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Mike Sexton On partypoker's Success, World Poker Tour's Future

partypoker Chairman Mike Sexton Sits Down For A Few Questions

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Mike SextonLast May, Poker Hall of Fame member Mike Sexton shocked poker fans worldwide by giving up his 15-year career as a commentator for the World Poker Tour to take a position as Chairman of partypoker.

In the year since, the 70-year-old Sexton and his team have taken partypoker, and their live tournament series to new heights. The partypoker LIVE MILLIONS tour recently wrapped up stops in Barcelona and Montreal that each boasted $10 million guarantees, and has announced a $10 million guaranteed Caribbean Poker Party at the brand new Baha Mar Resort in the Bahamas this November, which features a $25,000 buy-in.

On the online side of things, partypoker is stepping things up with the online MILLIONS, which boasts a whopping $20 million guarantee. (Note: That’s nearly double the current record for an online tournament prize pool, held by the 2010 WCOOP main event of $12,215,000.)

Card Player caught up with Sexton at the 2018 World Series of Poker during a break to talk about his game, his old job, and his new job.

Julio Rodriguez: It’s been a year since you left the WPT and stepped into your role as chairman for partypoker. Do you have much time to play poker these days?

Mike Sexton: The first seven years on the World Poker Tour, Vince [Van Patten] and I weren’t allowed to play in the events. I love to play, so when the opportunity came up for us to play, I was excited.

Sexton at the WSOPTo be honest, the same thing applies to me now at partypoker, even though I’m a chairman in title, I’m also a member of team partypoker, so to speak, so I get to play in these events. And you know, there are mega guaranteed prize pool events on partypoker LIVE’s tour now, so I also get to play for big money.

Of course, I also love playing at the World Series of Poker. I like to take it day by day. I’m not one of these guys who can look at the schedule and plan the next three months of my life out. If I’m fresh one day, I’ll play. It might carry over to the next day, and now you can’t play that other event you wanted to play, which is a good problem to have. I guess I’ll end up playing between 12 and 15 events. I don’t have any can’t-miss events, but I try and play the H.O.R.S.E., stud eight-or-better, and Omaha eight-or-better tournaments if I can.

I like to play a variety of the games. I just cashed in the dealer’s choice event, which was nice. I’m sad about how I went out, but hey, everyone has stories here so I’m not telling any of that.

JR: The WPT recently announced that they would delay and move televised tables to the eSports arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas. What do you think about that decision?

MS: I love the World Poker Tour, but honestly, I was one of the loudest poker players against the [WSOP’s] November Nine concept, and this feels similar. You know, I thought it was terrible that you were holding these guys’ money for four months, and I didn’t like that players at the table could now study and become much better than they were when the tournament first started. And also, one day someone is going to die before they can finish the tournament, and it will be so unfortunate to have to film an empty seat being blinded out. So, honestly, I’m not a fan of the WPT’s decision.

I think they are going to get hurt by lower numbers in their events, simply because players don’t want to wait to get their money, so they won’t play the tournament to start with. It probably won’t affect any of the Las Vegas events, but you’ll see lower numbers out of town. Most people want to hit the jackpot today, not four months from now.

I’m really pulling for the World Poker Tour. Partypoker is even going to start hosting qualifiers for their international events, so we’re working with them again. I’m still the biggest lover and fan of the WPT and the people there, but this is one thing, had I still been there, that I would have fought against. I just don’t think it’s a good idea.

JR: You’ve had a great first year with partypoker. To what do you attribute the site’s recent success?

MS: It’s working well because Rob Yong, the guy that helped take over the live tour, is the guy that puts up all of these massive guarantees. Believe me, that’s what brings the players. You put up a guarantee like $10 million, and people will show up. Then you work that in conjunction with the online site to qualify players for the live event by winning packages, and you get the best of both worlds.

I’m proud that we’re doing that, pushing for the big prize pools. Almost all of the events have made their guarantees, it’s working out well. The online site is growing as well, so right now, partypoker is on the rise.

You know, it’s about the players. You have to listen to the players, whether it’s about making the live tournaments more enjoyable or upgrading the online software. I think players appreciate the efforts that we’re making to listen to their suggestions and improve. And, I also think the players appreciate it when you can throw a big number on a guarantee like $10 million. (laughs)

We have a tremendous team of ambassadors, and it’s all just melding together now where the poker world is starting to see our efforts and support it. Hopefully we can continue on that trajectory. Obviously, our goal is to be the number one online site in the world… again.