Mike Sexton
by Jason Kirk  

Mike Sexton - Source

Mike Sexton is as close to a household name as you'll find in the poker world today. Between his endorsement contract with Party Poker to his job as commentator on the World Poker Tour's broadcasts on the Travel Channel, it seems like his face and voice are everywhere today. This Indiana native is more than just a face on TV, though - he's an accomplished poker player who's been around the game for nearly 30 years.

Mike Sexton was born in Indiana in 1947 and attended Ohio State University in the 1960s, where he received a scholarship to compete for the school's gymnastics team. After graduating from college he joined the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. He left the military three years later and for several years made a living through various jobs, including military sales rep and ballroom dance instructor. It was during this time that he began playing in home poker games. By 1977 he had quit his other jobs to play poker full-time, and his success led him to move to Las Vegas in 1985.

When the World Poker Tour debuted in 2002, Mike Sexton teamed up with Vince Van Patten and Shana Hiatt to bring big-money no-limit hold'em tournaments to the masses. It's worth remembering today that the show was not a guaranteed hit by any means; if it had, it probably would have aired on another network bigger than the Travel Channel. When the public began tuning in every week to the WPT broadcasts, Mike became the face of poker overnight. His down-home charm made him easy for the bulk of America to like and listen to, and as a successful player with a two-decade career in the game he lent the show credibility that it wouldn't have otherwise had. Sexton's business relationship with Party Poker began around the same time, increasing his exposure through the ads the online card room bought on seemingly every poker show on television.

Before becoming involved with two of the businesses behind the poker boom, Mike Sexton was a highly successful and respected tournament player. Many newer players who only know him from television might not know just how good a player he is, having not seen him play in many big tournaments before (his contract with the WPT prevents him from playing in any of their events). He holds a World Series of Poker bracelet for winning the Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo tournament in 1989, and he was the champion of the inaugural World Poker Finals $10,000 Main Event at Foxwoods Resort Casino in 1992. He has also won major tournaments in Pot-Limit Omaha and Omaha hi-lo in Paris in 2000, a heads-up tournament in Paris in 2003, and speed poker in Melbourne in 2005. He has made a handful of appearances as a player on television the last few years as well, participating in the Poker Superstars Invitational II and NBC's National Heads-Up Championship.

Besides his ventures into television, Mike Sexton is a published author as well. He writes regularly for CardPlayer magazine and Gambling Times. He has also published a poker book, Shuffle Up And Deal, designed for beginning players to learn the game and quickly improve their level of play. One of the most impressive pieces he's written, though, only relates to poker and gambling in the most tangential of ways; his foreword to Nolan Dalla's One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey "The Kid" Ungar is a touching tribute to the three-time WSOP Main Event champion, who was a friend of Sexton's since Ungar first came to Las Vegas.

Mike Sexton's contract with the World Poker Tour is due to expire in the near future, and once it does his options are wide open. He is still a championship caliber player, so should he decide to pass on renewing with the WPT the public may yet get to know him as well for his skill at the table as they do for his voice and face. Whatever happens, you can bet that wherever poker goes Mike Sexton will be right in the middle of it.


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