Doyle Brunson kicked off the Poker Hall of Fame induction ceremony dinner at the Brasilia Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. The festivities honoring Mike Sexton occurred during the dinner break of the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event final table at 7:00pm PT.
The guest list read like a “who’s who” of the poker community, including Howard Lederer, Phil Hellmuth, Jack Binion, Ali Nejad, David Singer, and Dewey Tomko. Also in the house was World Poker Tour (WPT) Co-Host Vince Van Patten, who told Poker News Daily, “I couldn’t miss this. Mike is such a great champion and a great friend of mine. What we share together on the WPT is one of the most important parts of my life. So many laughs and Mike is such a great guy. He is the real thing.”
The WPT is currently filming its eighth season. In fact, The Foxwoods World Poker Finals, the November WPT stop, is currently playing out at the Connecticut casino. On Van Patten and Sexton’s chemistry after eight seasons, the Poker Hall of Fame nominee’s co-host told us, “We could go for 25 years. We don’t get bored with it, we love it, and we’re not faking it. We’d probably do it for no money. We love it that much and we enjoy each other’s company. He’s one of a kind, a great family man, and the real thing in poker.”
Those on stage were Brunson, Jack Binion, Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2009 candidate Tom McEvoy, and T.J. Cloutier. The latter told the assembled crowd of about 175, “We both went broke plenty of times… This man would bet on anything… Mike always thought he was the best split pot player of them all. He could always play those eight or better games.” In fact, Sexton’s lone WSOP bracelet came in 1989 in a Seven Card Stud High-Low Split tournament.
McEvoy then took to the podium and admitted, “This man holds a grudge,” referencing a story from the first WSOP Pot Limit tournament ever held. Binion, a Poker Hall of Fame member who helped popularize the WSOP, commented, “Mike was the one who got PartyPoker started, the one who got the software started. He’s the one who really made poker.” Sexton currently serves as the ambassador for PartyPoker, whose parent company, Party Gaming, recently completed the purchase of the WPT for $12.3 million plus a percent of future gaming revenues.
WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack formally presented Sexton’s trophy and his speech was preceded by an emotional speech from Tom Sexton. The new Poker Hall of Fame member’s brother stated, “Mike has the gift of vision, where he can see things that others can’t in the poker world.” Sexton’s brother also referenced the WPT host testifying in a poker court case in South Carolina and serving as the spokesperson for approximately 500 players shut out of Day 1D of the 2009 WSOP Main Event when the contest reached capacity.
One of Tom Sexton’s most memorable quotes came when referencing the “Daddy Hall of Fame,” which he revealed, “If there were a Daddy Hall of Fame, Mike would be in it.” Young Ty Sexton, whose nursery has overrun the Sexton home’s dance floor, is just 15 months; Mike is 62 years-old.
Sexton received a 30 second standing ovation upon being introduced and recognized each of the other eight candidates for the Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2009: Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, McEvoy, Dan Harrington, Scotty Nguyen, Men “The Master” Nguyen, and Barry Greenstein. Ivey, who was one of seven players remaining in the WSOP Main Event at the time, even stopped by, flanked at the door to the Brasilia Room by Layne Flack, Lacey Jones, and Nejad.
Sexton took the time to recognize a bevy of individuals, including Linda Johnson, Steve Lipscomb, and Brunson. He also recalled a phone call received over Christmas in 2000 from Ruth Parisol, co-founder of Party Gaming, who asked him to fly to India to launch the then-nascent online poker site. After eight months, PartyPoker was born, quickly challenging Paradise Poker for tops in the industry.
JAQK Cellars presented the two-hour affair, which wrapped up at 9:00pm PT. The living Hall of Fame members then took to the stage of the Penn and Teller Theater to resume play in the WSOP Main Event final table, with Sexton issuing the evening session’s “Shuffle Up and Deal” command.