Interview With Mike Sexton

1 year ago
Interview With Mike Sexton
27 Jun

Mike Sexton is one of the most recognisable men in poker – legendary player, commentator, promoter and in many ways the ultimate ambassador for the game.

PokerTube caught up with the partypoker chairman and Hall of Famer recently to find out his WSOP plans, what the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Vegas (starting tomorrow at the Aria) has in store, and to pick his brains on all matters poker

Q: Mike, what are your plans for the 50th WSOP?

I'll be gone for nearly two weeks of the WSOP this year so I won't play as many events as normal (which is about 15-20).  I'll also miss 'x' number of days June 28-July 2 to play in the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Vegas at Aria

This is the first time the MILLIONS tour has come to America and players are excited and anxious about warming up with this tournament just prior to the main event of the WSOP - and that includes me!  [You can check out Mike’s latest blog on Vegas here]

Q: Picking a question from the WSOP awards ceremony list – which hand is the most memorable in WSOP history in your opinion?

The most memorable hand to me from the WSOP was an AMAZING hand at the final table of the 1990 WSOP Main Event.

 It was Hans 'Tuna' Lund vs Monsour Matloubi.  (It's the most memorable to me as I had bet my case $2k on Tuna to win at 18-1 after Day 1.) Tuna had the chip lead, raised on the button & Monsour 3 bet. Tuna called a saw a flop of 9-4-2. Monsour bet, Tuna raised, and Monsour then went all-in. 

After tanking a while, Tuna called and turned up an A-9.  Monsour tabled two tens.  On the turn, an Ace came off!  YES! If Tuna could dodge a ten on the river, he would be the new world champion - and I'd have a $38k bankroll!  And then.......Boom!  A ten popped up on the river to finish what to me was the most exciting/dramatic hand in WSOP history

Monsour Matloubi became the first European to win the Main Event of the WSOP (and I staggered home broke muttering "A fucking ten on the river!" over and over.)  

Q: You named Chip Reese as GOAT – who among the modern stars comes closest to his all-round skills?

He's not necessarily modern, but I think most, including me, would say Phil Ivey.

Q: Where would you rank yourself in a list of ‘great players’? (Tough question!)

I wouldn't rank myself anywhere near the top of the NLH players out there today. I feel I'm as good as anybody in the Hi/Lo split games, but honestly, the top young guns in NLH outdo me in aggressiveness and "taking pots away" from their opponents.  I'm content with being decent/respected in NLH and a 'tough out'.

Q: What did coming back to partypoker mean to you after all those years?

Well, to tell you the truth, I never left partypoker.  Even after partypoker left the US market due to passage of the UIGEA in October 2006, I stayed on as an ambassador/consultant.  

partypoker has always been extremely special to me as I was there when it was created and was thrilled to play a role in helping it grow to #1.  I was thrilled when partypoker (i.e., Rob Yong and Tom Waters) wanted to hire me full time as Chairman two years ago.  It was simply an opportunity I didn't want to pass up. 

As much as I hated leaving the WPT, who I was also with from their beginning and for 15 terrific years, I loved the direction partypoker was going and the potential it had with the leadership/dedication of Rob and Tom.  I couldn't be happier with the decision I made.  It's official:  I'm a partypoker lifer.  

Q: MILLIONS Live North America – how happy are you with how it went, and why?

We're always happy when we have an event at Playground Poker as "they do poker right".  Considering the timing of MILLIONS North America (right before the WSOP), I think it was pretty impressive that we met all the guarantees.  

Q: What do you think the three biggest/best recent changes/developments have been since you took over as Chairman?

1) To see the partypoker LIVE tour literally become the #1 Tour in poker in just a couple short years is remarkable.  

2) To see the enthusiasm, player support, and loyalty for partypoker once again as they recognize how player friendly and "willing to change" party has become and,

3) to see the efforts made to upgrade software, eliminate HUDS and bots, and continually work to enhance FAIR PLAY as much as possible, I suppose are the three things I'm most proud of.  

Q: What does your ‘typical’ partypoker day look like?

When I travel to MILLIONS events, my days are quite different than when I'm home between events.

At home, I primarily check mails daily, do a fair amount of texting, some days write articles and do interviews, monitor Twitter, write blogs, etc. 

As we just got licensed in Nevada (and will do so in other states as they regulate online gaming), I'm looking forward to working harder as we implement our online gaming platform in the U.S. market on a wider scale.  Exciting times are ahead for us in the United States.   

Q: Your remit taking on the Chairman’s role was quite wide – are there any areas you feel you haven’t quite addressed yet?

You always feel you want/can do more. Issues are always being addressed but it just seems like some of them take a longer amount of time to address/solve than others. 

For example, we're always trying to think of ways to show appreciation for our VIP's.  We recognize they are the backbone of the company and we want to show them how much we appreciate their support and loyalty.  "What else can we do for them" is always a priority

And with the implementation of our #FAIRPLAY initiative, we are working hard to attain player approval/support/loyalty.  If you haven't yet seen Rob Yong's blog post on #FAIRPLAY, check it out here. He explains the reasons behind what we're doing.  

Q: What motivates you to keep going?

My Dad always said to me, "Why would you retire if you enjoy what you're doing?" I think that's so true.  I've been blessed my whole career that I love what I'm doing, first as a player for 25 years, and then more or less transitioning to the business side of poker the past 20 years.  #blessed

Q: I’ve been asking all your PP pros and ambassadors ‘What would you do if made ‘boss for the day’…which of them do you think replied ‘Hold the biggest staff party on history’? 

Ludo  :) [Close but no cigar Mike!]

Q: Do you advise your PP pros to avoid the poker social media bickering/squabbles? Do any of them come to you for advice?

The PP pro's don't really come to me for advice very often, but if they did, "Yes", I would tell them to avoid social media bickering/squabbles. They must realize they represent a huge company and anything they say/do could possibly reflect negatively on the company, so 'think' before you speak/act.   

Q: Innovation is a big thing in partypoker – who actually comes up with the big ideas/new tournaments/team plans/etc?

It's truly a team effort.  We love ideas from everyone - executives, office staff, partypoker LIVE staff, pros, ambassadors, and especially our players.  If you have an idea that you feel will make us better, please let us know about it!

Q: Which of partypoker’s big online MTT series’ do you think players most look forward to?

Well, there are several series everyone seems to love, but most of the players I talk to on the MILLIONS tour are pretty much unanimous, "the $20m GTD MILLIONS Online in December".  

Q: What has your family thought about your life and career in poker? Do they also have an interest in the game itself?

I pretty much try to separate my business/poker life from my family life.  They certainly understand what I do and appreciate my career and support me, but I've yet to spend time with my ten year old teaching him how to play or even talk to him much about poker. 

After college, I will support whatever career endeavor he chooses, but honestly, I would much prefer a career for him with a paycheck and not that of a poker player.  

Q: How much money (or what else) would you have to be offered to walk away from poker entirely?

Poker has always been a huge part of my life since I've been 13 years old.  It's hard to imagine life without poker, but I will listen to offers  :)

Q: Can you envisage a day that partypoker overtakes PokerStars again in player numbers? Is it even important?

Prior to the passage of UIGEA in October 2006 (when we left the U.S. market), partypoker was far and away the #1 site, "The Coca-Cola of online poker" as analysts called us

It's great to have a dream of becoming the #1 online poker site again (and we all do), but truthfully, if we can just continue to grow and sustain/maintain a successful business while providing a wonderful product that people enjoy, I think we could be proud/grateful/satisfied with that. 

So, as you can see, Mike Sexton is happy to discuss everything and anything poker-related – an interviewer’s dream!

With much more to come over the summer from the partypoker crew he heads, keep up with all the latest LIVE and online happenings here.

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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