receives "Patriot Award"
hen Mike Sexton won the 2006 WSOP Tournament of
Champions, he had to beat two great players at the end
of a grueling final table: Mike Matusow who placed 3rd
and Daniel Negreanu who was runner-up. Mike won
$1,000,000 for 1st place, and decided to donate
$500,000 to charity. He selected five worthy causes and
donated $100,000 to each one:
1.) Paralyzed Veterans of America
2.) The Buoniconti Fund
3.) The Wounded Warrior Project
4.) The Special Olympics of Nevada
5.) Children Incorporated
Harrah’s and the WSOP executives were very proud to
host a special ceremony at the top of the Rio honoring
each of these organizations. This would be such a
positive story for the entire poker world, the kind of
story that needs to be told. Let’s hope Congress is
paying attention, as each year there are so many good
causes supported by the poker Industry and other high profile players like Barry Greenstein, Jennifer Harman, Phil Gordon, Annie Duke, and
many others. My brother Mike called me and said, “Tom, I’ve been nominated to receive a very prestigious award called the “Patriot Award”
from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. It doesn’t get any higher than that! I want you to go with me to Portland, Oregon next week to their
convention’s Awards Ceremony. Karen and I aren’t sure when the baby is going to be born, but if it is the same week-end, I’m going to stay with
her, and you’ll have to represent me in Portland on my behalf and receive the award.” As many probably already heard by now, the baby
arrived on Aug. 21st at 8 lbs. 6 ounces on the same week-end as the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s 62nd Convention was giving their
awards for 2008. I ended up going to Portland on Mike and Karen’s behalf, and want to share a few thoughts about the trip.I arrived in Portland
and checked into the Doubletree Hotel. I was greeted by Mark Dowis, Associate Executive Director of Marketing and Development for the PVA.
He was so cordial and understanding of Mike’s situation, and he thanked me for filling in for him. The Awards Brunch was held the next day
between 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM, and I got to meet so many wonderful people: Randy L. Pleva Sr., National President of the PVA; Michael
Delaney, Associate Director of Corporate Marketing for the PVA; Homer S. Townsend Jr., Executive Director for the PVA, and so many other
prominent members. The Paralyzed Veterans of America is an organization that was a lot bigger than I realized. In fact this was the PVA’s
62nd Annual Convention that started on August 16th and lasted all week, with the PVA’s closing Awards Brunch on August 23rd
The Awards Brunch was absolutely riveting with a total of 13 Awards given out, some to members and some to non members for their
extraordinary services during the year. From the three Speedy Awards that have been given out since 1957, to the Schweikert Award, to the
Bob Webb Award, to the Cliff Crase Award, to the President Award, to several Service Awards……there were only two Patriot Awards:
1.) The Corporate Patriot Award, won by Dr. Sue Mandry-Schwartz, Vice President of
Beneficiary and Congressional Relations for Health Net Federal Services. Dr.Schwartz
has been a liaison for the PVA’s partnership with HNFS and has been a champion of
PVA’s programs since HNFS’s first national sponsorship of the National Veterans
Wheelchair Games. I felt fortunate to be seated next to her at the Awards Brunch, as
she was charming as well as very modest. When she accepted her Corporate Patriot
Award, she was very graceful as well as emotionally touched to receive the high honor.
2.) The Individual Giving Patriot Award was won by Mike and Karen Sexton. In the PVA’
s impressive 2008 brochure, it said the following: For their generous support of PVA’s
Mike and Karen Sexton have been chosen recipients of the 2008 Individual Giving
Patriot Award. Following presentation of their $100,000 gift to PVA, Mike was the
driving force behind the Inaugural PVA Poker Charity event in Washington, D.C.
Known as the “Ambassador of Poker” for his contributions to the poker industry, Mike
gained celebrity status as the host/commentator on the World Poker Tour. As a
participant, he won the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions in 2006 and
the $1,000,000 first prize. Mike has been involved in the poker industry for more than
20 years. Before he became a professional player, he attended Ohio State University on a gymnastics scholarship. After graduating, he joined
the U.S. Army in 1970, serving as a paratrooper stationed with the 82ndAirborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. Mike’s poker accomplishments
include several impressive wins: the European Finals of Poker in 2000, the Inaugural Foxwoods World Poker Finals No Limit championship in
1992, the Four Queens Summer Classic No Limit championship in 1996 (which he successfully defended in 1997), and the Heads-Up
Championship in Paris in 2003. Mike and Karen live in Las Vegas and are expecting a baby in August.
Well, the brochure sure got that part right, as Karen delivered her 8 lb. 6 ounce healthy boy, Ty Michael Sexton, one day before the scheduled
2008 PVA’s Award Brunch! As a result, I found myself in Portland, Oregon doing my best to represent them.Right before the Patriot Award was
awarded on stage the Master of Ceremonies mentioned that the $100,000 donation from Mike and Karen helped purchase a beautiful special
bus in the NY Chapter that could accommodate 13 people with space for 13 wheel chairs. This has allowed paralyzed veterans to attend many
New York Yankee games and a variety of other fun activities. As I was waiting to go on stage to accept this prestigious award, I was thinking to
myself how proud I was of my brother for making this possible as a poker player. I wondered what the other four $100,000 donations
constructively did for the other charities Mike donated that day, when he won the $1,000,000 1st place prize at the 2006 WSOP/TOC. Winning
a big poker title is wonderful, but the fulfilling gratification of making a real difference in the world through generosity, has to be the ultimate best
feeling of all!
In accepting the Patriot Award, Mike had asked me to read the following remarks on his and Karen’s behalf to the large audience:
First of all, I apologize for not being here to accept this prestigious award. My wife Karen and I are expecting our first child, a baby boy,
“Ty Michael Sexton”, at any moment. I appreciate my brother Tom accepting this award on my behalf. I am humbled and honored to receive the
PVA Patriot Award. I truly cannot think of a much greater honor. I want to thank the committee for selecting me over many worthy nominees. I
also want to give special thanks to our paralyzed veterans who have served and sacrificed so that we may enjoy our freedoms and lifestyle.
I have always been a proud veteran. I was in the 82nd Airborne Division during the Vietnam era. Like all vet’s, I fully realize that but for the
grace of God, I could be in a wheelchair like many of you.We all owe paralyzed veterans a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. On behalf
of citizens throughout the United States, let me say “thank you” to all veterans, especially paralyzed vet’s, for your service to our country.
I wish everyone had an opportunity, like me, to visit VA hospitals throughout the country. Seeing the paralyzed vet’s and the sacrifices they
have made will definitely make you appreciate what they go through and their contributions to the service of our country. I believe all junior high
and high school kids should be required to go so that they may understand and appreciate the sacrifices service people make.
I’ve also had success as a player and I’m the host of the World Poker Tour. Because of that, I’ve become somewhat of a celebrity in the
poker world. That has provided me an opportunity to help benefit various charities, especially the one that is closest to my heart, the PVA.
Earlier this year, we held a charity event in Washington D.C. called, “Go All-in for Vets”. Next year, we’ll double that number with a charity event
in Las Vegas as well as Washington D.C. Hopefully, we can continue to expand the “Go All-in for Vet’s” events around the country and raise a
lot of money for the PVA.
Thank you again for this prestigious PVA Patriot Award. I will cherish it always. And once again, special thanks to the real heroes, the
Paralyzed Veterans of America.
I followed Mike’s letter up with a few comments about my brother and what he has meant to the poker world as an Ambassador, a TV pioneer,
an Internet pioneer, and a Poker Visionary. I mentioned how proud I was of his generosity with the $500,000 he donated out of his $1,000,000
1st place prize at the 2006 WSOPTOC to five different charities, with $100,000 donated to the Paralyzed Veterans of America. I talked about a
sign that has sat on Steve Wynn’s desk for many years that is a quote by Jonathan Swift. It says, “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible”.
Even though Steve has had retinitis pigmentosa, where he has lost his eyesight over time, he remarkably continues to build the finest
Hotel/Casinos in the world! Mike in the poker world has always had vision, where he is able to see things ahead of its time that looks invisible to
many others. He truly has had that special gift called vision almost his whole poker career.
As I left to fly out here yesterday from Las Vegas, Mike told me, “Tom, I’ve received a lot of awards from the past, but the “Patriot Award” from
the Paralyzed Veterans of America is the highest honor anyone could receive!”
Your selection this year of Mike Sexton is an outstanding choice for the Patriot Award. In the poker world, Mike Sexton is at the top of his class.
He has become a TV celebrity for sure, but has remained gracious and modest to one and all. He has accomplished a lot as a competitor and
promoter, but has always remained humble in his journey.
On behalf of my brother, Mike Sexton, I am profoundly humbled and happy to accept this prestigious award, “The Patriot Award” from the
Paralyzed Veterans of America. It is such an honor, and I know Mike is so humbled to receive this award today. As Mike said, “God Bless each
one of you for your patriotism and service to our Country. You are the true heroes!”………………..Thank you so much.
The Cab Is Parked,