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Poker Hall Of Famer, Longtime Voice Of WPT Mike Sexton Passes Away At Age 72

Sexton Had Been Quietly Battling Prostate Cancer


The poker community lost a true icon Sunday night, the legendary Mike Sexton.

The announcement came from fellow Poker Hall of Fame member Linda Johnson, who had been among those by Sexton’s side as he entered hospice care following a battle with prostate cancer. Sexton passed away two weeks shy of his 73rd birthday.

Sexton is best known to poker fans as the longtime voice of the World Poker Tour, serving as a television commentator for 15 years. For many watching at home, Sexton was their first introduction to hold’em, explaining the rules of “the Cadillac of poker,” a game that took just “a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master.” He would end every episode with the sign off, “May all your cards be live, and may all your pots be monsters.”

He stepped down from the role in 2017 to take a chairman position with partypoker, an online poker site he had a hand in launching back in 2001 before the poker boom.

The former Ohio State University gymnast volunteered for Vietnam as a U.S. Army paratrooper, and even taught ballroom dancing and contract bridge before becoming a professional poker player in 1977. Sexton had been taught the game from his childhood neighbor, stud great Danny Robison.

Although he will be remembered for his work as a poker ambassador and tireless promoter of the game, Sexton was also an accomplished player. He won a World Series of Poker bracelet in the 1989 stud split event, and in 2006, he won the Tournament of Champions for $1 million, giving half of the prize money to charity.

In 2016, after years of not being able to play in WPT events because of his commentating duties, he won the WPT Playground Poker Fall Classic for $317,896 and as a tour winner, had his name etched on the WPT Champions Cup Trophy. In July, the WPT renamed the trophy in his honor.

Sexton Wins 2006 Tournament Of Champions“I was most proud of being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame,” Sexton said. “I didn’t think anything could ever top that, but in my mind, this does.”

The news of Sexton’s condition spread quickly online, sparking an outpouring of messages and stories on various social media platforms. On Thursday night, Sexton was able to watch a special webcast featuring many of his friends and colleagues who got the opportunity to say goodbye.

The former Card Player columnist chronicled his life in his autobiography Life’s A Gamble. In 2017, he also shared many stories about his high-stakes gambling days on the Poker Stories podcast.

The following obituary was provided by the Sexton family.

Mike Sexton, Chairman of partypoker and a long-time commentator for the World Poker Tour, died peacefully on Sept. 6 at his home in Las Vegas after a valiant struggle with cancer. He was 72.

Multifaceted as a player, commentator, promoter, raconteur, columnist and author, Mike played a seminal role in the explosive growth of poker in the United States and around the world through his work with partypoker and the World Poker Tour. His skill in popularizing the game and his philanthropic work earned him the sobriquet “Ambassador of Poker” in 2006 and induction into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009. He was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Poker Awards in 2016. In 2017, Mike was the second person to be inducted into the World Poker Tour Honors Society. In 2020 the WPT honored Mike by renaming its traveling WPT Champion’s Cup the “Mike Sexton WPT Champion’s Cup.”

Born in Shelbyville, Indiana on Sept. 22, 1947, Mike began seriously playing poker while attending Ohio State University on a gymnastics scholarship. After serving with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 1970 to 1972, he settled in Fayetteville, North Carolina, working as a sales rep by day and honing his poker skills in home games at night. He turned pro in 1977 and moved permanently to Las Vegas in 1985, earning a World Series of Poker bracelet in Seven-Card Stud/8 in 1989.

Among his many achievements as a player, Mike won the inaugural World Poker Finals $10,000 buy-in championship at Foxwoods in 1992; successfully defended his previous year’s victory in the Summer Four Queens No-Limit Championship in 1997; won the Grand Prix de Paris Championship in Paris, France in 2000 (at the time the largest poker event in Europe); won the WSOP Tournament of Champions in 2006, beating Daniel Negreanu for $1 million in a seven-hour heads-up battle; cashed in the first two One Drop tournaments in 2012 and 2013, the only player other than Antonio Esfandiari to do so; and won the WPT Montreal main event in 2016.

Mike was the creator of two mega events in poker, the groundbreaking Tournament of Champions in 1999, and the Party Poker Million in 2001, an event that helped partypoker become the no. 1 online poker site in the world. Mike was also active in philanthropy, founding in 2009 with Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Lisa Tenner. In 2008 Mike received a Patriot Award from Paralyzed Veterans of America for his work in supporting veterans’ causes.

In addition to his many columns for Card Player magazine and other industry publications, Mike authored two books: Shuffle Up and Deal (HarperCollins, 2005), and Life’s a Gamble (D&B Publishing, 2016), a colorful memoir about the personalities and vicissitudes of the gambling life. In the course of his 50-year career as a poker player, Mike met and befriended most of the biggest names in the business, many of whom are featured in the autobiography. Mike’s personal values, loyalty and hard work made him a widely beloved and respected figure in the poker world.

Mike was deeply devoted to his family. He is survived by his son, Ty Michael Sexton, and Ty’s mother, Karen Sexton, as well as his siblings Loni Wieland Minich, Jeff Sexton, Stephanie Sexton, Rodney Sexton, and Lance Sexton. Mike’s older brother, Tom Sexton, died in 2013. In addition to his joy in being a father to Ty, Mike was an incredible uncle to his ten nieces and nephews. His efforts to nurture his family relationships were as extraordinary as his poker achievements.