change Las Vegas forever, building such innovative and creative hotel/casinos as the Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn
and Encore Casino. Let's not forget the Golden Nugget's renovation, Treasure Island, and the Monte Carlo.
In Mike's case, if you were to go back almost 20 years and read Card Player Magazine, you would discover Mike was the first poker player to get
sponsored by LaMode, a clothing line. You would read Mike's predictions about corporate sponsorship and TV coverage, including how that
coverage will take poker to new, then-unimaginable heights. He had a pioneering vision and was once quoted, "You can mark this down: TV is coming
in a big way." Most people thought he was crazy back then, this dreamer with tinted glasses and grandiose ideas! His predictions not only came true,
but it is worth repeating, he helped lead all of us into poker's new age, becoming the World Poker Tour's voice of poker as the commentator with his
partner, Vince Van Patten, from the very beginning of the TV revolution. Although there have been many competitors, the WPT remains in my opinion
the pro's choice to follow, with every opportunity for any amateur to pony up his $10,000 entry fee. Just recently Mike and Vince were Masters of
Ceremony in the "O" show theatre at the Bellagio to celebrate the first six seasons of all previous WPT champions. Seeing the 86 millionaires that the
WPT has created so far was impressive.
The announcement May 1, 2008 by Harrah's and
WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack to shift the
final table of the World Series of Poker to
November to accommodate television was a
blockbuster. In a move scripted for TV, WSOP
officials announced once the nine players are
determined on July 14, play will stop for 117 days
or almost four months. Jeffrey Pollack likened the
change to television coverage of the Olympic
Games, which is often shown on same-day
coverage because of time zone differences. The
final nine players will resume play on Nov 9th, with
ESPN showcasing the nine finalists on a prime-time
show Nov. 4th. Once two players are down to
heads-up action, play will stop and be shown to the
world the next day on Nov. 10th, with same-day
coverage. The press coverage and buildup will
create nine potential superstars instead of just one.
Pollack said the players will have a chance to
increase their promotional opportunities and
exposure. By the way, all players who make the
final nine on July 14 will receive ninth-place money
immediately, which could be over $1,000,000 each
with a chance to win millions more in the TV finals.
|From the opening night of WPT Season 1. L-R: Mike Sexton, Chip Reese, Lyle Berman, Doyle
Brunson, and Bobby Baldwin
Last year's main event had 6,358 entries competing for a prize pool of $59.8 million. Poker players can now dream about making the "final nine"
lineup. I feel sorry for that one soul out there who ends up on the bubble in tenth place. It looks to be the saddest bubble in poker history! As much
credit as my brother deserves for being a visionary and TV pioneer, I will have to admit, he didn't see this one in his crystal ball…. Who could have
foreseen poker and television would end up being showcased like the Super Bowl? Stay tuned for Part 2, as you'll get an inside look at Mike's world
-- how he ended up as the WPT commentator, and how he helped the four owners of PartyPoker cash out on the London Stock exchange for eight
billion dollars! Mike is seen every week on TV in over 100 countries on the WPT, in many languages. What many of his fans may not know is that his
major contribution to the growth of online poker, at the same time, is one of poker's greatest and most inspirational stories.
The Cab is Parked,
Authors Note: Bobby Baldwin and the Bellagio threw a great party with several plasma TV screens for the WPT, Travel Channel
executives, and players, to celebrate the very first broadcast of the WPT premiere episode. There was an electric atmosphere we all felt
that the World Poker Tour was going to launch a poker boom and elevate poker to new heights. My brother Mike has always said, "All
of us in the poker world should not only say thanks to Lyle Berman and Steve Lipscomb for their combined vision in creating the WPT,
but a special thanks to Bobby Baldwin for his incredible support of the WPT from the very beginning, right up to today! The Bellagio
took the lead among the 12 charter members by hosting the Main Event finals every year with multiple WPT events held as well. The
Bellagio getting behind the WPT 100% in the first year sealed the deal, as everyone wanted on the bandwagon then. The success of the
WPT definitely woke up ESPN and other TV shows, and the rest is history!"
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