The 38th person elected into the Poker Hall of Fame is none other than PartyPoker Ambassador and Poker News Daily Guest Columnist Mike Sexton. He will be enshrined as part of ceremonies to be held on November 7th.
2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the Poker Hall of Fame. This year, nine finalists were up for nomination to the Hall, with a panel of 15 living Hall of Fame members and 15 media representatives (including this author) determining the fate of the 2009 class. Sexton was the only one that I felt was a shoe-in for election, as 75% of the 30-member vote was required in order to capture one of poker’s most prestigious accolades. A press release distributed by World Series of Poker (WSOP) officials properly labeled Sexton “a true gentleman who has constantly enhanced the game of poker both with his play at the tables and his promotion of the game off of it.”
Ballots were due on October 2nd, with each person able to vote for up to three candidates for the 2009 class. This author selected Sexton, Tom McEvoy, and Dan Harrington, the three elder statesmen on the 2009 ballot. Other nominees included November Nine member Phil Ivey, “The Robin Hood of Poker” Barry Greenstein, “PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge” lead man Daniel Negreanu, Men “The Master” Nguyen, WSOP Main Event and HORSE Championship winner Scotty Nguyen, and eight-time bracelet holder Erik Seidel.
The list of Poker Hall of Fame members reads like a roll call of poker legends: Doyle Brunson (inducted in 1988), Johnny Chan (2002), Phil Hellmuth (2007), Stu Ungar (2001), Chip Reese (1991), and Barbara Enright (2007), just to name a few. Now, Sexton’s name will be added to this illustrious list. In a press release distributed by PartyPoker, Sexton commented, “I am deeply honored to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame and it is particularly special because for the first time it was a process that involved the fans, the media, and the living members of the Hall of Fame. To me, the most meaningful aspect of this process was the acceptance by the living Hall of Famers, who welcomed me into their exclusive club.”
One of Sexton’s most impressive feats was taking down the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions, which saw the new Poker Hall of Fame member best a final table that included Daniel Negreanu, Mike Matusow, Andy Black, and Chris Ferguson. Sexton earned $1 million for the victory and, according to WSOP officials, donated half of his prize money to charity. His lone WSOP bracelet came in 1989, when the World Poker Tour (WPT) host outlasted a field of 174 players to win a $1,500 buy-in Limit Seven Card Stud High-Low event. He has reached the final table in 20 of the 47 WSOP events he’s entered, a 43% success rate.
Sexton is the voice that many in the industry “grew up to” following the poker boom in 2003 and was instrumental in bringing the WPT to life. Sexton sat, and continues to sit, alongside Vince Van Patten on WPT broadcasts, popularizing the notion that Texas Hold’em takes “a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.” He represents one of the few constants in an industry constantly in flux and had the backing of a bevy of influential industry veterans in his push for the Poker Hall of Fame, including Howard Lederer, Annie Duke, Steve Lipscomb, Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, Padraig Parkinson, Matt Savage, Roland de Wolfe, and an army of public relations staffers at PartyPoker.
To me, one of the most defining acts for Sexton was when he took on a lead role to campaign on behalf of players shut out of the 2009 WSOP Main Event after Day 1D had reached capacity. Sexton joined forces with “Captain” Tom Franklin to present WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack options to accommodate players. Sexton, curiously, had little to gain from taking an active role in the situation, as he had already played on Day 1A and survived with an average chip stack. The situation manifested Sexton’s stature within the industry and is one of the many reasons we will look forward to welcoming him into the Poker Hall of Fame in November.