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Mike Sexton

By Paul McGuire

Mike Sexton is the ambassador and the voice of poker. When I think of televised poker and the World Poker Tour, I can’t help but also hear Mike Sexton’s commentary going along with it. So many times I sat at the poker table and imagined what Mike Sexton would be saying to his co-host Vince Van Patten as I played out my hand. But Mike Sexton is not just a famous poker announcer, he’s also an excellent poker writer and an exceptional poker player with over $1 million in career earnings. He has made 15 World Series of Poker final tables and cashed 37 times. Only a handful of players have more at the WSOP cashed than Mike Sexton. Without a doubt, he’s one of the most influential people in poker.

Mike Sexton
Mike Sexton - Source: Las Vegas & Poker

Mike Sexton grew up in Dayton, Ohio where he excelled in athletics as a child. His parents were dance instructors, so the young Sexton picked up on their talents. He and his brother spent the cold and snowy winter months indoors at tumbling and gymnastics classes while they pursued other sports in the spring and summer. He developed his graceful skills and led his high school team to a state gymnastics championship. He also earned an athletic scholarship to Ohio State University where he also thrived and won the most valuable gymnast award.

Sexton began playing poker when he was very young. He had a newspaper route and after he collected all the money and got paid, he would often lose it to the neighborhood kids. He played throughout high school and college and sat in the big games in Dayton and in Columbus.

After college, Sexton joined the army and became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Based out of Fort Bragg, NC, he supplemented his income with poker games and teaching ballroom dancing on the side. After his stint in the army was over, he remained in North Carolina and found employment as a salesman. He sold PX stores supplies. He continued to play poker in various home games around North Carolina. The better he got, the more money he won. He started to clean up in the games and had to make a tough decision. His dedication to poker and his demanding job created a lot of stress in his life. It also cost him his first marriage. In 1978, he divorced from his wife and Sexton decided to also quit his sales job to focus on poker full time.

The road wasn’t easy and had plenty of rough spots. A lot of other players would have quit, but not Mike Sexton. He was disciplined and had mental toughness, two traits that are the foundation of a winning poker player. He stuck with it and eventually began to flourish. He started playing in bigger stakes games and participated in bigger buy-in tournaments such as the World Series of Poker. He would go on to make 15 final tables and bubble out in three other instances. He cashed in almost every category and proved that he’s an exceptional all-around player.

In 1989, Sexton won a bracelet in Seven-card Stud Hi/Lo where he had to beat out Men the Master at the final table. That was his first ever cash and final table appearance at the WSOP and he went all the way to win it. He’s also made three final tables in Pot Limit Omaha.

In 2000, Mike Sexton won the European Hold’em Championship at the historic Aviation Club in Paris, France. He had a tough final table that included two members of the Hendon Mob and four Frenchmen. He prevailed and won over $1 million Francs. He also won two other events in Pot Limit Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo. It was an epic trip for Sexton who earned the respect of the top pros in Europe.

Two years earlier he made the final table of Pot Limit Courchevel/Lowball at the Aviation Club. No matter what the game or the stakes were, Mike Sexton was ready to play anyone, at any time, at any place in the world, whether it was No Limit Hold’em in Las Vegas with his friend Stu Ungar or Courchevel with wealthy European businessmen in Paris. Mike Sexton is a true gamer.

2000 was definitely one of the best years of his career. Sexton finished in 12th place in the WSOP main event. He missed the final table by only a few spots and played excellent poker all week. At the 2002 WSOP, Sexton missed winning his second bracelet when he finished in second place in the Seniors’ NL event.

Mike Sexton continued to play in poker tournaments all over the world. In 2003, he returned to the Aviation Club in Paris where he has always played some of his best poker. He won the European Heads-Up Championship after beating John Duthie for the title. In 2005, Mike Sexton played poker “down under” during the Australian Poker Championships at the Crown Casino in Melbourne. He cashed three times and made two final tables. He won the Pot-Limit/No Limit Speed Poker Championship after he beat out Scotty Nguyen.

In 2000, Party Poker tapped Sexton to become its spokesperson and consultant. He even came up with the idea for the Party Poker Million cruise, which is the largest Limit Hold’em tournament in the world. In 2002, his good friend Linda Johnson asked him to do some announcing in a new project that she was working on. That project ended up becoming the World Poker Tour, which has become one of the most popular poker programs on television. Mike Sexton is more known for his announcing these days and gets credit for adding momentum to the poker boom.

Sexton has been a columnist at Card Player Magazine for several years. His articles are a wealth of knowledge and strategy where he also shares tips on being a winning poker player. He recently finished a book called “World Poker Tour: Shuffle Up and Deal.”

Sexton lives in Las Vegas, NV, but he’s rarely there. He’s constantly on the road taping episodes of the World Poker Tour at some of the most prestigious casinos in the world. When he’s not working, he always makes time to play poker.

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