Mike Sexton, a Hall of Fame poker player who brought the game to legions of fans through television as the announcer of the World Poker Tour, died Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 72.
Sexton, who was inducted in the World Series of Poker’s Poker Hall of Fame in 2009, cashed 73 times in the tournament and won more than $2.9 million and one bracelet. He earned more than $6.7 million in tournaments according to the Hendon Mob Poker Database.
“Mike Sexton passed away peacefully at home earlier today surrounded by family members,” longtime first and fellow Poker Hall of Fame member Linda Johnson wrote on Twitter Sunday. Johnson was authorized to speak by the family and had written on Twitter last week that Sexton was being treated by in-home hospice care.
“He appreciated all the wonderful comments and farewells from poker players all over the world. Service details are forthcoming. For now, please keep his family in your thoughts as they grieve,” Johnson wrote.
Sexton became an ambassador for the game through the World Poker Tour broadcasts. The game grew in popularity following Chris Moneymaker’s unprecedented World Series of Poker win in 2003. He appeared on the World Poker Tour broadcasts until 2017.
“There have been other events that played a part in poker’s explosion, but the WPT was the first to put poker on television and give it tremendous exposure,” Sexton told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a 2011 interview.
“Poker is reality television at its finest,” Sexton said. “It’s real people, putting up real money and playing for millions of dollars.”
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Much of the poker community took to Twitter to express their condolences.
“I learned Mike Sexton, Poker Hall of Fame inductee, WSOP gold bracelet winner, Party Poker CEO, television broadcaster, ambassador, philanthropist, beloved friend to thousands, died this evening,” longtime poker writer and tournament spokesman Nolan Dalla wrote. “Rarely am I at a loss for words. But this is a time.”
Four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winning player Mike Matusow wrote, “I truly am gutted to lose my friend and poker’s best ambassador. Without Mike’s inspiring words to me during my journey back from my devastating injury I’m not sure if I could of made it back! You will be missed by me and the entire poker community!”
Writing on the USPoker.com blog, 15-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Hellmuth said he and Sexton had been friends and poker competitors for 33 years.
“Mike has profoundly influenced the poker world,” Hellmuth wrote. “Poker would not be as big without Mike Sexton. The poker players would not have as much money without Mike Sexton.
“And poker would not be as well regarded as it currently is without Mike Sexton. The poker world owes Mike a huge debt of gratitude. Mike has been the consummate gentleman and has championed poker better than anyone else.”
Sexton left the broadcast booth for the World Poker Tour Montreal Main Event, beating a field of 648 entries and winning more than $317,000. At the World Series of Poker’s Big One for One Drop event in 2012, Sexton finished in 9th place, earning more than $1.1 million.
Along with Johnson and fellow poker players Jan Fisher and Lisa Tenner, Sexton helped create PokerGives.org, a nonprofit organization that offers poker players a way to give to charity.