Meet Our Instructors
“I appreciate and admire people that come to WPT Boot Camps, because they recognize that whatever the cost might be, it’s going to benefit them in the long run. Most people are too short-sighted to see that...The truth is, you’ll make more money by gaining some knowledge about the game first.”
- Host of the World Poker Tour
- World Series of Poker bracelet winner
- Member of the Poker Hall of Fame
Mike Sexton has been playing poker most of his life. He’s made twenty final tables at the World Series of Poker, has a WSOP bracelet and numerous other victories to his credit, including the prestigious WSOP Tournament of Champions, and has lifetime tournament earnings of over $4 million. He is the host of the World Poker Tour, he’s one of the best-known and most-respected figures in the game, and in 2009, he received poker's highest honor - being elected into the Poker Hall of Fame.
When Mike started playing poker, the game wasn’t exactly considered by most to be respectable. “Back when I was first coming up, guys that went into the poker world were guys that hung around pool halls, or pool hustlers, where there was a poker game in the back,” Mike says. “And then they sort of migrated over to poker.” Today, most young pros are highly educated and very bright. How did poker get from there to here? Mike cites two major changes that have transformed the face of poker: poker on TV and online poker. And he was in on the ground floor, playing a major role in both.
From Cash Game Player to Tournament Pro
Mike’s introduction to poker came at age 13, from one of the most successful players in history.
“My neighbor who lived behind me where I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, was two years older than me. He was a very skilled athlete and a very good card player. His name was Danny Robison,” Mike recalls. “I wanted to make some money, so he gave me his paper route. I got up at 4 o’clock every morning and delivered papers every day.”
“Back in those days on Friday nights, you’d go out and collect from your customers. And when I got back home, there would be Danny, sitting on the back porch, shuffling cards, waiting for me to come back with my newly-earned money. And he’d beat me out of it every week!”
“My mother would always say, ‘Don’t play with Danny, he’s too good for you.’ And then the next week I’d come in with my chin on my chest, and she’d look at me and say, ‘You know, if you’re so goddamn stupid to work all week and then play him cards and lose all your money, you don’t deserve to have any money!’"
“Well, it turned out that Danny Robison was soon rated by most as the best seven-card stud player in the world. He and Chip Reese (the youngest player ever inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame) partnered in Las Vegas, became the terrors of the town, and won millions! But who knew it at the time?”
From that point, Mike could chart his career by citing the changes in poker itself. In those early pool hall days, he was a cash game player. As tournaments caught on, he became a tournament pro. When online poker first got started, Mike was there, serving as a consultant from the beginning for Party Poker, the first of the Internet poker giants. And when the World Poker Tour got its start, Mike Sexton was there again.
“Believe me, before the WPT, poker had never been nothing on television,” Mike says. “Even the Main Event of the World Series of Poker would come on at 3:00 in the morning when you didn’t even know it. But the World Poker Tour put poker on TV weekly - and in prime-time! The WPT changed poker forever. I’m very proud to be a part of that.”
A Good Living and a Great Life
After a quarter-century as a professional poker player, what does Mike like best about being a poker pro?
“The freedom it provides you,” he answers promptly. “I don’t think anything compares to it. If you want to go to work today, you can; if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. If all of a sudden when you're playing, you feel like going to a movie, you just get up, leave your game, and go to the movie.”
Still, poker’s freedom comes with a price: the work needed to make the game pay off.
“I don’t care what stakes you play, if you’re a professional player, you’ve got to put your hours in,” Mike says. “In the long run, you have to work hard every day, just like everybody else does.”
“The beauty of the game is that on any given night, anybody can get lucky and catch cards and win. I know pro players who just cringe over that, but they should be thrilled that amateurs want to sit down and play with good players. Because in the long run, the bad players are going to lose and the good players are going to get the money!”
Having learned that lesson, Mike is eager to pass it on to others.
“Poker’s no different than anything else in life,” he says. “Those that work hard at it will become better and will become winning players. It’s just that simple.”
Helping Players Get Better
“What I like about Boot Camp is that people are coming there to learn more,” Mike says. “So they want to grasp knowledge, they want to become better players. And you always enjoy helping people who really want to become better players.”
“I appreciate and admire people that come to WPT Boot Camps, because they recognize that whatever the cost might be, it’s going to benefit them in the long run. Most people are too short-sighted to see that. They’d rather take that same money, go to a poker game, use it for a buy-in, and try to make money that way.“
“But the truth is, you’ll make more money by gaining some knowledge about the game first." Mike especially enjoys teaching at WPT Boot Camp because the students are so eager to learn.
“These people are really anxious to learn more,” he says. “They want to become a sponge at the seminar and just absorb all they can, and I appreciate that.” In return, Mike does everything he can to share his knowledge.
“I try to use a lot of examples,” he says. “I tell stories of things that really happened so that people realize that this is a real situation that came up.”
He also seeks to impress upon his students how complex and demanding poker really is.
“People that come to these Boot Camps start to recognize just how much is involved in becoming a successful poker player,” he says. “In terms of reading people. In terms of paying attention to every detail - the stack sizes in tournaments, when to attack, when to sit back, and knowing your opponents. Even if you’re not involved in a hand, you should be paying attention every single time to see who’s betting and why they’re betting and who the aggressive players are and who the tight players are—there are just so many factors.”
“Once you go to a WPT Boot Camp, you start to understand the vastness of how to become a really good player and how tough it is and how many things are entailed in it.”
The good news, Mike says, is that if you put some work into the game, it will pay off.
“Poker is a game that if you put the time in, and you put the effort into it, you can become a winning player. And here's the best part - to win money playing poker, you don’t have to be the best poker player in the world or anywhere near the best player in the world. In fact, you don't even have to be the best, or second best, or third best player at the table. You just have to be better than a few players at your table.”