Mike Sexton Wins WPT Montreal, Probably Didn’t Provide Final Table Television Commentary
Since the World Poker Tour (WPT) debuted in 2002, Mike Sexton – along with broadcast partner Vince Van Patten – has been behind the mic at the WPT’s televised final tables. Though others became more famous for their poker playing through the poker boom that began in earnest the following year, Mike Sexton was the face of poker for many fans. The ebullient poker cheerleader was beamed into millions of households via WPT telecasts and was the pitchman for partypoker poker (and still is); his “Ambassador of Poker” nickname has been more than apt.
But for the last decade and a half (or thereabouts), even with all his success both at the poker tables and behind the mic, a World Poker Tour title had always eluded Sexton. He actually wasn’t allowed to play for a number of years – conflict of interest and all – but even when he could, he couldn’t quite get all the way to the promised land. Until Friday. Finally, in Season XV of the World Poker Tour, Mike Sexton won one, grabbing the crown at WPT Montreal.
“What an absolutely incredible experience it is to become a WPT champion!” Sexton said after his victor, likely feeling a bit odd being on the other end of the post-game interview. “A World Poker Tour title has eluded me until now, but luckily this old guy had a bit left in the tank to make another run at one, and it feels great to have closed the deal.”
He had a bit left in the tank in more ways than one. Sexton went into the six-handed final table as the chip leader, but needed a heck of a comeback to nab the title. Here are what the chip stacks looked like to begin final table play:
Mike Sexton – 6.215 million
Ema Zajmovic – 5.385 million
Benny Chen – 2.48 million
Ilan Boujenah – 2.29 million
Jake Schwartz – 1.55 million
Nadir Lalji – 1.52 million
Jake Schwartz was the first to hit the rail, moving all-in for his final 695,000 on Hand 20 with J-9 offsuit and was called by Nadir Lalji, who had A-K. The flop was A-K-J and that was all for Schwartz, eliminated in sixth place.
The first surprise elimination was on Hand 51. Ema Zajmovic had doubled-up Benny Chen earlier and was languishing at the bottom of the chip counts. She went all-in over the top of a Sexton raise with K-Q, but Sexton held an ace and the community cards were all low, so Zajmovic was out in fifth place and the WPT had to wait for its first female winner.
On Hand 80 of the final table, Benny Chen limped from the small blind and Ilan Boujenah shoved from the big blind for 1.325 million with pocket sixes. Unfortunately for him, Chen had aces. Boujenah had to settle for fourth place.
Sexton and Chen then proceeded to go back and forth for the chip lead until Sexton finally eliminated Lalji in third place on Hand 106. That set up the heads-up match with Chen in the lead, 10.575 million chips to 8.875 million. Let’s hope they used the restroom before they got down to business, as they waged a three-and-a-half hour, nearly 160-hand heads-up battle.
Chen completely dominated at the outset. Sexton did pull virtually even after the first few hands, but Chen took a seven-million chip pot on Hand 133 and took off. By Hand 149, it looked like the whole thing would be academic for Chen, as he had a seemingly insurmountable 17.775 million to 1.675 million chip lead. Sexton hung on, though, doubling up a few hands later to get his stack up to 4.2 million. Still a massive chip gap remained, but at least he had a tiny bit of breathing room with a big blind at 250,000 chips.
After that, Chen seemingly didn’t want to risk doubling up Sexton again, so Sexton was able to stay afloat, staying between about 3 million and 8 million chips for more than 100 hands. He climbed up to 8.975 million by Hand 261 and on the next hand, rivered a jack-high straight to finally, somehow, take the chip lead.
Though he hadn’t won yet, perhaps that hand, the one in which Sexton’s rise from the depths was completed, just mentally finished off Chen, as two hands later, it was all over. With the big blind at 600,000 and a million chips in the pot to start each hand, Benny Chen moved all-in pre-flop with K-J on Hand 264 of the final table. Sexton woke up with pocket queens and called. The Poker Hall of Famer flopped a set and though Chen flopped a gut-shot draw, he was unable to get there and Mike Sexton finally had his long-awaited World Poker Tour title.
“I’ve come close two times before, reaching the final table at Bay 101 in 2011 and in Venice in 2013, so to get another shot and have it work out in my favor, it feels unimaginable, but here I am,” Sexton said afterward. “I’m honored to join the WPT Champions Club alongside all of the great WPT champions we’ve crowned, and I am thrilled to get the opportunity to compete in the WPT Tournament of Champions at the end of the season.”