Mike Sexton (born September 22, 1947) is an American poker professional, a member of the Poker Hall of Fame, a commentator of the World Poker Tour, and a PartyPoker Ambassador.
He has $5.8 million in live tournament earnings, including his best cash for $1.1 million thanks to a 9th place finish in the 2012 Big One For One Drop. Click here for more information on Mike Sexton. We hope you will enjoy the interview!
You have been around the poker scene for many years and must have experienced so much. What have been the high points and lows for you?
I've been blessed to have experienced many highs in my poker career. Here are a few: Making 2 final tables in 3 events in my 1st WSOP in '84 (changed my life as I moved to Las Vegas). Winning the following: my first WSOP bracelet in 1989, the 1st World Poker Finals at Foxwoods in '92, back-to-back Summer Four Queens championships in '96-97, the Grand Prix de Paris in 2000 (which at the time was the largest event in the history of Europe), the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions ($1M) , and playing in and cashing in the first two ONE DROP events (2012-13) at the WSOP. But, the real 'highs' of my career were creating the Tournament of Champions (TOC) of Poker and the PartyPoker Million, as well as being involved in the development of PartyPoker (which became the #1 online poker site in the world - by far) and the World Poker Tour (which changed poker forever). My all-time high, though, was being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame (2009). As for the low, PartyPoker having to leave the U.S. as a result of UIGEA in 2006 was by far my saddest time in poker.
You were elected for the Poker Hall Of Fame back in 2009, the first year when public nominations were accepted. What did the induction mean to you? And is there anything you would still like to achieve in poker world?
Like in any sports Hall of Fame, as a poker player, nothing can ever top being inducted into the Poker HOF. It's a career achievement award that puts you in a group of the best poker players that have ever lived. In terms of achieving more in the poker world, like all poker players, I'd like to win a few more times before I head into the sunset as well as play a continuing role in helping the game grow.
Three years have past since you wrote the blog post "Poker Pros - Wake Up and Smell the Coffee" in which you illuminated several things that disappointed and upset you about the poker scene. You ended the post with a list of things that should be improved amongst poker players. Have you seen any changes since you wrote the blog?
That blog got a lot of attention. Although some seemed to think so, I never said players should wear coat and ties to the final table. Although I've relaxed my views on how players should dress, I don't think it's asking too much for those fortunate enough to make televised final tables to wear a collared shirt, long pants, and shoes. I also believe successful tournament players - those the public and potential sponsors see/knows - should do their part in helping the game grow. If we're ever going to get serious sponsorship in poker, I believe 'image' will play a role in that. I have seen some positive changes in players over the past few years, especially in supporting/developing the charity aspect of poker.
How do you feel about Dan Colman's response towards poker?
Dan had his reasons for how he behaved after winning the ONE DROP tournament, but I didn't/don't agree with them. When you enter the biggest event in poker - one set up to promote awareness and raise BIG money for a great charity - you know you're going to get a lot of media attention if you win. I believe one has an obligation to take pictures, thank the venue and promoters of the event, and talk to the media after winning. Sadly, I believe Dan missed a tremendous opportunity to publicize and promote the ONE DROP charity. I know that players, as independent poker players, "don't have to" have obligations and media responsibilities, but think about the awareness Dan could have brought the ONE DROP charity had he been media friendly - articles in newspapers and mainstream magazines and perhaps numerous appearances on TV talk shows.
Aside from poker, you have a fondness of helping less fortunate people by giving money (including poker winnings) to charity. In 2009 you started the site PokerGives.org. How is the site doing today and do you feel like enough is being done by the poker community to help via charity?
Every poker player should feel proud that according to Fundraiser.com, charity poker tournaments are the #1 way in the country (replacing golf tourney's) to raise money for worthwhile charities. I helped start PokerGives with Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Lisa Tenner. Honestly, it didn't develop nearly as big as we had hoped for, but PokerGives - thru poker - has certainly played a role in raising money for worthwhile charities. I love the efforts of the WPT Foundation for all they do and for that matter, all those who start, help, or donate to any poker charity event such as REG (reg-charity.org - Raising for Effective Giving) and people like Ethan Ruby (who founded Poker4Life tourney 10 yrs ago that benefits the Buoniconti Fund) and Dan Shak who founded the CHOP (Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia) charity event, etc., etc. So many people in poker donate their time and money to help others. Thanks to all of you.
Whom do you consider to be the most generous person ever in poker history?
Whew! That's a tough one. For helping raise money for charities, I would rate Linda Johnson at or near the top of that list but honorable mention should certainly go to Barry Greenstein, Dan Shak, Bill Klein from Laguna Beach, CA (who plays in big buy-in events and donates ALL his winnings to charity and even matches and donates the size of the buy-in if he busts out), and Phil Hellmuth as he has MC'd more charity poker tournaments than anyone. (FYI, Klein finished 2nd in the $111k buy-in ONE DROP at this year's WSOP and donated $2.46M to charity.)
Making a living from online poker is much tougher these days than it used to be. What are your thoughts on poker sites changing to appeal to more recreational players and to bring new players in to the game?
Obviously, until legalization and regulation occurs in the U.S., making a living at online poker is much tougher today, and I don't see that trend changing until online poker is back in the U.S. But, you can't blame poker sites for government interference. They understand that you need recreational players - and lots of them - to have a successful site. I believe to get those players, sites need to make it simpler for players to log in and play and most importantly, be able to fund their accounts simply with the use of credit cards. And sadly, because of government restrictions, this is where their hands are tied. Once it gets too difficult or becomes too much of a hassle for "average Joe" to fund his account, you lose him.
Despite several changes being made, online poker's future is certainly not looking very bright at the moment. Where can you see things being in 5-10 years for the online industry?
Like everyone else, I'm hoping for legalization and regulation of online poker in the U.S. If/when that happens, I believe there will be another boom in online poker. As to 5-10 years from now, I'd love nothing more than to get back to the 'good old days' of PartyPoker!