Mike Sexton Makes the Call, Accepts PartyPoker Chairman Role

Updated: May 22nd, 2017 by Dev Ops

Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton, long the most prominent public face of venerable online poker brand PartyPoker, will be moving into an expanded role as chairman of the PartyPoker brand.  The move was announced today via a posting on PartyPoker’s official blog, with no exact date announced but assumed to be effectively immediately.

As part of his officially expanded role with Party, Sexton will be stepping away from another prominent poker role, that of color commentator on the long-running World Poker Tour.  Sexton and Vince Van Patten co-anchored the broadcasts through each of the WPT’s 17 seasons to date.  A relatively recent addition to the WPT television crew, professional player and segment announcer Tony Dunst, has already been confirmed to be moving into Sexton’s co-announcer role alongside Van Patten.

For Sexton, the game’s “Ambassador of Poker,” the move to a chairman role at PartyPoker represents a continuation of perhaps the longest relationship between a pro player and a site in online poker history.  Sexton was recruited by the original PartyGaming back in 2001 not only to be the face of a new site, PartyPoker, that would launch later that same year, but also to be hands on with assisting the site’s programmers and developments in making sure the site offered the games that true poker fanatics wanted to play.  Sexton became a minority owner in the project as well, and if poker-world chatter can be believed, the opportunity with Party came at a time when Sexton’s own poker career was at its lowest ebb; a deeply-in-debt Sexton went from the skids to one of the poker world’s wealthiest “player” personalities in just a few short years.

PartyPoker’s quick rise to the top was the reason.  The site was a smashing success, and Party soon dominated the market, truly being the “World’s Largest Poker Site” until the United States’ passage of its UIGEA law forced Party out of the States in late 2006.

Sexton referenced that era, obliquely, as part of his promise to try to return Party to the top of the online-poker mountain.  Sexton also threw a little bit of mild shade at an unnamed PokerStars, the firm that most tok advantage of Party’s exodus from the US to become a dominant global force.

Said Sexton, “This is an emotional time for me because I have decided to leave the World Poker Tour to focus on this new role. I was at partypoker from the start, before there was even a name or a single virtual card was dealt. I experienced the crazy times of the poker boom when we became the number one site in the world, I remember people sleeping on the office floor when we were all working 24-7 get the software launched and I remember the first partypoker Million on a cruise ship which overlaid $500K. It was devastating for me to see the decline of partypoker when we were forced to pull out of the US and then watch from the side lines as our competitors remained and benefited from our customer base. I am really looking forward to working with people that love the game like I do. We are not aiming for second place. We are all in. Shuffle up and deal!”

PartyPoker’s competitors, namely Stars and other sites, weren’t corporations based in the UK, as PartyGaming itself was, back in the day.  Party had no choice but to leave the Staes, due to a special extradition treaty between the US and UK that could have seen many Party execs rounded up and sent to the States in handcuffs, had the site not departed.  As it was, both PartyPoker and founding programming developer Anurag Dikshit paid huge settlements to the US’s Department of Justice over their roles in bringing Party’s services to the States.

Those services eventually included, for a short while, online blackjack and casino games/slots, offered under the PartyCasino brand.

There was also the matter of Party founder Ruth Parasol and her ex-husband, Russell DeLeon, remaining beyond the reach of US authorities.  Both Parasol and DeLeon were forced to relinquish their hefty shares of Party stock years back, even though its form was transformed through Party’s ill-fated merger with bwin, and then (after the pair had sold out), the sale of bwinparty to its current owner, GVC Holdings.

But those dark days are largely past, and GVC has begun to right the PartyPoker ship.  Can Sexton’s increased input help return the brand to its former glory?  It’ll be a long-term fight, but the rand enjoys plenty of name recognition.  Perhaps there’s another golden era ahead for PartyPoker, if its most famous public face has anything to say about the matter.

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