RIP Mike Sexton. The poker and gaming world lost one of the good guys on Sunday when Mike Sexton passed away surrounded by friends and family. Linda Johnson, one of Sexton's closest friends and confidants, relayed the news to the poker world. 2020 had been a difficult year no matter which way you cut it, but the loss of some of Sexton's prominence is simply unmeasurable.
The poker community had always gotten a bad rap in the square world. Between the wild-wild west image to negative connotations of hustler, thieves and problem gamblers, poker had become a fringe activity and something more akin to the underbelly of society. Of course, anyone who played poker with friends and family knew that mainstream's image of poker was vastly different from the true aficionados of the game.
Sexton diligently worked hard to shape and reform the image of poker over the last two decades. Sexton promoted a game that many of us loved and played, but for some reason the squares running society had an issue with anything remotely related to poker.
It's nearly impossible to convert the masses when they have a predisposed notion of the negative connotations gambling world. However, Sexton made poker seem both cool, fun, and accessible.
The band Traffic had a lyric that said, "The simple things are the hardest to explain." And that line has been echoing in my head every since Sexton passed away. Sexton had a way of explaining the simple things in simple terms without overexplaining things. He also had a unique way of explaining difficult poker concepts and strategy to newcomers without intimidating or bombarding them with too much information.
Being an ambassador is not an easy job. It's something that not's really a 9-to-5 gig where you can turn it off at the end of the night. Mike Sexton carried himself with an aura of professionalism and coolness no matter where he went.
Even the nicest people in the poker world are prone to moments of burnout and disgust, but Sexton remained upbeat and positive no matter the situation.
The internet ushered in a new wave of poker players and gamblers and although Sexton struggled in the earliest days of virtual gambling, he stuck with his vision for partypoker which eventually paid off in dividends. Sexton was a part of two very instrumental aspects of poker that helped usher in the poker wave. Between partypoker and the World Poker Tour, Sexton brought poker to the masses.
"It takes seconds to learn and years to master!" Sexton explained in the intro to the World Poker Tour's earliest days on the Travel Channel.
Sexton's big claim to fame was that he originally named the site, "PartyPoker", because he wanted players to have fun at the virtual tables. He sought to replicate the cozy vibe for a kitchen-table home game to the virtual gambling waters.
Sexton won a WSOP bracelet back in 1989 and faded 175 entrants in a $1,500 Stud Split event at Binion's Horseshoe. He banked a little more than $104K but he finally broke through to the winner's circle during a time when poker was about to enter the last decade of the 20th century. In 2000, Sexton missed out on making the final table of the WSOP Main Event when he busted in 12th place. Jesus Ferguson won the Main Event that year for a $1.5 million score when he knocked out TJ Cloutier heads-up for the title. The final table also included writer James McManus, Jeff Shulman, and Capt. Tom Franklin. Annie Duke bubbled the final table in tenth place.
In 2016, Sexton binked the WPT Montreal for his first WPT title during an insane comeback. He spent many seasons as the voice of the World Poker Tour, but for the first time, he went the distance in one of the events.
RIP Mike Sexton.