Tom Sexton, the older brother of Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton and former columnist for PokerNews, suffered a massive stroke as the result of previously undiagnosed stage 4 pancreatic cancer on June 10, 2013. Tom’s prognosis is grim, but that hasn’t stopped his family and friends from starting a You Care Campaign to help ease the financial burden placed upon him and his wife, Ann, in the final months of his life.
“At the intersection of gentleness, love and kindness stands a sign that reads ... Tom Sexton,” says the You Care page started by Karin Firmani, Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher. Ironically, at least for PokerNews readers, there was another intersection with a sign that read Sexton’s Corner, which was the column Sexton wrote from July 2007 to September 2008 under former PokerNews editor-in-chief and current PokerStars executive John Caldwell.
Here's what Caldwell had to say when asked about working with Sexton:
The story of how Tom came to write for PokerNews is actually kind of funny. Tom would cover the Stud and Draw events for us, because in the early days of PokerNews, the young guys on our coverage team only knew no limit hold 'em. We needed people who knew the other games to cover the other events, plus it was a bonus because Tom knew almost every player in the field personally.
On the floor, Tom would tell these great stories. One day, I went to him and said, "You should write some of these stories for us." So he thought about it and came back to me a couple days later. He had written his first story. Literally on notebook paper. Paper and pen. At least the first half a dozen or so of his columns were handed in on paper. Love it.
Tom has an energy and enthusiasm when he's telling a story that is so genuine and pure. The amazement and joy he expresses are very real emotions. That kind of energy and enthusiasm is super contagious. I really enjoyed hearing Tom's stories on the floor of the WSOP. And, let's face it - when it's 2 a.m. and you're watching guys chop Stud-8 pots over and over - it really helps to have a guy who is a great story teller!
Writing a column for PokerNews was just one of Tom’s many contributions to the poker world. He served as the official photographer for the World Series of Poker back in its days at Binion’s Horseshoe, collaborated on poker projects with his brother including the original Tournament of Champions, and owned Poker Masterpieces, which saw him create artistic and unique collages for some of poker’s biggest names.
Like his brother, Tom was quite the gymnast. He attended the University of Oklahoma on a full gymnastic scholarship, where he was captain of the team four straight years, becoming the first NCAA All-American and Big Eight Champion in OU's gymnastics history in 1968. He is also an accomplished dancer.
Tom’s first piece for PokerNews—Sexton's Corner, Volume 1 - The Cab is Parked—detailed the relationship he shared with his brother Mike as well as an entertaining story about how Tom gave a piggyback ride to a grandmother in a hurry to make her flight. Obviously many in the community, including Mike, are able to help Tom, but he is a proud man. As the recent fundraiser organized by his friends explains:
“While any one of us may feel we have the funds to singularly relieve the financial burden, it would mean much more for us to form the village needed to help our friend, Tom, during his time of need. It will make a big difference to him and be a way for Tom and Ann not to feel the huge burden of being indebted to one individual, but, rather moved by our collective generosity.”
Due to the stroke, Tom’s cognitive capacity has been severely impaired. He can still walk, speak a few words clearly, and recognize friends and family. With that said, he has been unable to work since the diagnosis, and although he has health insurance, his family and friends, including his three children (Kent, Kim, and Marilyn), four grandchildren, four brothers and two sisters, have come together to help out a man they care for deeply.
We reached out to a few of Tom's friends and colleagues to find out some of their favorite memories.
Poker Hall of Famer Linda Johnson
I may be a little bit bias. I don’t know if you know, but Tom and I dated for a few years and I just think the world of him. He’s a great guy.
One of my favorite things about Tom, we would go dancing every night. Mike is a great dancer, but Tom is even more amazing. Tom was on [a TV dance show]. He taught dancing. Their father, Ray Sexton, owned dance studios, and I have recordings of them when they’re young kids doing dance exhibitions. He always made me look like a good dancer. Tom always said, “The man is the frame and the woman is the picture.”
Just having the community of support is important. I know that Ann is going to be reading all the messages, so even if you're unable to donate money, if you knew Tom or know Mike or just want to say something encouraging, he will get those messages.
James Guill—Poker Journalist
I was covering the 10k Stud event with Heath Chick and from Tom's articles on PN, I noticed that Archie Karas was in the field.
In all honesty, when I saw this I figured this would be a good angle to report on during the event and actually had one of the FR's stay at that table because it included Negreanu, Hellmuth, and Karas, Ted Lawson, and Dario and Tony G even was at the table at some point. Anywho, I mention him and link to Tom's articles for folks to read as to give the "casual fans" some insight to this "old guy" I happened to be talking about.
A while later Tom comes up and introduces me and was surprised that I recognized Karas. I obviously told him that it was from the articles, etc. Tom went on to tell me a bit more about Archie and the tough times that he had and thanked me for going out of my way to give Archie some face time. When I told him about linking to his articles, he told me that he didn't care about that because he was more concerned about Archie getting back on his feet.
For the rest of the series, whenever I was covering an event that Archie was in, Tom was there to railing his friend and would come over and chat with me etc. He was always friendly and was more interested in keeping the history of the game alive more so than popularity.
Jennifer Winter of Lovin Poker
He developed a name in his own right. Tom has a kindness and light about him that brings joy to anyone he encounters. He loves dancing. I always enjoy his Dancing With the Stars recaps.
He has a beautiful family filled with love and laughter and grandkids. If you were to ask Tom if a lesson is to be learned in all this he would say, 'love others, but don't forget to love yourself.' He is one of the most selfless individuals I have had the privilege of knowing and he wants to remind people not to ignore their health and to take care of themselves.
I met Tom & Mike Sexton in the late 90s as the Tournament of Champions brought us together. I was the "sign lady," Mike, the star, and Tom, our collective heartbeat. His skills are beyond anything we can put in words. Someone enters this world and touches all our senses ... we treasure him, are grateful for calling him dear friend, brother, shoulder to cry on, and most all, a true gentleman to everyone that is lucky enough to know him. Tom Sexton is a gift I want to share.
For more information, be sure to check out the You Care page established for Tom Sexton. Also, if you have any memories of Tom you'd like to share, please do so in the comments section below.