By: Paul Hewson
Something awesome happened Thursday night at the Playground Poker Club: Mike Sexton won the WPT Montreal main event. Sexton outlasted a field of 648 no-limit Hold'em players, buying in for $3,850 and taking home $425,980 – all in Canadian funds, of course – plus the championship belt and all the extra goodies that came with the title.
But it's not the money that makes this result so meaningful. Sexton is one of the living legends of poker at age 69; he's been the voice of the World Poker Tour since Season One in 2003, and he was enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009. Yet somehow, this win at the Playground was Sexton's first on the WPT. That title belt might mean more to Sexton than his World Series of Poker bracelet from 1989, when he won the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Split event.
Life's A Gamble
I had the good fortune of watching the heads-up portion of the tournament on Twitch. Sexton was matched up with Benny Chen, a Prince Edward Island native who won the “Millionaire Maker” at the 2013 WSOP. Chen started with a slim chip advantage, 10.75 million to Sexton's 8.7 million, and he built his lead several times from there, only to see Sexton hang on and survive.
Sexton managed to take the chip lead at one point, and then, on Hand No. 158 of their heads-up battle, Sexton was dealt pocket Queens. Chen, first to act, was dealt King-Jack offsuit. Both players were low on big blinds at this point, so Chen shoved, Sexton called, and the board ran out with Queen-Nine-Four on the flop, an Ace on the turn, and a Deuce on the river. Chen would have to settle for second place and $286,110 for his efforts.
As for Sexton, he was visibly moved after winning his first WPT title. It all happened in front of his people, including long-time commentary partner Vince Van Patten, as well as Tony Dunst and the rest of the crew. It was touching, and it means even more knowing that half of Sexton's tournament winnings are earmarked for charity – as they reportedly have been for the past 10 years. In the words of the master himself, may all your cards be live.