Poker players and movie stars mourn Mike Sexton's passing

Jon Pill
Posted on: September 12, 2020 09:40 PDT

Mike Sexton’s passing has been one of the few things that can bridge all divides in the poker world. Raise or fold. Trump or Biden. Polk or Negreanu. Everyone was hit hard by the news.

Few people in poker had as high a profile as Sexton. And no one else with that level of exposure was as universally liked.

As a player, he was talented, classy, and a paid-up member of the old guard. As a commentator he was both expert and accessible.

He was born in 1947, served in the 82nd Airborne in 1970 when there was still a real chance of being sent off to die in Vietnam. When he left the service he tried the life of a traveling salesman but found the life of an itinerant gambler paid better. In 1977, he went pro.

He spoke at Stu Ungar’s funeral, was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009, and hosted the WPT for 15 years. In that last capacity, he became one of the faces of poker. And one of the first people to bring the game to a popular audience.

He died on the 7th of September this year from prostate cancer.

Linda Johnson had the unhappy task of letting us know what had happened. She tweeted: “Mike Sexton passed away peacefully at home earlier today surrounded by family members. He appreciated all the wonderful comments and farewells from poker players all over the world.”

In memoriam

With his passing, there has been an outpouring of memorials for him. Many of them hedged in by the character count of Twitter.

Much of it was professional kudos. For example, Todd Brunson tweeted that Mike was “the epitome of what and how a player should conduct himself both at and away from the poker table.”

From the right...

Hollywood pitched in. The fury of James Wood’s Twitter account took a breather for some measured reflection on Mike’s legacy. “He was one of the most gentle and warm-hearted people I ever met’” Woods wrote. “I speak for every poker player I know when I say he will be missed.”

Conspiracy theorist – and sometimes poker player – Mike Matusow also give himself a few minutes of sanity to pay tribute to Sexton. “Without Mikes 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 entire poker community!”

...and from the Left

With the WSOP over, Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu will soon be pawing the earth and baring their teeth. But both of these men agree on the subject of Mike.

Negreanu called him a “remarkable human being” while Polk described him as “one of the most genuinely good people I ever met.”

Phil Ivey, has Tweeted twice in the last three weeks. Once on Chadwick Boseman’s death. The other time on Sexton’s.

“A gutting loss. Mike Sexton was a giant for the game. Very few people did more for the game of poker than he did. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”

One of the longer responses to Sexton’s death was Phil Hellmuth’s. He put aside his usual preening to give us a look at his relationship with Sexton.

In an op-ed for USPoker, he wrote: “In 33 years [...] I have never seen Mike Sexton go off the rails. No poker brat moments – always class, always pleasant, and nice to everyone. [...] And what a warm presence – always smiling and always laughing. Unbounded enthusiasm!”

RIP Mike. And wherever you are, may all your cards be live and all your pots be monsters.

A few additional voices in the chorus:

Jason Koon wrote: "Rest in peace, Mike Sexton. Without your influence and inspiration, many of us would have never made the plunge to playing poker for a living."

Phil Galfond added: "What makes him the ultimate role model for me isn’t how much he accomplished & did for poker, but that he did it all while being positive and kind."

Jeff Platt added: "If you worked in poker in any capacity, you looked up to Mike Sexton."


Featured image from Flickr used under CC License.