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LA Weekly Interviews WPT's Mike Sexton

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 8th December 2005 9:01am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


Before the spring of 2003, watching poker on TV was a bit like watching flies fornicate. There was nothing to see. Not until L.A. entrepreneur Steve Lipscomb put the World Poker Tour series on the Travel Channel.

Lipscomb figured out that if you could show viewers the two “hole cards” that each player had face down on the table, you could build real drama. Add to that “hole cam” maybe 16 cameras, elaborate lighting and digital music á la Who Wants to be a Millionaire and you might have a winner.

L.A. WEEKLY:Is it better to play the game or call it?
MIKE SEXTON: I’ve always considered myself a player first and a broadcaster second. When Steve Lipscomb offered me the job, he said, “The good news is you’ve got the job. The bad news is you won’t be able to play again in the tournaments.” So I knew from day one that I had to give up being a player.

LA W: You had no experience when you got the job.
None at all. One year I put on an event, the Tournament of Champions. Steve Lipscomb filmed it for the Internet, and because it was my event, I was doing the announcing. And he said, “Wow, that’s the best poker commentary I’ve ever heard.” So a couple of years later, when he started up the World Poker Tour, he came to me.

LA W: How do you divide up the roles with Vince?
Vince has his own charm. You know, sometimes the poker players will mock Vince about his poker knowledge, but he’s played poker all his life. And he has this wonderful comedic sense that lets him come with all those great, unbelievable lines. Lipscomb recognizes that to make the show successful it’s got to talk beyond just the poker players. That guy in Kansas has got to connect with you. If you talk in intense poker terminology, you’re gonna lose your audience.

LA W: Did you ever imagine poker would explode like it has now?
I’ve always had a vision that poker could be big on television and that you could have major sponsorship in the poker world. I was thinking this back in 1989-1990 when I first got a sponsorship from La Mode clothing. Wasn’t a big deal, but it was the first sponsorship of a player. Back in those days, all the players would laugh at me and say, “What an idiot this guy is. Wearing those things around. He’s nuts.”



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