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Parkinson: An American Abroad

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Mar 25, '20


I first met Mike Sexton at the European Championships in London in 1996. We stayed up all night drinking beer together in The Metropole Hotel. By 11 a.m., I had him figured out he was either a visionary or a nut-job. I didn’t care which. At that time of the morning, either works for me! It was the start of a friendship that we are stuck with. It’s too late to start making new friends now.

Mike was way ahead of his time in many ways. He saw how poker could move from the backrooms to our living rooms. In the few years after I met him, he was a frequent visitor to Europe, especially to Paris where I was living. The French liked him which was pretty strong, him being American. It was strange for sure as usually they hate Americans almost as much as they hate each other. In that way, they are very like people from Cork.

Paris was eventually to be a happy hunting ground for Mike as he won the 2000 European Championship in the ACF there, and a couple of years later won the prestigious Heads Up title beating John Duthie in the final. But the early years weren’t so happy. Most visiting pros had the advantage of having a lot more experience than the French and just had to remember to keep breathing, and eventually the dealer would push a bunch of chips their way. Mike had the breathing bit down pretty good but the chips rarely came his way. Not as often as they should anyway. If it could go wrong, it usually did. I can, over 20 years later, close my eyes and see Mike sitting there looking like he’s swallowed a wasp while a French guy is stacking the chips and giving a ridiculous explanation for his horrendous call on the turn. I gotta admit it was pretty funny though, especially if you weren’t Mike! I guess the fact Mike only knew seven words of French helped somewhat.

One day, I’ve left the table for a few minutes and when I came back, a French guy is stacking chips and chirping. Mike’s chips are missing. So is Mike. It wasn’t until the following day that I found out what happened. Mike had got dogged in a big pot and decided to take a walk rather than buy back in again. This was partly because he wanted to clear his head and partly because he didn’t have any fucking money, unless you count the three quid and a metro ticket he had in his pocket. Mike had learnt his poker the hard way, losing his money every week as a kid playing heads up stud against Danny Robinson. He didn’t mind losing to Danny who, it turned out, was world class, but getting his ass handed to him every day by the French was a bit much.

He walked all the way to Place de Concorde, which was the furthest he’d walked in 20 years without a golf ball for company, before he realized it was raining quite heavily. Poker and the French can do that to you. He ducked into a joint called Hotel Crillon to shelter for a while. He quickly noticed he was in a pretty posh establishment. He was approached by a guy in an expensive looking suit, who asked how he could help Monsieur. Luckily monsieur was one of Mike’s seven French words so no problems there. Maybe his luck was turning.

He told the guy that “monsieur” was an American businessman who was on the first of several visits to Paris on business. He was staying in the Hotel George V which was very nice (It certainly is!) but fancied something a little more upmarket for his future visits. Personally, I consider that a tad strong coming from a guy with three quid in his pocket but maybe I’m being too critical. The guy in the suit was delighted and took Mike on the grand tour. He showed him a couple of lovely rooms, which genuinely impressed Mike. He was less impressed when he saw it was still raining so, to play for time, he put in a big raise.

He told the guy the rooms were nice but monsieur would like something a little bigger. Jesus! The guy loved it and took Mike to see what he said was their best suite, The Leonard Bernstein suite. It was magnificent. Mike took a good look around to give the rain time to stop. The guy told him it cost €4,000 a night. Mike said that was very reasonable and that, when he knew the precise dates of his next visit, he’d be in touch. They were both delighted with their little chat! You couldn’t make it up.

Mike and I were having a transatlantic conversation during the coronavirus lockdown. He had heard that I was passing the time by writing a book and asked if the Leonard Bernstein suite would get a mention. For sure it will!

Padraig is currently involved with Jesse May in hosting Irish Pub Poker Tours for medium-sized corporate groups. For info you can contact him on Twitter @padraigpoker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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