Last Hand: Poker Visionary Mike Sexton Means the World to Our Game

5 min read

Mike Sexton’s time on earth, sadly, appears to be coming to an end. The legendary poker player, broadcaster, industry executive, and Hall of Famer has been suffering from prostate cancer, and is now receiving hospice care at his home in Las Vegas.

Mike Sexton sick poker
Mike Sexton always has a big smile on his face. (Image:

As poker players from around the world bid him farewell, it’s clear that his impact on the community over the past 40 years will never be forgotten.

CardsChat News spoke with several of his friends and colleagues, and they describe Sexton as universally beloved among poker players, and an irreplaceable asset to the game.

The 72-year-old Indiana native is a rare breed in poker who found great success on the table and off. Many will remember him as the longtime co-host of the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel and Fox Sports. But he’s also one of the top old-school pros, having cashed for $6.7 million in live tournaments, which includes a 1989 WSOP bracelet in Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo, and a $1 million prize for winning the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions.

Sexton helped launch Partypoker in 2001, and grew it to become the world’s #1 poker site in the early days of the poker boom and, eventually, the first online poker company to go public. In 2009 he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

Though Sexton was involved with the business side of Party since before the first cards were even dealt, he became better known as the face of the World Poker Tour (which Party acquired in 2009), hosting the show for 15 years. In 2017, he gave up his seat in the broadcast booth to return to the Partypoker board room as Chairman.

Poker Ambassador Archetype

Sexton’s accomplishments pale in comparison to his generosity and genuineness. His trademark smile always lights up a room. And it’s rare, if ever, that he denies an autograph or selfie request from one of his many adoring fans.

“Carrying poker into our homes during the massive growth of the game,” Chris Moneymaker said of Sexton’s contributions to poker. “He brings a lot of integrity and professionalism to the game, and is universally liked by everyone.”

Like Moneymaker, Sexton’s presence contributed to the poker boom 17 years ago. As the WPT co-host for 15 seasons alongside Vince Van Patten, he reached out and attracted the casual poker audience to watch poker on the Travel Channel and later, Fox Sports.

“The term legend and GOAT get thrown around loosely, but Mike is exactly those things,” CardsChat ambassador and Partypoker pro Jeff Gross said. “It’s hard to put into words, when you think poker, you think Mike Sexton. His iconic voice and delivery in some of the game’s biggest moments and memories is some of his greatest contributions.”

Gross said one of his greatest poker memories was at the 2016 WPT Montreal event. He called the action on live-stream while Sexton, his friend and mentor, shipped his first World Poker Tour title.

“To see the smile on his face in person when he won is something I’ll never forget,” Gross recalls.

‘May all your Cards be Live and all your Pots be Monsters’

Sexton, like Vince Van Patten, is synonymous with the World Poker Tour. Those who watched him host WPT Main Tour events on Fox Sports will always remember his catchphrase.

“May all your cards be live, and may all your pots be monsters,” Sexton would say at the end of every tournament.

Sexton himself won many monster pots over the years. He was known to crush the high-stakes cash games in the 1980s and 1990s, long before poker became mainstream. Speaking of poker going mainstream, you can thank the former WPT announcer for his role in the game’s international growth.

“He is probably the most colorful non-color guy to ever call the game,” fellow poker commentator Joe Stapleton said. “He makes it seem like you were hanging out with a real gambler, and is one of the few pros who took to broadcasting immediately.”

Lena Evans, founder of the Poker League of Nations women’s poker organization, has always had great respect for Sexton. She shared some personal insight into what the Poker Hall of Famer meant to her personally and to poker.

“Mike has always been an inspiring figure for me personally, as I relate to him on so many levels — from the philosophy that life is much deeper and more rewarding when we are not averse to taking risks, to the fact that he abstains from drugs, to always sharing optimism, and looking at everything in a positive light,” Evans said.

“He is so beloved for many reasons,” she added, “including his willingness to share insights and regale us with so many amazing stories from behind the scenes of business, charity, golf and, of course, poker.”

Poker World Architect

Daniel Negreanu shared with CardsChat News his thoughts on what Sexton did for the game.

“He believed poker could work on television and he was at the forefront of making it happen with the WPT,” Negreanu said of Sexton. “He single-handedly made it happen and had a bigger influence on what poker looks like today than anyone ever has.”

Negreanu recalled reading articles written by Sexton in PokerWorld magazine back in the 1990s titled, “Poker Sponsorship is Right Around the Corner.” As per usual, Sexton was right. A few years later, hundreds of pros, including Negreanu and Sexton, became hot commodities and began receiving big-money deals from online poker companies that few could have even imagined.

“Mike Sexton’s impact on poker has been immense and the game would not be the same today without him,” WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage said. “You cannot mention the World Poker Tour, Partypoker, or the Tournament of Champions without Mike Sexton because there’s a chance that none of them would exist today without his influence.”

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