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Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton Interview: 'Poker is not going anywhere, it will continue to grow!'

In November 2014, @World Poker Tour host and spokesman @Mike Sexton talked to Nicolas Levi about the present and future of the poker industry and about the role of professional poker players and projects such as RankingHero.

Photo: World Poker Tour


After a huge poker boom, the industry is now contracting, and some are seriously worried as to its future. Professional poker is suffering, while amateur poker seems as strong as ever. Could poker as we know it be about to die? Is the industry in for a major change?

No, I don’t think so, I don’t think it’s going anywhere, it will continue to grow. In fact, the WPT has been expanding globally. Certainly there are some bumps in the road, particularly in online poker, which has trouble getting legalized in certain countries or is taken out of certain countries. Other than that, it’s going to be fine. Though it’s tougher to make it as a pro because there are so many great players out there; there are many, many more top-notch players than there used to be.

Affordable buy-in tournaments are on the rise everywhere. Same for high rollers. Meanwhile the 5/10k range is in trouble, despite re-entries and other format innovations. Is the trend of buy-in "gap" going to continue?

Well, we’ve seen it in the WPT. The first two years, our cheapest buy-in was $10,000. But now we recognize that many players can’t afford to play a 10,000 dollar buy-in tournament. And most of our events are now $3500 buy-in events, some $5,000, and we now have two $10,000 events a year. I think that’s a very smart move because it allows more players to play; you can run more satellites, people can afford to play and they all want to play in the big branded WPT events, with the big prize money. So it’s the way to go - to lessen the buy-ins and give more people the opportunity to play.

We believe that the main drive for the vast majority of poker players is social prestige. This can be winning a bracelet or unlocking an online achievement. Is money the main purpose when you play poker? Has it always been so?

When you’re a poker player, I think number one is winning a bracelet, winning a WPT title.

I think that those things are actually - believe it or not - more important than money if you’ve never done it before. It gives you credibility in the industry; it gives you prestige as a player, to your friends and family it shows you’ve now made it as a pro player, so I do think that it plays a big role in upcoming players’ points of view, rather than just the money. Now, some old-school guys who’ve been around for a while may say it’s all about the money, but in truth, you want to be recognized as a successful player and to do that you have to win big time tournaments.

10-20 years from now, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, but you can always say you were a World Poker Tour champion, you’re a bracelet winner in the WSOP, and they can never take that away from you.

Poker is traditionally a gambling game, where an amateur could beat any pro on a given day. The Moneymaker effect is now fading. With the focus on the competitive aspect of poker, amateurs feel inadequate and quit. Today the game feels elitist and less fun. What can the members of the industry do to make poker more enjoyable, and create a sustainable ecosystem?

Poker is such a great game because it has the right combination of luck and skill. Certainly as poker players we understand that in the long run the best players are going to win the money. But the beauty of poker is, any given day, any given tournament, anybody can win. 

I know that in the WPT, when we get 2 or 3 amateurs at the final table as well as the top-notch pros, it makes for the best shows because you have the guy with a job who may have won a satellite and has had success in getting to the final table. This comes to show that everybody can do it. And I don’t care if you’re a top-notch pro, you’ve got to have luck in a certain tournament to get to the final table and to win the tournament.

So luck is a factor and does play a role but I think that’s great for the game. The pros who get very angry when amateurs win tournaments because they want the skilled pros to win them, they’re missing the point; they don’t see that it’s good for the game when amateurs win.

Some actors think poker pros are vital to the game economy, for example to create games and inspire amateurs. Others criticize their attitude and impact on liquidity. What positive role could/should professionals play in supporting the industry? Are they doing it?

There is a role that professionals have to play and that is to welcome the amateurs in the game.

Whether it’s a cash game or a tournament, you’ve got to be polite to the people that are actually putting bread on your table, so to speak.

Most amateurs are not winning players, as we know, and it doesn’t mean they can’t be but most aren’t and it is the pros who are winning their money. So certainly they have to be treated kindly, with respect, and appreciation. But the pros that criticize amateurs or lambast them for the way they play a particular hand - nothing hurts me more than that because I think it’s the worst attitude and the worst thing pros can do.

We’ve been talking about the importance of social recognition and on RankingHero we try to give people that, to build a community so they can get something out of poker besides the competitive part. Do you think social media and initiatives such as RankingHero have a role to play in the retention of the players?

I think they do and I think that many amateur players go to casinos every day for the social aspect of the game - to get to interact with people, to get out of the house...Many people need the social interaction in poker.

To wrap up, do you have a wish for the industry?

My wish for the industry is for it to continue to grow. And for the United States I wish we could regulate online poker and have it nationwide again like it used to be. That applies to all countries, as a matter of fact. I think that would help the game grow obviously. It’s what caused the explosion about 10 years ago and certainly I’d like to see that happen again.

And when that happens, when you can qualify players online for 50 dollars in a WPT event, like you’d be able to do if we had online poker again, you could literally put thousands in every poker tournament in a live setting, It’s the way to create great prize pools and more opportunities for people to play and certainly it would be better for the industry.

Sounds like a great wish, thank you very much, Mike!

Read on:

Mike Sexton Bio and Poker Profile

Full audio interview:


#RKHinterview #WeeklyHero 

Hello :

quand il dit :

"Notre rôle, en tant que pros, est d'accueillir les amateurs dans notre monde" !


Ok, cela part d'un bon "sentiment" (lol)... Mais ce qu'il oublie de dire, c'est qu'il faut accueillir les "riches" amateurs, car tant que les buy in internationaux ne baisseront pas, ils seront toujours 200 à se regarder en chiens de faience et à se partager, chacun son tour, bracelets et récompenses !

C'est un monde très fermé. Je ne parle pas des semi-pros sponsorisés par hasard quelques années, style Ktorza, Rebecca Gérin and co... Ces joueurs n'ont aucun talent, par rapport à des centaines d'amateurs français. Je parle des vrais pros, ceux qui naviguent entre + ou + 10 M $ sans ciller. Personne ne pénètre leur monde. Ils ne voient le monde amateur que comme un réservoir d'alevins... Les quelques joueurs qui parviennent à se faire payer ou offrir un BY à 50 ou 100k$ ne sont vus que comme des touristes... Seul Guy LL fait exception. Seul Davidi fera exception.

C'est comme le golf il y a 30 ans. Ou le tennis il y a 40 ans. On a voulu les démocratiser...les achats de parts dans les clubs n'ont pas baissé. On leur a construit des golfs et tennis populaires, pas question de fréquenter le gratin...

Donc, quand Mike Sexton s'exprime, ce qu'il dit va sans doute dans le sens des questions posées par @Nicolas Levi  ou @Pedro Canali , mais soyez honnêtes les gars : si vous-mêmes êtes convaincu des réponses et "ambitions" de Mike S.... navré, mais vous êtes de grands rêveurs. C'est mon avis.


je temmerde ! la prochaine fois vient me le dire en face au lieu de deballer ta merde dans un article  qui n'a aucun rapport

je reconnais là le langage de la marseillaise de longue date !

Moi je ne t'emmerde pas. Mais appelons un chat un chat.

effectivement appelons un chat un chat je ne suis pas plus nulle au poker que tu ne l'est ds le journalisme alors avant d'emettre des jugements balaie devant ta porte !

Bon je suis désolé. Tu es effectivement très bonne, bien meilleure que moi en tous cas ! Et j'ai dû parler de toi deux fois en 5 ans ! Je ne le ferai plus, tu tombes dans l'oubli de toutes manières. Tu as raison de t'être retirée (ou d'avoir été retirée) de ce monde.

En tous cas, ton aréopage de couguars veille au grain !! Restez comme vous êtes ! Bonne nuit.

completement à cote de la plaque lollll tu parle justement des gens qui te permettent d'exister dans ta petite vie de vieux con aigri, j espere te croiser bientot

Oui ma belle... il n' y a que les montagnes etc...

Tu représentes bien la France Charlie, va ! Tu soutiens une liberté d'expression jusqueboutiste, mais une toute petite vanne sur ton statut, moi qui ne fais que de l'humourialisme sur tout le monde, tu es prête à en venir aux mains ? Je te plains !

Je clos le débat. Je te demande de retirer ces mots grossiers envers moi. Ou à un responsable de RKH de le faire. @Adrien Bacchi  faute de quoi, si les dérapages verbaux sont ici aussi nuls que sur FB, je me retirerai dès demain !

Cet élan de solidarité pour la liberté d'expression n'aura duré chez toi, Rébecca, que quelques semaines, non ?

ben degage c'est une perte pour personne de toute et le mot couguar je vais te le faire ravaler

J'ai parlé de ton aréopage, pas de toi ma belle ! (M'enfin !)