Poker News Daily: How did you become involved with the World Poker Tour originally?
Sexton: I knew [WPT Founder and CEO] Steve Lipscomb. He filmed the PartyPoker Million and the Tournament of Champions. He then founded the World Poker Tour. Because he heard my commentary, he selected me to be one of the original commentators on the show. You have to salute Steve Lipscomb. It was the World Poker Tour that increased poker’s popularity. Yes, there was online poker and Chris Moneymaker and ESPN. However, it was The Travel Channel putting poker on in prime time that caused the poker explosion.
PND: How has poker changed between 2000, when the boom was just starting, and today?
Sexton: It’s changed in terms of the public’s perception of poker. Prior to the WPT, people thought that poker was something that took place in the back room of a smoke-filled pool hall, for example. Now, you have multi-million dollar tournaments being filmed at the most lavish casinos in the world and then being put on television. That has brought a completely new dimension to poker. It’s brought in new fans. Poker is being recognized as a game of skill.
PND: What made the WPT so successful, especially when it originally aired on a network like The Travel Channel?
Sexton: I think the World Poker Tour is successful because of the WPT cameras that allow you to see the players’ hole cards. It’s reality TV at its finest. These are real people who have put up their own money and are really playing for millions of dollars. It’s the big money out there that has fueled the excitement and drama of the show. Literally, on the turn of a card, life-changing money is on the line for the players and the audience knows that. You don’t even have to be a poker player to enjoy the World Poker Tour. Everyone understands the “King of the Hill” format, when you play until there’s one person standing. Everyone understands that when someone says “All In,” if they lose that pot, they’re out.
PND: What hands have stood out to you during past WPT events and why were they memorable?
Sexton: There have been a number of hands that have been memorable. When Doyle Brunson was heads up and won his first title at the Legends of Poker, it was a big win, not just for him, but for poker in general. He’s the godfather of poker. Winning a WPT title at 72 years young is an amazing feat. He came back from a 4:1 chip deficit to do it. In the first hand of heads up play, he doubled up to start that comeback.
When Joe Hachem, a Main Event winner of the World Series of Poker, captured his WPT title, he might have had the most dramatic hand we’ve ever had in the history of the World Poker Tour. He was all in with two queens against A-Q. The flop came three blanks. On the turn, an ace came off. The crowd went crazy. On the river, he hit a one-outer, the case queen, to win the hand.
PND: How would the late Stu Ungar have fared today?
Sexton: I believe that if Stu Ungar were alive today, he would be far and away the top superstar in the poker world and the greatest star on the World Poker Tour. I believe that he had that kind of talent. If the WPT had been around when he was playing poker, he would have stayed off the drugs. He thrived on the public patting him on the back as being a great player and thrived in final table situations. He loved pressure. With $10,000 buy-in tournaments happening every week now and poker popping up on television all of the time, the world would have certainly seen what kind of talent that he really was. He was the master of his craft. The few players that were around in those days and saw how great he really was would agree with me.