Poker Pioneer Mike Sexton Dies of Cancer at 72

The poker world lost a giant last week.

Poker fans and players around the world knew the name, face, and voice of Mike Sexton from his 15 seasons as the World Poker Tour commentator. In larger terms, he was regarded as poker’s quintessential ambassador.

On September 6, after a long battle with prostate cancer, Sexton died at the age of 72.

A Man of Many Talents

The life story of Mike Sexton is full of fascinating twists and turns.

Born in 1947, Sexton grew up in the Midwestern United States. He learned about gambling at an early age, betting on everything from cards to youth sports. He was also a star gymnast who earned a full scholarship to college on an athletic scholarship.

At university, he pursued a business degree but ended up with a degree in public recreation. And he emerged from his education with specialties in poker and bridge.

Sexton joined the United States Army and served as a paratrooper in the early 1970s, though the military never deployed him in combat. But during those years, he took a love of ballroom dancing and turned that into income by teaching others how to do it.

With all of those talents, Sexton decided to pursue a career in…professional poker.

All Aspects of Poker Play

When Sexton moved to Las Vegas in the mid-1980s, poker was the reason. He not only played cash games and tournaments, he demonstrated impressive abilities in a number of poker variations.

Sexton won many titles through the years in Las Vegas and in nearby locations, like Reno and Los Angeles. He also claimed a World Series of Poker bracelet in 1989 by winning the WSOP $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Split event.

As poker opportunities grew around the world, Sexton began racking up big finishes in places like London, Paris, and Dublin. Australia was also high on the list of poker destinations, as Crown Melbourne had become known for its well-run tournament series. Sexton did accumulate some significant results Down Under through the years:

  • January 2005: 3rd place in $5K NLHE Heads-Up at Crown Australian Poker Championships
  • January 2005: 11th place in $10K NLHE Main Event at Crown Australian Poker Championships
  • January 2005: 1st place in $20K PL/NL Speed Poker at Crown Australian Poker Championships
  • January 2008: 4th place in $3K PLO at Aussie Millions Poker Championship

It should be noted that Sexton also traveled to Australia many more times through the years. Players lit up – as they did in poker rooms around the world – when Sexton walked in.

Groundbreaking Sexton Contributions

Sexton was the original proponent of the Tournament of Champions. He hosted one for years in Las Vegas before the World Series of Poker picked it up and ran a major on in 2006. And that first major TOC saw Sexton meet Daniel Negreanu in the final heads-up match and emerge victorious. Sexton won the $1 million top prize, but he famously donated half of that money immediately to five charities.

Through all of his 15 years as a WPT commentator, Sexton only played in WPT tournaments for the last few of those. And in 2016, finally won a World Poker Tour title by taking down the WPT Montreal Main Event in November of that year.

While always a fan of live poker, Sexton also saw the potential of online poker earlier than most. He was one of the creators of PartyPoker, having dedicated years to the site’s formation and launch. Several years ago, PartyPoker invited Sexton back to serve as the company’s chairman. He did part ways with the WPT and return to PartyPoker, a difficult decision but a logical one.

The WSOP recognized Sexton by inducting him into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009. The Global Poker Index honored Sexton with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. The WPT gave him a WPT Honors ceremony and renamed their trophy the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.

Every Facet of Poker

Many poker fans became acquainted with Mike Sexton from his 15 years of work on television and video with the World Poker Tour.

Quite a few read his books, the most recent being his “Life’s a Gamble” autobiography.

Mike Sexton autobiography

Some read his columns through the years in various poker publications through the past decades.

Others simply knew his face from video clips, photos, and stories from the world of poker.

They all knew he was an ambassador of poker, that his love for the game and the industry was only eclipsed by his generosity and kindness. He made everyday names like PartyPoker and the World Poker Tour into staples in the poker world. And he set examples for philanthropy and handling oneself with class at the tables.

People across the world mourned the loss of Mike Sexton. He was memorialized by friends and major media outlets like CNN alike.

The WPT will host an online celebration of Sexton’s life on September 22, 2020. Follow the WPT on social media for details.


Rose Varrelli

Rose Varrelli has always been passionate about online casinos, as she’s been a player at a variety of places for years. Rose turned her personal knowledge and insight into a writing career. She aims to provide readers with the most up to date, informative news in the world of online casinos!


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