Hall of Famer Mike Sexton might best be known for his unparalleled wit as the voice of the World Poker Tour. But at the core Sexton is a poker player. He’s proven his knack for playing cards for more than three decades, and this week he was inches away from claiming his second ever World Series of Poker bracelet — in the same event he won his first one 22 years ago.
Sexton weaved his way through a field of 604 players in the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo event to find himself heads-up against Chris Viox late Thursday evening. Sexton began heads-up play with a slight chip lead, but the man known as “PiMaster” fought back to claim a 3-1 advantage when the hard stop rule forced to two men to return Friday afternoon.
It took less than an hour for Viox to eliminate his distinguished opponent Friday. After grinding Sexton down to about 500,000 in chips (and 2.2 million in his stack), Viox found a little luck that had avoided him in two previous WSOP final tables. He and Sexton got all of their chips in on sixth street, Sexton holding the lead with a pair of eights and a low draw. But Viox made two pair on seventh street, and Sexton was unable to improve or make a low hand. He gracefully congratulated Viox for the victory and came to the realization of how close he came yet again.
“It’s very difficult,” Sexton said about his runner-up finish. “If I would have won the last pot, I would have had a million in chips … but you can’t overcome the cards sometimes. It wasn’t’ meant to be. I do want to say ‘Congratulations’ to Chris. I thought he played great.”
Viox collected $200,459 for the victory, his first ever at the WSOP. The 35-year-old investor and professional poker player had a pair of third-place finishes in previous WSOP events and said it was a huge relief to finally reach the winner’s circle. Making it even sweeter was that it came against a poker legend.
“Growing up, he busted his chops playing Stud games,” Viox said about Sexton. “So I knew going in, he was going to be a slight favorite. I ran pretty well. But I don’t think I made any serious mistakes, except one. I think the cards were the biggest difference.”
Sexton eclipsed the $1 million mark in career WSOP earnings with his $123,925 score on Friday. He now has more than $3 million in lifetime tournament earnings and is having his best year at the table in quite some time. Sexton earned $148,000 for his sixth-place finish at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star event in March, his first WPT final table since he began working with the tour in 2002.
For now, Sexton will have to continue to work hard for another shot at bracelet #2. But, as usual, he maintains a positive outlook going forward.
“You have to play your best and just accept what happens. I could have gone out when there were three tables left, or whenever. So, you have to step back and look at it and say, ‘I’m proud of the way I played.’ But when you get so close, you want to win. Anyway, I had a great run and I’m going to try again next time.”
Here’s a look at the final results from the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo event:
1. Chris Viox — $200,459
2. Mike Sexton — $123,925
3. Gerard Rechnitzer — $77,907
4. Hakon Lundberg — $55,917
5. Tyson Marks — $40,782
6. Corey Zeidman — $30,228
7. Sean Urban — $22,767
8. Hernan Salazar — $17,417